Adaptive Preferences are not Irrational
Master of Arts
Date of Defense
Eric Wiland, Ph. D.
I untangle the many discussions in the literature of seemingly very different kinds of adaptive preferences (henceforth APs). I examine several arguments about the purported irrationality of APs. I consider whether agents with APs have something like ‘preference akrasia’, but rejected this account, as it seems the preferences could not truly be said to be ‘adapted’ at all (given a functional analysis of preference). I consider the requirement that APs are not rational because they are not autonomously formed, but reject it, as it is far too restrictive a rational requirement and renders most of our ordinary preferences irrational. I consider the requirement that APs be autonomously retained, but argue that this too is not a genuine rational requirement, and it ought to be rationally permissible to retain an unendorsed adaptive preference if it means a life of relatively more happiness and less frustration. Finally, I considered whether agents with a particular type of APs are irrational because they lack information about what inaccessible options would be like and therefore can’t be said to have ‘true’ preferences. I argued that they ought to be seen as possessing enough information to justify their rationally having (a kind of fallible knowledge of) the preferences they take themselves to have.
Beach, Sarah, "Adaptive Preferences are not Irrational" (2015). Theses. 193.
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