Prudence and Authenticity: Intrapersonal Conflicts of Value
Brink (David)
Source: Philosophical Review, Vol. 112, No. 2 (Apr., 2003), pp. 215-245
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. Prudence and authenticity are sometimes seen as rival virtues.
  2. Prudence, as traditionally conceived, is temporally neutral. It attaches no intrinsic significance to the temporal location of benefits or harms within the agent's life; the prudent agent should be equally concerned about all parts of her life. But people's values and ideals often change over time, sometimes in predictable ways, as when middle age and parenthood often temporize youthful radicalism or spontaneity with concerns for comfort, security, and predictability.
  3. In situations involving diachronic, intrapersonal conflicts of value, prudence – in particular, temporal neutrality – appears to require the agent to subordinate her current ideals to her future ones or at least to moderate pursuit of current ideals in light of future ones. But this demand may seem to sacrifice authenticity, if we suppose that authenticity requires acting on the ideals that the agent reflectively and sincerely accepts at the time of action.
  4. This tension between prudence and authenticity raises interesting questions about temporal neutrality, the structure of intrapersonal conflicts of value, the nature of ideals, and the demands of authenticity.
  5. After examining various aspects of this puzzle, I defend the commitments of prudence in situations involving intrapersonal value conflict and argue that authenticity-understood as being true to oneself-actually supports temporal neutrality.
  6. I conclude by suggesting how this defense of prudence lends credibility to the more general demand of temporal neutrality

This paper is quoted in "Tobia (Kevin Patrick) - Personal Identity and the Phineas Gage Effect" as an example of Parfit’s1 “Russian Nobleman” case as a seminal thought experiment2 often cited as evidence offered for the view that major dissimilarities seem to sever personal identity.

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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