A Paradox for the Intrinsic Value of Freedom of Choice

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Publication details

DateAccepted/In press - 23 Mar 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 23 May 2019
Issue number4
Number of pages23
Pages (from-to)891-913
Early online date23/05/19
Original languageEnglish


A standard liberal claim is that freedom of choice is not only instrumentally valuable but also intrinsically valuable, that is, valuable for its own sake. I argue that each one of five conditions should hold if freedom of choice is intrinsically valuable: First, if rational people may differ as to which option is the most preferred in an option set, the offered freedom of choice has some intrinsic value. Second, if an option set is expanded with an option that must be less preferred than the already available options by any rational person, the intrinsic value of the offered freedom of choice does not increase. Third, if an option set is expanded, the intrinsic value of the offered freedom of choice does not decrease. Fourth, if an option set has only one option, it does not offer any intrinsically good freedom of choice. And, fifth, the relation ‘at least as good freedom of choice as’ is transitive. The trouble is that there exists a counter-example to the conjunction of these conditions. Hence freedom of choice is not intrinsically valuable.

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