walto’s paper on prudential values

The journal Philosophia recently accepted a paper by TSZ commenter walto, entitled CHOICE: An Objective, Voluntaristic Theory of Prudential Value. Congratulations to walto.

Our discussion of walto’s previous paper was cut short due to censorship by the moderators. Let’s hope they have the sense to stay out of the way and allow open discussion to proceed this time.

Prudential values are a good topic for TSZ, and a nice change of pace from our usual discussions of objective moral values and whether they exist. Hence this thread.

You can download walto’s paper here.

I’ll save my remarks for the comment thread.

77 thoughts on “walto’s paper on prudential values

  1. To kick things off, here is the paper’s abstract:

    Abstract

    It is customary to think that Objective List (“OL), Desire-Satisfaction (“D-S”) and Hedonistic (“HED”) theories of prudential value pretty much cover the waterfront, and that those of the three that are “subjective” are naturalistic (in the sense attacked by Moore, Ross and Ewing), while those that are “objective” must be Platonic, Aristotelian or commit the naturalist fallacy. I here argue for a theory that is both naturalistic (because voluntaristic) and objective but neither Platonic, Aristotelian, nor (I hope) fallacious. In addition, this proposal, called “CHOICE,” is an example of neither an OL, D-S, nor HED theory. It is a theory according to which uncoerced choosings create objective values that we (even everyone) may be wrong about, because valuations are conative rather than epistemic activities. On this view, intrinsic prudential goods necessarily involve likely (pursuant to lawlike regularities) net increases in successful free choosings.

  2. And here is walto’s proposed standard of prudential value, which he calls “CHOICE”:

    CHOICE. For all possible states of affairs S (and persons P), S is intrinsically prudentially good (for P) at t if and only if (i) S is freely chosen (by P) at t; and (ii) pursuant to one or more physical laws, the obtaining of S will, under ordinary conditions, causally contribute to the subsequent increase either of the total (P’s) capacity for free choice or by an increase in the alternatives that are available to be freely chosen (by P).

  3. walto,

    A useful test for standards like CHOICE is to see if one can think of a counterexample — in this case, something that meets the CHOICE standard yet violates our intuitions regarding what is intrinsically prudentially good.

    Suppose Linda, a college student, must choose a cafeteria for the upcoming school year. All of her meals will come from the cafeteria she selects, and her choice is final.

    Her current cafeteria (the Slow and Steady) serves good food, but from a narrow and repetitive menu. Linda is bored with the Slow and Steady and freely chooses The Razzmatazz, a cafeteria with a wide array of choices, constantly updated.

    After the school year begins, Linda discovers that despite the impressive array of menu items, the food at the Razzmatazz is consistently terrible. She regrets her choice.

    It seems to me that Linda’s selection of The Razzmatazz fits your CHOICE criteria. It’s freely chosen by Linda, and her choice predictably increases the alternatives that are available to be freely chosen by her. Yet she regrets her decision and feels she is worse off than before.

    The flaw in CHOICE seems to be that it looks at the number of alternatives but fails to take their quality into account. Having lots of bad options to choose from isn’t superior to having fewer but better options.

  4. walto,

    Another problem with CHOICE is that having more choices can be bad for us even when some or all of the options are quite good.

    For one thing, too many options can lead to choice paralysis. They can also lead to less satisfaction with a chosen option, even when it’s a good one, due to its greater perceived opportunity cost.

    (I’m thinking of psychologist Barry Schwartz and his book The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less.)

  5. I haven’t done so yet.

    Re your cafeteria example, it shows that I should clarify that alternatives must be attractive to the person or persons involved. So, for example, if Linda is vegan, it won’t matter how many beef alternatives are available at either of the restaurants. And if she’s human, rather than, say, a housefly, she wont be excited that one adds a daily cow shit entree.

    As for her coming to discover that one cafeteria would have had more things she’d want than the one she settled on, that’s life. People make bad choices.

  6. In an ancestor to this paper, I had a passage on a matter related, maybe, to the Schwartz concern. I wrote,

    Another line of objections stems from differing views about the value of satisfactions generally. We have indicated above our agreement with the widely held contention that desires that are not satisfied are worse than no desires at all, but that admission will not go far enough for some critics. First, there may be (perhaps Vedantist- or Buddhist-tinged) concerns that truly good societies will not only contain the fewest individuals with unsatisfied desires, but the fewest individuals with desires at all, and, thus, the fewest possible satisfactions. Given such a perspective, CHOICE, with its focus on more may seem to bestow its blessings on the most horrendous ‘wheels’ of craving—getting—craving that one can imagine. We may, I think, handle this concern by construing desires and satisfactions broadly enough to consider any wish to ‘go beyond wanting’ itself a desire—and one that may also be satisfied. While it may seem we are perversely attempting to call the absence of desire something that may be sought, it cannot be denied that a sort of bliss is often promised to those who succeed in attempts at asceticism. If the value of achieving sadhana is considered somehow exempt from rebukes stemming from the praiseworthiness of giving up desires, it seems acceptable to count the seeking for the promised state of bliss a value and the finding of it a good.

    I removed it mostly because of length considerations. Now that the paper has been accepted, I could probably throw in a sentence or two here and there, but it gets into a bunch of stuff the current version doesn’t contemplate.

    Anyhow, I’ll listen to the TED talk you mention and maybe try to handle both matters with a footnote or something.

  7. walto,

    As for her [Linda] coming to discover that one cafeteria would have had more things she’d want than the one she settled on, that’s life. People make bad choices.

    That people make bad choices isn’t a problem for CHOICE. What is problematic is that Linda’s bad choice is labeled ‘intrinsically good’ by CHOICE.

  8. walto,

    In your ‘ancestral’ passage, you wrote:

    Given such a perspective, CHOICE, with its focus on more may seem to bestow its blessings on the most horrendous ‘wheels’ of craving—getting—craving that one can imagine. We may, I think, handle this concern by construing desires and satisfactions broadly enough to consider any wish to ‘go beyond wanting’ itself a desire—and one that may also be satisfied.

    You could construe it that way, but the problem would remain.

    Suppose someone cultivates non-attachment by giving away all her wealth and adopting a simple lifestyle as a hermit in the desert. She may gain great peace and satisfaction as a result of her decision, but it won’t qualify as “intrinsically good” under CHOICE if it reduces “the alternatives available to be freely chosen.”

    To solve the problem, you’d need to assign differing weights to choices, so that a single but extremely satisfying choice could count as intrinsically good even if it reduced the opportunities for future free choices. But then you’d be straying into desire satisfaction territory, which is something you are trying to avoid.

    Besides, the weighting itself is also something you were trying to avoid:

    Finally, unlike both pleasant or unpleasant experiences and desires or aversions, choices do not vary by intensity or duration, making the CHOICE standard potentially more amenable to future calculationism.

  9. keiths,

    Only if it leads to a greater number of successful choices or provides more (attractive) alternatives over the long haul. It doesn’t, does it?

  10. keiths: To solve the problem, you’d need to assign differing weights to choices

    I wouldn’t do that for the reasons you mention. I’m more inclined to simply bite the bullet and say that it is part of the nature of autonomous human beings to try to get things or to be certain ways. I.e., if one seems to have fewer wants, one must be attempting asceticism. Maybe that’s accepting something like what Hobbes and Spinoza called “conatus”:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conatus

  11. keiths:

    That people make bad choices isn’t a problem for CHOICE. What is problematic is that Linda’s bad choice is labeled ‘intrinsically good’ by CHOICE.

    walto:

    Only if it leads to a greater number of successful choices or provides more (attractive) alternatives over the long haul. It doesn’t, does it?

    Linda’s choices at the Razzmatazz are successful. What she selects is what ends up on her plate. It’s just that the food isn’t palatable.

    As for “attractive”, that’s an amendment to the original CHOICE standard presented in your paper, which talks about “alternatives”, not “attractive alternatives”.*

    Since Linda’s menu choices at the Razzmatazz are successful, and since the number of alternatives available to her has increased, her choice of the Razzmatazz is “intrinsically good” according to CHOICE.

    *Even with that amendment, problems remain. See my next comment for an example.

  12. walto,

    I’m more inclined to simply bite the bullet and say that it is part of the nature of autonomous human beings to try to get things or to be certain ways. I.e., if one seems to have fewer wants, one must be attempting asceticism.

    You could carve out an exception for things like asceticism, but there are still some problematic counterexamples to CHOICE.

    Revisiting Linda and her cafeteria choice, let’s amend CHOICE to specify “attractive alternatives” rather than “alternatives”. Now suppose that the food at the Razzmatazz is good — attractive to Linda — but not nearly as good as the food at the Slow and Steady. Linda regrets her decision to switch to the Razzmatazz, but the revised CHOICE still considers it “intrinsically good”, since it increases the number of attractive alternatives available to her.

    Again, you could try to work around the problem by weighting the menu choices differently at the Razzmatazz vs. the Slow and Steady, but then you’d be straying into desire satisfaction territory, as mentioned earlier.

  13. keiths: As for “attractive”, that’s an amendment to the original CHOICE standard presented in your paper, which talks about “alternatives”, not “attractive alternatives”.*

    Right, as I said.

  14. keiths: It seems to me that Linda’s selection of The Razzmatazz fits your CHOICE criteria. It’s freely chosen by Linda, and her choice predictably increases the alternatives that are available to be freely chosen by her. Yet she regrets her decision and feels she is worse off than before.

    I refer to Robert Frost, who addressed choice.

    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could

    Note that the choice is based on what you can see, which isn’t everything.

    Then took the other, as just as fair…

    Both appearing to be equal

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,

    Except that at the time, they looked equal. The guy looking back is bullshitting.

    And that has made all the difference.

    In retrospect, the choice seems important, but at the time it is made, there is no objective basis. Frost is pulling your leg. You can’t see the future, and unless the alternatives are certain, choices are crap shoots.

  15. petrushka,

    You can’t see the future, and unless the alternatives are certain, choices are crap shoots.

    Walto’s CHOICE standard doesn’t depend on prognostication.

    Note condition (ii):

    (ii) pursuant to one or more physical laws, the obtaining of S will, under ordinary conditions, causally contribute to the subsequent increase either of the total (P’s) capacity for free choice or by an increase in the alternatives that are available to be freely chosen (by P).

    Linda knows that if she chooses the Razzmatazz, she’ll have more menu choices “under ordinary conditions”. She doesn’t need to be a seer to see that.

    Her decision is made freely, it leads to successful future choices, and it increases the alternatives available to Linda. That makes it ‘intrinsically good’ according to CHOICE. Yet it has decreased her well-being.

    That indicates a problem with the CHOICE standard, and amending ‘alternatives’ to ‘attractive alternatives’ isn’t sufficient to fix it.

  16. keiths:

    Revisiting Linda and her cafeteria choice, let’s amend CHOICE to specify “attractive alternatives” rather than “alternatives”. Now suppose that the food at the Razzmatazz is good — attractive to Linda — but not nearly as good as the food at the Slow and Steady. Linda regrets her decision to switch to the Razzmatazz, but the revised CHOICE still considers it “intrinsically good”, since it increases the number of attractive alternatives available to her.

    Again, you could try to work around the problem by weighting the menu choices differently at the Razzmatazz vs. the Slow and Steady, but then you’d be straying into desire satisfaction territory, as mentioned earlier.

    walto:

    As indicated, I wouldn’t weight them. I’d take a longer view.

    Could you elaborate? I’m not seeing how taking a longer view would solve the problem.

  17. keiths,

    If she’d picked slow and steady there’d have been more attractive alternatives for Linda over the long haul, since according to your scenario she comes to hate everything at the place she originally picked.

  18. walto,

    If she’d picked slow and steady there’d have been more attractive alternatives for Linda over the long haul, since according to your scenario she comes to hate everything at the place she originally picked.

    That’s true only of the original scenario. After you amended CHOICE so that ‘alternatives’ became ‘attractive alternatives’, I revised the Linda scenario to make it a counterexample to the updated CHOICE (which I’ll call CHOICE-2 for convenience).

    Here’s the key part of the revised scenario:

    Now suppose that the food at the Razzmatazz is good — attractive to Linda — but not nearly as good as the food at the Slow and Steady. Linda regrets her decision to switch to the Razzmatazz, but the revised CHOICE still considers it “intrinsically good”, since it increases the number of attractive alternatives available to her.

  19. Your “not nearly as good” begs the question. What makes it “not as good” on my view is that Linda would no longer choose it over slow and steady.

  20. walto,

    Your “not nearly as good” begs the question.

    No, because I’m not trying to demonstrate that Linda prefers the food at the Slow and Steady. I’m stipulating it. My scenario is a test case designed to reveal a weakness in the CHOICE-2 standard.

    And there’s nothing incoherent about the test case. It’s perfectly coherent for Linda to
    a) find the Razzmatazz’s food attractive;
    b) prefer the Slow and Steady’s food to the Razzmatazz’s; and
    c) regret choosing the Razzmatazz over the Slow and Steady because of (b).

    What makes it “not as good” on my view is that Linda would no longer choose it over slow and steady.

    She would have to ignore CHOICE-2 in order to do that. Her standard would end up being more of a desire-satisfaction standard.

    Anyway, the question at hand is how your revised CHOICE standard (CHOICE-2) would handle the test case, in which Linda freely chooses the Razzmatazz. For the convenience of readers, here’s CHOICE-2:

    CHOICE-2. For all possible states of affairs S (and persons P), S is intrinsically prudentially good (for P) at t if and only if (i) S is freely chosen (by P) at t; and (ii) pursuant to one or more physical laws, the obtaining of S will, under ordinary conditions, causally contribute to the subsequent increase either of the total (P’s) capacity for free choice or by an increase in the attractive alternatives that are available to be freely chosen (by P).

    Linda freely chooses the Razzmatazz, and that choice predictably results in “an increase in the attractive alternatives that are available to be freely chosen” by her. CHOICE-2 therefore deems it ‘intrinsically good’, yet Linda ends up regretting her choice. It has decreased her well-being instead of enhancing it.

    I think the problems are that

    a) CHOICE-2 doesn’t take the degree of attractiveness into account, and is thus blind to the fact that having more choices at the Razzmatazz is not superior to having fewer choices at the Slow and Steady; and

    b) CHOICE-2 also doesn’t take opportunity cost into account. If the only alternative to eating at the Razzmatazz were to eat instant ramen all year, then Linda might be very satisfied with her choice of the Razzmatazz. The opportunity cost — that is, what she’d be giving up — is not very attractive: eating ramen all year. Add the Slow and Steady to the mix, and suddenly you’ve massively increased the opportunity cost associated with choosing the Razzmatazz. Now, choosing the Razzmatazz means giving up the excellent food at the Slow and Steady.

    I’m not sure how you can fix these problems without heading into the very territory you’re trying to avoid.

  21. Here is what I agree with in your post above.

    there’s nothing incoherent about the test case. It’s perfectly coherent for Linda to
    a) find the Razzmatazz’s food attractive;
    b) prefer the Slow and Steady’s food to the Razzmatazz’s; and
    c) regret choosing the Razzmatazz over the Slow and Steady because of (b).

    Linda freely chooses the Razzmatazz, and that choice predictably results in “an increase in the attractive alternatives that are available to be freely chosen” by her. CHOICE-2 therefore deems it ‘intrinsically good’, yet Linda ends up regretting her choice.

    But the rest, not so much. As I said you beg the question against CHOICE. You do this here when you take Linda’s regret as some kind of proof of wellbeing. CHOICE simply denies any such connection. If her original pick of a cafeteria reduces her wellbeing it can only be for the reasons I specified my last couple of posts. I don’t think we can measure wellbeing by asking people if they think they made good or bad choices. I take prudential values to be objective, and I don’t think people must be right about what they’re happy with or regret. In fact, they seem clearly wrong in such judgements all the time. In any case, whether I’m right or wrong about this axiom, it is obviously inconsistent with the use of any such regret/contented standard of wellbeing, so no counterexample it can depend on that. If there’s a problem with Linda choosing Razzmatazz over Slow and Steady, to show it it will require using contrary to fact conditionals. Because, again, there are no regret proofs available.

    So the question for CHOICE becomes in which scenario would more successful free choices have taken place or more attractive options have been available. Because of the counterfactual aspect, it’s a bit more difficult to answer, but I think the case can be made that your intuitions that going with Slow and Steady would have made Linda better off can be saved under CHOICE.

  22. Whats good for my wellbeing is subjective, that is, it is entirely dependant on me, and may even vary with time, so how is it ever possible to determine if an act is moral unless you consult me?. Even worse, I may not even know myself if the act is good for my wellbeing in the short/long term.

  23. graham2,

    It’s kind of a long story to answer that. It’s why I wrote the paper. I don’t get into what’s “moral” though. I used to think I could get a handle on that, but keiths and others convinced me otherwise. I taught an intro to ethics course a few years ago and gave up.

  24. I thought the business of whats good for us (has value) is at the root of morality.
    Its moral if it has value to us, its not if it doesn’t. This is what all discussions of morality with Xtians seems to reduce to. Tedious stuff in my opinion.

  25. graham2:

    I thought the business of whats good for us (has value) is at the root of morality.

    There are many standards of morality that aren’t based on what’s good for us. Islam, for instance, has submission to God as its core moral principle.

    Its moral if it has value to us, its not if it doesn’t.

    Someone might value things like playing more golf, but that doesn’t make it a moral issue.

  26. graham2,

    Even worse, I may not even know myself if the act is good for my wellbeing in the short/long term.

    Walto allows that we may be mistaken about what’s good for us. From the paper:

    Surely this sort of voluntarism would be compatible with an objectivism according to which anybody may be wrong even about what is good for his or her own life, for there is no doubt that we can be mistaken about the characteristics of items that we have created.

  27. walto,

    As I said you beg the question against CHOICE. You do this here when you take Linda’s regret as some kind of proof of wellbeing. CHOICE simply denies any such connection.

    That’s a bug, not a feature. CHOICE should capture the essence of well-being, not dictate it. If it doesn’t take satisfaction and regret into account, it’s incomplete.

    If her original pick of a cafeteria reduces her wellbeing it can only be for the reasons I specified my last couple of posts.

    Here are those posts:

    If she’d picked slow and steady there’d have been more attractive alternatives for Linda over the long haul, since according to your scenario she comes to hate everything at the place she originally picked.

    No, because in the updated version of my counterexample that applies to CHOICE-2, she doesn’t hate the food at the Razzmatazz. She just prefers the food at the Slow and Steady.

    Your “not nearly as good” begs the question. What makes it “not as good” on my view is that Linda would no longer choose it over slow and steady.

    Linda freely chooses the Razzmatazz, and it increases the number of attractive alternatives available to her, so according to CHOICE-2 her decision is “intrinsically prudentially good” for her. Even though she ends up regretting it.

    I don’t think we can measure wellbeing by asking people if they think they made good or bad choices.

    Satisfaction vs regret is one aspect of well-being, though certainly not the only one.

    I take prudential values to be objective, and I don’t think people must be right about what they’re happy with or regret.

    Nor must they be wrong. Would you seriously argue that Linda is wrong to say she regrets her choice, and that you know better?

    In any case, whether I’m right or wrong about this axiom, it is obviously inconsistent with the use of any such regret/contented standard of wellbeing, so no counterexample it can depend on that.

    Sure it can. No one is obliged to accept your axiom, which is anything but self-evident.

    Imagine saying to Linda, “The Razzmatazz is better for you. CHOICE-2 says so. So stop complaining. You’re wrong to regret your decision.”

    So the question for CHOICE becomes in which scenario would more successful free choices have taken place or more attractive options have been available.

    That’s already known. There are more menu options at the Razzmatazz, and those options are attractive to Linda. So according to CHOICE-2’s criteria, the Razzmatazz is the better choice for her.

    Because of the counterfactual aspect, it’s a bit more difficult to answer, but I think the case can be made that your intuitions that going with Slow and Steady would have made Linda better off can be saved under CHOICE.

    How?

  28. keiths: That’s a bug, not a feature

    Whether or not it’s a bug, it’s definitely a feature.

    My answer to your How question at the end can be found in previous posts above.

  29. walto,

    Whether or not it’s a bug, it’s definitely a feature.

    Only if “fails to account for an important aspect of well-being” qualifies as a feature. Sounds more like a bug to me.

    My answer to your How question at the end can be found in previous posts above.

    I’ve addressed those posts, showing why they don’t work as ways of saving our intuitions about the Slow and Steady under CHOICE-2. Do you have a response?

  30. keiths: Whether or not it’s a bug, it’s definitely a feature.

    Only if “fails to account for an important aspect of well-being” qualifies as a feature. Sounds more like a bug to me.

    Oh, you misunderstood what I meant by “feature.” I just meant characteristic (good or bad)–that’s enough for your regret post to beg the question.

    On the other matter, I don’t see that you’ve addressed my posts. Just ignored them and repeated your question beg.

  31. walto,

    Oh, you misunderstood what I meant by “feature.” I just meant characteristic (good or bad)–that’s enough for your regret post to beg the question.

    What question do you think it begs? The question of whether regret is a factor in well-being?

    On the other matter, I don’t see that you’ve addressed my posts.

    I’ve addressed them. Let’s start with this one:

    walto:

    If she’d picked slow and steady there’d have been more attractive alternatives for Linda over the long haul, since according to your scenario she comes to hate everything at the place she originally picked.

    keiths:

    No, because in the updated version of my counterexample that applies to CHOICE-2, she doesn’t hate the food at the Razzmatazz. She just prefers the food at the Slow and Steady.

    The Razzmatazz affords more alternatives — attractive ones — than the Slow and Steady. It’s the better choice, according to CHOICE-2. That’s because CHOICE-2 doesn’t take the degree of attractiveness into account. The food at the Slow and Steady is better, enough so that it more than compensates for the fewer menu options.

  32. Look again at the CHOICE standard.

    For all possible states of affairs S (and persons P), S is intrinsically prudentially good (for P) at t if and only if (i) S is freely chosen (by P) at t; and (ii) pursuant to one or more physical laws, the obtaining of S will, under ordinary conditions, causally contribute to the subsequent increase either of the total (P’s) capacity for free choice or by an increase in the alternatives that are available to be freely chosen (by P).

    Linda freely chooses Razzmatazz, which gives her, say, 6 options she’d rate with a C and two she’d give an F to. Was the choice made freely? Check. Is it reasonably expected to provide her with successful choices in the future? Check. It has thus improved her life. That she later regrets the choice is neither here nor there. Maybe she later moves to France, meets the guy of her dreams (rich, handsome, and wonderful) and believes he’d have married her if she’d only gotten there before his current love had. So that if she’d dropped out of college (and chosen neither dining hall) her life would have been…..just perfect. So that’s a choice she might have made. And maybe she’d have been better off if she’d done so. The question is why? What makes a life better off? According to CHOICE it’s availability of successful choices.

    In the example you give, she might have picked a different cafeteria–Slow and Steady–instead. And you say that, if she’d done so, her life would have been better off. Maybe so. But her regret is neither here nor there. According to CHOICE, that counterfactual will be true if it would have provided more successful free choices/a wider scope than R. As I’ve said, that question is hard to answer. It depends, e.g., on whether getting a C-rated meal is always a success. We could test this by having her hypothetically choose between hypothetical meals at the different dining halls. If we do that, presumably S&S wins because A’s beat C’s and Fs. As the variety test is won
    by Razzmatazz, however, maybe she’d get sick of S&S after a month or two and start picking R meals. Whatever the final tally, according to CHOICE it’s those results that would be dispositive, and all we can do is make rational estimates.

    But the standard doesn’t suggest that whatever one picks must be the best or that if some choice improves well-being it must improve it more than any other possible selection might have.

    keiths: Linda freely chooses the Razzmatazz, and it increases the number of attractive alternatives available to her, so according to CHOICE-2 her decision is “intrinsically prudentially good” for her. Even though she ends up regretting it.

    Exactly.

    Interestingly, this calculation is intimately connected both with the question of what is approval/consent–as is being discussed in the Moderation forum at present. That’s why I asked him if it means better than nothing, OK with, etc., etc. It’s also connected with the AV voting system I wrote about in my OP. Which soda wins is related to which cafeteria wins.

  33. Oops–the first paragraph above was supposed to contain a line saying that S&S has only two options, but Linda rates them both as A’s.

  34. walto:

    Linda freely chooses Razzmatazz, which gives her, say, 6 options she’d rate with a C and two she’d give an F to. Was the choice made freely? Check. Is it reasonably expected to provide her with successful choices in the future? Check. It has thus improved her life.

    It hasn’t improved her life. The food at the Razzmatazz sucks, and so she’s worse off than before. The additional options afforded by the Razzmatazz don’t make up for the bad food.

    That she later regrets the choice is neither here nor there.

    It’s crucial, because regret and satisfaction are major factors that influence one’s well-being.

    What makes a life better off? According to CHOICE it’s availability of successful choices.

    Yes, but you’ve simply assumed that. You’ve tried to tell me that I must accept that premise arguendo, and that counterarguments based on regret are therefore illegitimate. But it’s a bad premise, and bad premises are fair game just as bad arguments are. Any standard of well-being that ignores regret and satisfaction is an incomplete standard.

    But the standard doesn’t suggest that whatever one picks must be the best or that if some choice improves well-being it must improve it more than any other possible selection might have.

    No, but the problem is much worse than that. CHOICE and CHOICE-2 share a serious flaw: they can designate choices as “intrinsically good” even in cases where those choices predictably lead to undesired outcomes.

    Suppose Linda knows in advance that the food at the Razzmatazz sucks. CHOICE will still tell her that it is “intrinsically good” to choose the Razzmatazz. Eating inferior food at the Razzmatazz is a bad outcome, but CHOICE and CHOICE-2 are blind to that.

    In fact, your entire paper is based on the myth that having more options is always a good thing. Have you watched the Barry Schwartz talk yet, or looked at his book on the topic? It won’t do to say “Never mind the science. CHOICE says you’re better off with more choices, so you’re better off with more choices.”

  35. I haven’t looked at the Schwartz stuff yet. I have responded to your other objections already.

    Suppose one prefers a different axiom, say, one based on pleasure. To correctly argue that it’s no good we could not say, well, X gave Linda more pleasure than Y, but X was worse than Y for her because she later regrets having done X. That would beg the question. Same if we said that good lives were based on desire satisfaction. Using regret in that way is simply proposing a subsequent-regret/subsequent-contented-with theory of prudential well-being. Perhaps someone has done so. I don’t know. I don’t think it would do very well, myself, but I could be wrong. What is quite clear is that one cannot successfully argue against it by saying, “But it leaves Linda with fewer successful choices” because that would simply beg the question against that axiom by assuming the truth of one I like better.

    That doesn’t mean that no arguments can be brought against any of the axioms. One can of course claim, as you have, that choosing Razzmatazz has made Linda’s life worse off in spite of providing her with more successful choices. I explained in my last post how one can make such an argument and what may be said against it. The point I’m making here is that the response to “But she now regrets it!” is to say “So what?”

    As I’ve said making the case that X is a better outcome than Y for Linda under CHOICE isn’t simple: I haven’t provided a psychological theory either of what choices are or of what successes are. I haven’t tried to do that in the paper, and probably couldn’t do it with the remaining years of my life. But I think the same sorts of objections might be brought against somebody bringing a happiness standard or a pleasure standard or a satisfaction standard. There is always more that can/needs to be unpacked. In the case of CHOICE, some of this stuff is, as I mentioned, connected with approval, and I’m thinking about voting these days.

    I haven’t read or watched the Schwartz thing yet. I definitely will at some point. Dunno when.

  36. walto,

    What is quite clear is that one cannot successfully argue against it by saying, “But it leaves Linda with fewer successful choices” because that would simply beg the question against that axiom by assuming the truth of one I like better.

    The question isn’t “Which axioms do I like?”, but rather “Which axioms capture the essence of well-being?” Axioms can be disputed, just as reasoning can.

    CHOICE reduces well-being to the capacity and opportunity to make succesful choices. Well-being is much more than that.

    The point I’m making here is that the response to “But she now regrets it!” is to say “So what?”

    And the point I’m making is that regret and satisfaction are major factors in the well-being of an individual. CHOICE ignores them, and that makes it inaccurate and incomplete as a standard of well-being.

    As I’ve said making the case that X is a better outcome than Y for Linda under CHOICE isn’t simple: I haven’t provided a psychological theory either of what choices are or of what successes are.

    I think it’s pretty simple in Linda’s case. She chooses from among the menu items, and her choices are successful if what she chooses ends up on her plate.

    I haven’t read or watched the Schwartz thing yet. I definitely will at some point. Dunno when.

    The video is only about 20 minutes long.

    Schwartz is worth watching and reading because he is disputing a central premise of your paper: that having more choices is always better.

  37. walto,

    It’s worth noting that the problems I’ve identified with CHOICE as applied to individuals remain problems when CHOICE is applied to societies.

    You write:

    (1) Since “how much” something may be wanted has been made irrelevant by CHOICE, which is a yes/no matter, any hunt for some method of making accurate intersubjective comparisons of experiential intensity may be abandoned by axiology and political theory without loss.

    How much something is wanted is not irrelevant to well-being. CHOICE treats it as if it were irrelevant, but that is a flaw in the standard.

    (2) If each choice is taken to be equal in value to every other one (except as they predictably result in the future acquirement of more or fewer freely chosen goods by oneself or others), there is a basis for claiming the equality of each person’s vote with every other person’s vote and, thus, for defending majoritarianism.

    Societal choices don’t affect all individuals equally in terms of the future acquisition of freely chosen goods. So CHOICE actually undermines the case for the equality of votes and for majoritarianism.

    (3) Finally, CHOICE tells us that the best one can do for one’s society on any occasion is that which is likely to produce the largest number of—or widest scope for—future (successful) free choices by members of that society.

    The objections to CHOICE and CHOICE-2 as applied to individuals also apply here. Having lots of inferior options isn’t necessarily better than having a few good ones. CHOICE ignores variations in the degree of desirability of options, and because of that it can fail to distinguish between excellent and poor choices.

  38. keiths: Societal choices don’t affect all individuals equally in terms of the future acquisition of freely chosen goods. So CHOICE actually undermines the case for the equality of votes and for majoritarianism.

    I don’t understand the “So” there. Can you explain why you think the second sentence follows from the first one?

  39. keiths:

    Societal choices don’t affect all individuals equally in terms of the future acquisition of freely chosen goods. So CHOICE actually undermines the case for the equality of votes and for majoritarianism.

    walto:

    I don’t understand the “So” there. Can you explain why you think the second sentence follows from the first one?

    It’s because of the “except” clause in what you had written just before:

    (2) If each choice is taken to be equal in value to every other one (except as they predictably result in the future acquirement of more or fewer freely chosen goods by oneself or others), there is a basis for claiming the equality of each person’s vote with every other person’s vote and, thus, for defending majoritarianism.

    If a policy being voted upon affects individuals differently in terms of their future choices, then they have unequal stakes in the outcome, which argues against the equality of votes.

  40. Also, there’s a conflict inherent in CHOICE, which is exposed by your #3:

    (3) Finally, CHOICE tells us that the best one can do for one’s society on any occasion is that which is likely to produce the largest number of—or widest scope for—future (successful) free choices by members of that society.

    The best one can do for one’s society doesn’t always align with the best one can do for oneself. Which do we choose? One might altruistically choose to prioritize society over self, but then one is doing something that is not intrinsically good, according to CHOICE itself (the individual version).

  41. keiths: If a policy being voted upon affects individuals differently in terms of their future choices, then they have unequal stakes in the outcome, which argues against the equality of votes.

    You could make that argument with or without CHOICE. I think it’s a bad argument myself, but I’ve seen it made. I don’t think stakes are good basis for vote weights–or that using them that way follows from any of the theories of prudential value I know of. You’d need additional premises that I don’t buy.

    keiths: The best one can do for one’s society doesn’t always align with the best one can do for oneself. Which do we choose? One might altruistically choose to prioritize society over self, but then one is doing something that is not intrinsically good, according to CHOICE itself (the individual version).

    Presumably, we’ll choose whichever one we want more. Are you looking for a moral principle here? I don’t get into that.

  42. walto,

    You could make that argument with or without CHOICE.

    Yes, and that’s my point. CHOICE changes the standard from (say) desire satisfaction to choice increase, but it doesn’t thereby provide a justification for claiming the equality of each vote and for defending majoritarianism.

    keiths:

    The best one can do for one’s society doesn’t always align with the best one can do for oneself. Which do we choose? One might altruistically choose to prioritize society over self, but then one is doing something that is not intrinsically good, according to CHOICE itself (the individual version).

    walto:

    Presumably, we’ll choose whichever one we want more.

    Not if we’re applying the CHOICE standard.

    That brings us back to the conflict inherent in CHOICE. You describe two versions, one applying to individuals and one applying to societies. But what is ‘intrinsically good’ for society isn’t necessarily ‘intrinsically good’ for all individuals. How should a person choose when CHOICE-individual and CHOICE-society conflict?

    Are you looking for a moral principle here? I don’t get into that.

    Whether to go with CHOICE-individual or CHOICE-society in a particular case can be a moral issue, since it involves the welfare of others as well as ourselves.

  43. keiths: CHOICE changes the standard from (say) desire satisfaction to choice increase, but it doesn’t thereby provide a justification for claiming the equality of each vote and for defending majoritarianism.

    Or cure cancer either. Not even sure it can defeat Trump. 🙁

    keiths: How should a person choose when CHOICE-individual and CHOICE-society conflict?

    Are you looking for a moral principle here? I don’t get into that.

    Whether to go with CHOICE-individual or CHOICE-society in a particular case can be a moral issue, since it involves the welfare of others as well as ourselves

    Good thing we’re not pitching moral verities.

    I do think there are connections between CHOICE and democratic theory, though. Not only does it suggest what makes a society better off (I understand you don’t agree with those claims, c’est la vie), but I think it helps clarify what voting IS while remaining consistent with an Approval Voting conception of what voting FOR means.

    It does not suggest how altruistic one ought to be, however, or whether to bake for the neighborhood or just for the fam.

  44. keiths:

    CHOICE changes the standard from (say) desire satisfaction to choice increase, but it doesn’t thereby provide a justification for claiming the equality of each vote and for defending majoritarianism.

    walto:

    Or cure cancer either. Not even sure it can defeat Trump.

    You made the claim…

    (2) If each choice is taken to be equal in value to every other one (except as they predictably result in the future acquirement of more or fewer freely chosen goods by oneself or others), there is a basis for claiming the equality of each person’s vote with every other person’s vote and, thus, for defending majoritarianism.

    …and I responded to it.

    keiths:

    How should a person choose when CHOICE-individual and CHOICE-society conflict?

    Whether to go with CHOICE-individual or CHOICE-society in a particular case can be a moral issue, since it involves the welfare of others as well as ourselves.

    walto:

    Good thing we’re not pitching moral verities.

    In a paper that describes two versions of CHOICE…

    Using parenthetic insertions, I state it here in two versions—one general, and one specific to some individual.

    …you should at least mention the fact that honoring one will sometimes mean violating the other, and that resolving the conflict can be a moral issue.

  45. keiths: You made the claim…

    (2) If each choice is taken to be equal in value to every other one (except as they predictably result in the future acquirement of more or fewer freely chosen goods by oneself or others), there is a basis for claiming the equality of each person’s vote with every other person’s vote and, thus, for defending majoritarianism.

    …and I responded to it.

    keiths: It’s because of the “except” clause in what you had written just before:

    Fair enough. I missed your point there.

    In spite of my recognition that it’s wildly counterintuitive, I take it as axiomatic that wants and successes are in some sense equivalent. So, what I mean with that “except” phrase is that, pursuant to that axiom, if something produces more of them–is more fecund in that way–by my stipulation, it must make for more (equally weighted) successes. If wants/successes were weighted that wouldn’t follow.

    Maybe that requires another clarificatory remark. Thanks.

  46. walto,

    So, what I mean with that “except” phrase is that, pursuant to that axiom, if something produces more of them–is more fecund in that way–by my stipulation, it must make for more (equally weighted) successes.

    I understand that, but I think you’re still missing my point(s), which are about CHOICE itself and not about CHOICE versus some other scheme in which options are weighted.

    Suppose a society is voting on a proposed program. Further suppose that the program in question will open up scads of new options for the poor citizens, but it will slightly reduce the options available to the rich ones. Everyone in the society is on board with the CHOICE standard(s) and wants to apply them in deciding how to vote.

    1. By the CHOICE-individual standard, the program is intrinsically good for the poor people but not for the rich people.

    2. By the CHOICE-societal standard, the program is intrinsically good since it produces a net increase in options across the entire society.

    3. The program does not have the same (predictable) effect on everybody’s future choices, so this argues against “every vote is equal”.

    4. The rich people face a dilemma: CHOICE-individual tells them to vote against the program, but CHOICE-societal tells them to support it. Deciding which standard to apply is a moral decision because it involves the well-being of others.

    5. CHOICE itself is of no help in resolving the dilemma. CHOICE-individual will indicate that CHOICE-individual is the right standard to apply, and CHOICE-societal will indicate the same for CHOICE-societal. The dilemma has just been moved back one level.

  47. keiths,

    1–T
    2–T
    3–F
    4–T
    5–Don’t understand what ‘back one level’ means. Also it’s not a dilemma. Why should what’s good for a society be expected to be good for each person. Even Pareto didn’t require that!

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