Rational responsibility for preferences and moral responsibility for character traits

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A theory of rationality evaluates actions and actors as rational or irrational. Assessing preferences themselves as rational or irrational is contrary to the orthodox view of rational choice. The orthodox view takes preferences as given, holding them beyond reproach, and assesses actions as rational or irrational depending on whether the actions tend to serve as effective means to the satisfaction of the given preferences. Against this view, this paper argues that preferences themselves are indeed proper objects of rational evaluation. This evaluation of preferences is driven by whether holding and acting on them conduces to, or interferes with the satisfaction of other, more important preferences. Taking the lead from methods in moral theory of holding individuals responsible for their moral or immoral character traits, this paper goes on to sketch parallel ways of determining an agent's rational responsibility for her rational or irrational preferences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-209
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Philosophical Research
StatePublished - 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy


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