Skip to content

L.A. Paul & Cass R. Sunstein, 'As Judged By Themselves': Transformative Experiences and Endogenous Preferences (Sept. 17, 2019).

Abstract: One way to evaluate various interventions in people’s lives is to ask whether they make choosers better off, “as judged by themselves.” This criterion can be understood to borrow from the liberal political tradition insofar as it makes the judgments of choosers authoritative. Giving ultimate authority to choosers might be taken to respect their autonomy and also promote their welfare (insofar as people are uniquely situated to know whether choices make them better off). But for certain decisions, the “as judged by themselves” criterion is indeterminate. In such cases, what people care about shifts, depending on their choice. Some choices change people’s preferences and values, and in this sense, change their identity. In these situations, sometimes involving transformative experiences, the criterion does not offer a unique solution. It is possible that welfarist criteria will resolve the indeterminacy, despite serious questions about incommensurability. Considerations of autonomy are also relevant to choice-influencing interventions that promote transformative experiences.