Utilitas

Research Article

Rational Choice, Changes in Values over Time, and Well-Being

DENNIS MCKERLIEa1

a1 University of Calgary mckerlie@ucalgary.ca

Sometimes we make decisions which affect our lives at times when we will hold values that are different from our values at the time the decision is made. What is the reasonable way to make such a choice? Some think we should accept a requirement of temporal neutrality and take both sets of values into account, others think we should decide on the strength of our present values, yet others think that in evaluating what will happen at that other time we should use the values that we will endorse at that time instead of our present values. These views see the problem as one about finding some attitude towards time itself that is distinctively rational. This article argues that these views are subject to serious objections. It suggests that instead we should think in terms of well-being. If a person approves of, or positively responds to, the way their life is going they will experience more well-being than if there is no positive response. The article explores the implications of a positive response condition on well-being for deciding what it is rational to do in cases involving changing goals.