3 thoughts on “Laurie Paul on the irrationality of family planning

  1. The volume involves a terrific topic. Skimming Paul’s paper left me surprised at what seems to be a gap. What she calls “the standard model” has received a lot of empirically based bashing recently. One of the most relevant critiques is that of Dan Gilbert. His two most important claims relevant to this topic are:

    1. Human beings are not very good at predicting their reactions.

    2. The best way to get some grip on how we’ll react is to look at how others have reacted.

    Of course, getting good accounts of others’ reactions in this case may be hard. Not that many parents are going to tell you they wish they’d never have had their cute little toddler.

    Mind you, I just skimmed it.

  2. Laurie’s paper argues that the decision whether or not to have a child is not rational, and asks how common sense could have got this so wrong. This certainly fits with a lot of parental testimony, that one can never understand the magnitude of the decision beforehand. But perhaps it’s also worth asking whether the account of ‘rationality’ offered in Laurie’s paper is too narrow. Some kind of antecedent calculation of expected utility or personal preference satisfaction seems to be taken for granted. But there is a wealth of assumptions buried in that. Could we not give, for instance, role-modelling a part to play in important decisions – a less consequentialist and more virtue ethics-leaning approach. Thus for instance, “I admired the way my mother parented me so much that I wanted to follow her life path”. Something like that. The discipline of Philosophy itself was arguably ‘birthed’ by a strong role model who encouraged people to follow a path they couldn’t understand before taking it. And here we are.

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