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ERIC Number: EJ852841
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Sep
Pages: 12
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0039-3746
Sen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: Adaptive Preferences and Higher Education
Watts, Michael
Studies in Philosophy and Education, v28 n5 p425-436 Sep 2009
Adaptive preferences are both a central justification and continuing problem for the use of the capability approach. They are illustrated here with reference to a project examining the choices of young people who had rejected higher education. Jon Elster, Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum have all criticised utilitarianism on the grounds that a focus on preference-satisfaction fails to acknowledge the human tendency to adapt preferences under unfavourable circumstances and that self-assessments of well-being are therefore likely to be distorted by deprivation. Elster's addresses preference deformation through the sour grapes phenomenon and retroactive rationalisation. Sen and Nussbaum are more concerned with adaptation as self-abnegation. The capability approach developed by Sen and Nussbaum seeks to address the problem of adaptive preferences by taking into account not only what individuals value but what they have reason to value. However, clear distinctions need to be made between adaptations to the means of achieving well-being and adaptations to its ends. If Elster's formulations are to be used in capability assessments, they need to articulate with the relative weightings given to relevant functionings and freedoms. This enables a more nuanced understanding of adaptive preferences that can account for the subtleties of the constraints they place upon individual freedoms.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A