Preference, Commitment, and Personal Transformation

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Pinni B building, lecture hall 4141, address: Kanslerinrinne 1.


Antti Kauppinen / YKY

Antti Kauppinen at research seminar of philosophy.

An experience like having one's first child or going to war can transform a person's core preferences in ways that are in principle unpredictable, because there's no way to tell what it's like to have such an experience in advance. L.A. Paul (2014) argues that we can't make choices that are both authentic and rational when possible outcomes involve such personally transformative experiences. But why? I argue that personal transformation poses a challenge to rational choice only to the extent that our future preferences must be taken into account in assigning subjective value to what happens in the future.

However, I claim that the rational significance of future preferences is constrained by our commitments, which constitutively involve settling now what value to assign to future outcomes, independently of what our future preferences may be. I also argue that only choices that reflect our commitments can be authentic. It turns out that Paul's conception of the self is fundamentally a theoretical one - for her, the first-personal perspective is that of a 'thin' subject of experience, not the perspective of an agent whose practical identity extends over time. Since most life choices have implications for realizing our present commitments, the possibility of personal transformation poses less of a threat to rational decision than Paul allows.


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Arto Laitinen,