- When is Non-ideal theory too Ideal? Children, Adaptive Preferences, and Ideal Theory
Political Utopias: Contemporary Debates, eds. Michael Webber & Kevin Vallier, Oxford University Press, forthcoming
AbstractPolitical philosophers working on ideal and non-ideal theory sometimes seem to be stuck in a bind: while ideal theory risks being too ideal to be useful in the real world, non-ideal theory risks being so non-ideal that it stops far short of justice. In this paper, I highlight a third – and equally unappealing – possibility: that non-ideal theory, precisely because of its obvious engagement with real-world problems, might fail to recognize the unacceptable ways in which it is itself problematically idealized. I highlight this problem through the case-study of adaptive preferences. Although work in adaptive preferences obviously fits into non-ideal theory, the actual work being done in the literature is idealized in that it takes only the circumstances and needs of adults into account. In the best case, this means that the needs of one of our most vulnerable populations – that is, children – are ignored. In the worst case, where the needs of children and adults conflict, the needs of children will be actively frustrated. In this way, non-ideal theory can fail to approximate justice precisely because it fails to recognize the idealizations that it itself employs.
- Conceptualizing Adaptive Preferences Respectfully: An Indirectly Substantive Account
Journal of Political Philosophy 2016: 23(3), 206-226.
AbstractIn this paper, I argue that accounts of adaptive preferences worth using must meet three criteria. First, they must be able to serve as an effective tool to combat marginalization and oppression. Second, they must respect persons by recognizing the interest that they have in living a life in accordance with their own convictions. Third, they must respect persons by recognizing the interest that they have in being seen as authorities on their own good. While these three aims seem to conflict, I propose an account of adaptive preferences which satisfies all three. It is based in what I call an “indirect substantive” account of autonomy: this kind of account of autonomy uses substantive content indirectly as part of an otherwise procedural account. Doing so provides a justification for combatting marginalization and oppression even when it is not protested, while also showing respect for persons.
- Adaptive Preferences: Merging Political Accounts and Well-being Accounts
Canadian Journal of Philosophy 2015: 45(2), 179-196.
AbstractAccounts of adaptive preferences are of two kinds: well-being accounts fully theorized for their own sake, and political accounts theorized to facilitate the political project of reducing oppression and marginalization. Given their practical role, the latter are often less fully theorized, and therefore less robust to theoretical criticism. In this paper, I first draw on well-being accounts to identify the well-theorized elements that political accounts should want to adopt in order to strengthen their project and avoid common criticisms. Second, I appeal to the political project to show the shortcomings of the well-being accounts on which I draw.
- Autonomy and Settling: Rehabilitating the relationship between autonomy and paternalism
Utilitas, 2015: 27(3), 303-325.
AbstractIn this paper I show the short-comings of autonomy-based justifications for exemptions from paternalism and appeal to the value of settling to defend an alternative well-being-based justification. My well-being-based justification, unlike autonomy-based justifications, can 1) explain why adults but not children are exempt from paternalism; 2) show which kinds of paternalism are justified for children; 3) explain the value of the capacity of autonomy; 4) offer a plausible relationship between autonomy and exemption from paternalism; and 5) give political philosophers a justification for exempting persons from paternalism even if broad scepticism about the capacity for autonomy is justified.
- Educating for Autonomy: Liberalism and Autonomy in the Capabilities Approach
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 2014: 17(3). (w/ Luara Ferracioli)
AbstractMartha Nussbaum grounds her version of the capabilities approach in political liberalism. In this paper, we argue that the capabilities approach, insofar as it genuinely values the things that persons can actually do and be, must be grounded in a hybrid account of liberalism: in order to show respect for adults, its justification must be political; in order to show respect for children, however, its implementation must include a commitment to comprehensive autonomy, one that ensures that children develop the skills necessary to make meaningful choices about whether or not to exercise their basic capabilities. Importantly, in order to show respect for parents who do not necessarily recognize autonomy as a value, we argue that the liberal state, via its system of public education, should take on the role of ensuring that all children within the state develop a sufficient degree of autonomy.
- The perfectionism of Nussbaum’s adaptive preferences
Journal of Global Ethics, 2014: 10(2), 183-198.
AbstractAlthough the problem of adaptiveness plays an important motivating role in her work on human capabilities, Martha Nussbaum never gives a clear account of the controversial concept of adaptive preferences on which she relies. In this paper, I aim both to reconstruct the most plausible account of the concept that may be attributed to Nussbaum and to provide a critical appraisal of that account. Although her broader work on the capabilities approach moves progressively towards political liberalism as time passes, I aim to show that her account of adaptive preferences continues to maintain her earlier commitment to perfectionism about the good. I then distinguish between two obligatory kinds of respect for persons, which I call, respectively, primary and secondary recognition respect. This distinction allows us to see that her perfectionist account of adaptive preferences allows her to show persons primary but not secondary recognition respect. Ultimately, I claim that an acceptable account of adaptive preferences must succeed in showing persons both types of respect. I conclude with some preliminary remarks on what such an account might look like.