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Preferences and autonomy: Philosophy and Economics

16-18 déc. 2021
Université de Rennes 1, site Beaulieu, Bâtiment 32B - Amphi 12 - Rennes (France)
According to a major trend in normative economics, social choices should rely on what people want, that is, on their preferences. What people want or value is also at the center stage of what are called in philosophy subjectivist approaches to well-being. According to such views, an object contributes to an individual well-being insofar as she or he has a certain type of pro-attitude— like for instance, a desire— towards it. These subjectivist approaches are often partly justified by anti-paternalist arguments by normative economists, and moral and political philosophers. However, the precise role that autonomy plays in the very description of what people desire or prefer remains often partly hidden. In fact, one might use the notion of autonomy in very different ways to describe what people prefer, or really prefer, or what really matter for them. One reason for its use is that preferences may be the result of adaptation, misinformation, incoherence, lack of knowledge, of rationality, of deliberation, or of available options and all these defects may be understood in some way as lack of autonomy. Hence, the temptation to formulate subjective approaches in terms of somehow idealized preferences. On the other hand, any departure from what people actually desire or even from what they think they desire may be accused of violating their autonomy understood as respect for their will, their word, or how they understand themselves. Such tension is obvious in debates surrounding rational consent. It is also illustrated in the claim of advocates of nudges who contend to be liberals insofar as they aim to lead people to choose what they would really want, though this means organizing the choice framework in order to stir them away from what they would have actually chosen. More generally, preferences evolve. This raises questions of intertemporal prudential rationality but also about the autonomy of these preferences and their possible evolution. Furthermore, one might wonder if the prudential and autonomy considerations are coherent or whether they (may) pull in different direction, and why. These questions raise in turn the question of the nature of autonomy and whether it can be understood in a preferentialist or subjectivist account of value or well-being. One possibility is to see autonomy as justified on external objectivist ground. But the subjectivist has several other options at her disposal: autonomy may be understood in terms of preferences or in moral or political terms. Finally, all these difficulties are factored by the fact that autonomy is a multifaceted notion. In particular, one needs at least to distinguish between autonomy as respect for the will of subjects and as non-alienation. The first is prominent in political contexts where it is tightly linked to the notion of consent, and thus to the respect due to people's word or will. In contrast, autonomy as non-alienation, is more like an ideal value linked to the notion of an ideal citizen or to a life of one's own. The aim of the conference is to explore how the notion of autonomy should be understood and integrated if it can within a broadly preferentialist or subjectivist approach to well-being or values and how it contributes to moral, political and social choices. Thus, we hope the conference to address questions like the following (although the list is not limitative): -Should autonomy under one or its several acceptations shape our description of actual or ideal preferences? -If this is correct, how? -Or should we take this aim as irrelevant for the descriptions of preferences? -Which role should then play autonomy considerations? -Can we integrate the various norms of autonomy in one framework? -Can autonomy itself be understood in preferentialist or subjective terms? -If not, is it a threat for such approaches?
Discipline scientifique : Economies et finances - Philosophie

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