"Transforming Others: On the Limits of "You "ll Be Glad I Did It" Reasoning

Res Philosophica 92 (2):341-370 (2015)
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We often find ourselves in situations where it is up to us to make decisions on behalf of others. How can we determine whether such decisions are morally justified, especially if those decisions may change who it is these others end up becoming? In this paper, I will evaluate one plausible kind of justification that may tempt us: we may want to justify our decision by appealing to the likelihood that the other person will be glad we made that specific choice down the line. Although it is tempting, I ultimately argue that we should reject this sort of appeal as a plausible justification for the moral permissibility of our vicarious decisions. This is because the decisions that we make on behalf of another may affect the interests and values that that person will hold in the future. As I will show, this complicates the justificatory relationship between present decisions and future attitudes, since the latter can depend on the former. This is not to say that the predicted future attitudes of others can play no significant role in justifying our decisions on others’ behalf. Rather, appealing to the future attitudes in our moral justifications may play an important role in our practical thinking but only when we consider the future attitudes of all relevant possible futures.
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