Volume 92, Issue 2, April 2015
What's So Great about Experience?
Suppose that our life choices result in unpredictable experiences, as L. A. Paul has recently argued. What does this mean for the possibility of rational prudential choice? Not as much as Paul thinks. First, what’s valuable about experience is its broadly hedonic quality, and empirical studies suggest we tend to significantly overestimate the impact of our choices in this respect. Second, contrary to what Paul suggests, the value of finding out what an outcome is like for us does not suffice to rationalize life choices, because much more important values are at stake. Third, because these other prudential goods, such as achievement, personal relationships, and meaningfulness, are typically more important than the quality of our experience (which is in any case unlikely to be bad when we realize non-experiential goods), life choices should be made on what I call a story-regarding rather than experience-regarding basis.