Résumé/abstract: “Preferences and Prudential Reasons”
Preference-based theories of the personal good seem to face a problematic implication in cases of prudential choice. It would seem to make little difference to the quality of a person’s life were they to achieve the content of their preferences rather than to simply direct their preferences toward that which already obtains. If, for instance, Faith has the choice to simply sign the papers to become an astronaut (which she longs to do) or take a preference-altering pill such that she prefers to remain Earth-bound, a preference-based theory of the good seems to have no principled way to avoid the conclusion that it would be perfectly prudentially rational for Faith to simply flip a coin. In this paper, I argue that this implication depends on two interpretive choices: first, the interpretation of a preference-based theory of the good and, second, the interpretation of prudential reasons and prudential rationality. I argue that these interpretations are not forced, and that interpreting them in a way that avoids this problematic neutrality is defensible.