Ken Baynes, Syracuse. "Autonomy, Social Oppression, and Adaptive Preference Formation."
Part of the Department of Philosophy's Sapientia Lecture Series, funded by The Mark J. Byrne 1985 Fund in Philosophy. Free and open to all. Reception follows.
Autonomy, Social Oppression, and Adaptive Preference Formation
Kenneth Baynes, Philosophy and Political Science, Syracuse University
The notion of adaptive preference is familiar from Aesop’s fable of the fox and the grapes: The fox’s preferences are unconsciously modified in light of his restricted options. More recently, the idea of adaptive preferences has played a controversial role within feminism, development studies and disability studies. Doesn’t the ascription of an adaptive preference to a person necessarily deny her agency and autonomy? I argue that, despite challenges, the notion of adaptive preference, properly conceived, remains an important tool for constructive social and political criticism. I do this by proposing an account of adaptive preference in connection with a normative-competence and “relational” model of personal autonomy (for which the “competence for answerability” is central).
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