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Must Adaptive Preferences Be Prudentially Bad for Us?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 May 2018



In this paper, I argue for the counterintuitive conclusion that the same adaptive preference can be both prudentially good and prudentially bad for its holder: that is, it can be prudentially objectionable from one temporal perspective, but prudentially unobjectionable from another. Given the possibility of transformative experiences, there is an important sense in which even worrisome adaptive preferences can be prudentially good for us. That is, if transformative experiences lead us to develop adaptive preferences, then their objects can become prudentially better for our actual selves than the objects of their nonadaptive alternatives would now be. I also argue, however, that the same worrisome adaptive preferences might still be prospectively prudentially objectionable: that is, our pretransformation selves might be prudentially better off undergoing a nonadaptive alternative transformative experience instead. I argue that both claims hold across the range of the most broadly defended accounts of well-being in the literature.

Copyright © American Philosophical Association 2018 

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