Using utilitarian or cost-benefit thinking to assess possible large-scale social chagnes is problematic because it is unclear how to value the costs and benefits--in particular, because some social changes will affect the ways people assign value to their life circumstances. This problem is related to what Sen and Nussbaum call "adaptive preferences," but considering this issue in light of biologists' understanding of phenotypic plasticity suggests that the problem goes further than philosophers had recognized, since differing developmental environments may have permanent effects on people's capacities and preferences.
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