Autonomous Progressive Activity

Anne Baril, WashU

There seem to be a number of prudential goods. Autonomy, self-respect, pleasure, and friendship come to mind as ostensible examples. Most philosophers of well-being agree that such goods are at least common and fecund sources of well-being; some believe that a number of such goods are finally prudentially valuable: that the realization of (tokens of types of) these goods benefits the person, not merely instrumentally, but directly.  In this paper, I draw attention to a kind of activity that is intimately connected to a number of these ostensible ‘basic goods’.  Illustrating with the examples of two such goods—achievement and knowledge—I argue that at least some of the final prudential value that is normally attributed to such goods is in fact attributable to the ‘autonomous progressive activity’ in their service.