Choosing for Changing Selves

I have just completed a new book, Choosing for Changing Selves, which will appear with Oxford University Press in December 2019. I use this page to collect together material on the book. This research was supported by a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship.


What you value and the extent to which you value it changes over the course of your life. A person might currently greatly value pursuing philosophy, and value spending time in nature much less; but, having watched their parents as they have grown older, and noting that they are very much like their parents, that person might have good reason to think that they will value the pursuit of philosophy much less when they are sixty, and value spending time in nature much more. Given that we make our decisions on the basis of what we believe about the world and what we value in the world, the fact that the latter may change throughout our lives poses a problem for decision-making — in particular, for making decisions whose consequences will start to be felt or continue to be felt later in our lives. To which values should I appeal when making such a decision? My current values? My future values at the time when the decision will have its most significant effect? My past values? Some amalgamation of them all — past, present, and future — perhaps with some of them given more weight than others? (If so, how are the weightings assigned?) Or such an amalgamation only of a few of them? (If so, which ones?) In this book, I aim to provide a comprehensive account of rational decision-making for agents who recognise that their values will change over time and whose decisions will affect those future times. Included in the analysis will be not only agents who recognise that their values will inevitably change in certain ways, but also those who recognise that some of their decisions will lead to consequences that will change their values — thus, in effect, they will choose to change their values.

Earlier work

The book can be read as a reply to Edna Ullmann-Margalit’s paper, ‘Big Decisions: Opting, Converting, Drifting’ and L. A. Paul’s book, Transformative Experience. It develops some lines of thought that I originally presented in the following responses to Paul’s book:

  • ‘Transformative experience and decision theory’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 91(3):766-774 (PDF)
  • ‘Review of L. A. Paul’s Transformative ExperienceMind 125(499):927-935 (PDF)
  • ‘Transformative experience and the knowledge norms for action: Moss on Paul’s challenge to decision theory’ in Lambert, E. and J. Schwenkler (eds.) Transformative Experience (OUP) (PDF)
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