Master of Arts
Date of Defense
Dr. Eric Wiland
Dr. Jill Delston
Dr. William Dunaway
Helping disadvantaged people involves trusting them to make the best possible choices. Under scrutiny, however, it seems that the disadvantaged often fail to make the best choices for themselves. In this paper, I oppose both the traditional philosophical view that some choices of the disadvantaged are deformed or adaptive, and the view of preference utilitarians, who favor aiming to satisfy all preferences.
My rejection of the traditional views of preference is founded on my identification of two distinct kinds of preferences and their relationship to each other: means preferences and end preferences. Means preferences are those choices that are made in order to satisfy a deeply held value while end preferences are those deeply held values. I also claim that persons reprioritize their values as their circumstances change through appropriately adaptive reevaluations. This allows for the rational adaption to circumstances by the disadvantaged. My view licenses intervention to satisfy some but not all preferences. End preferences are protected due to their value and connection to challenging circumstances, while it can be appropriate to try to persuade someone to alter their means preferences.
The title of this work makes clear its aim: to rightly situate a new theory of preference, one that adds value, among the other philosophical theories that have previously been established. This view offers more than a different perspective of preferences. It also assists interventionists on the grounds that aid should be targeted to what matters most to the disadvantaged; their end preferences.
Miller, Laura, "A Means to an End: Adding Value to the Preference Debate" (2019). Theses. 363.