Capabilities theorists hold that adaptive preference (APs) are problematically shaped by deprivation, and that they thus merit public interrogation. However, it is unclear what differentiates APs from preferences worthy of public respect. Thinking of APs as procedurally non-autonomous promises grounds on which to distinguish them without compromising respect for moral pluralism. Using examples from gender and development practice, I argue that — despite the appeal of this route — there are deep problems with thinking of APs as non-autonomous. Conceptions of APs as non-autonomous do not identify APs in a way consistent with our intuitions and fail to provide appropriate practical guidance to public institutions interested in interrogating APs. I suggest in the conclusion that identifying APs requires a theory of the good.
Adaptive preferences, Autonomy, Capabilities approach, Martha Nussbaum, Development ethics,
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