Is our ordinary way of choosing to have children rational?

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Paul, L. A.
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This paper argues that if you choose to have a child by consulting your preferences, where your preferences are based upon projections about what it would be like for you to have a child, your choice is not rational. The problem is not a problem for decision theory, for decision theory has the resources to handle the problem if we change the mode of decision-making. The problem is rather a problem for our ordinary conception of major life-changing decisions as rational decisions. The argument combines three independently plausible premises. The first premise is derived from the widely adopted cultural practice of deciding whether or not to have a child by making a careful assessment of what it would be like. The second premise is that this assessment is performed in order for you to compare what it would be like for you to become a parent to what it would be like for you to remain childless, so that you can choose the best outcome. The third premise is that the experience of having a child is a unique, radically transformative experience. Having one’s first child is psychologically life-changing; an experience like no other. After defending these three premises, I use them to argue that if one wants to choose rationally, one cannot apply our ordinary decision-making procedure when choosing whether to become a parent.