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Adaptive Preferences Are a Red Herring

  • DALE DORSEY (a1)


Current literature in moral and political philosophy is rife with discussion of adaptive preferences. This is no accident: while preferences are generally thought to play an important role in a number of normative domains (including morality, the personal good, and political justice), adaptive preferences seem exceptions to this general rule—they seem problematic in a way that preference-respecting theories of these domains cannot adequately capture. Thus, adaptive preferences are often taken to be theoretically explanatory: a reason for adjusting our theories of the relevant normative domains. However, as I shall argue here, the relentless focus on the phenomenon of preference adaptation is a mistake. While I do not take a stand on whether typical examples of adaptive preferences are or are not problematic, I argue here that if they are problematic, it cannot be because they are adaptive.



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