According to a new paper from a Cambridge philosopher, giving friends and relations advice about crucial life decisions such as whether to take a new job or start a family is immoral.
Dr Farbod Akhlaghi, a moral philosopher at Christ's College, argues that everyone has a right to self authorship and must make decisions about transformative experiences for themselves.
Akhlaghi argues that it is impossible to know if a friend's life will benefit from a transformative experience such as a new job, the birth of a child or a university course until after the event. He argues that it is only by making these choices independently that we can know ourselves.
Akhlaghi wrote in a paper, entitled Transformative experience and the right to revelatory autonomy, that it is not the value of making a choice but rather that of learning what our core preferences and values will become. For making transformative decisions when facing them, deciding for ourselves to learn who we will become, gives us a degree of self-authorship. The paper states that this right creates a moral duty in others not to interfere in the self-making of their friends.
Akhlaghi argues that it is only justifiable to interfere in someone else's transformative choice by competing moral considerations such as if harm is likely to be done others.
He said that the ability to see that the person we have become is a product of decisions that we have made for ourselves is very important.
There are a lot of reasons why we may try to intervene some selfish, others well-meaning people, but whatever motivation we have, we can cause serious harm, including to the people we love most. He argues that those who accept the right to revelatory autonomy in others risk violating this right if they try to advise friends on a particular course of action.
Akhlaghi says that by giving arguments, evidence or arguments, one is in a privileged position with respect to what the other person's experience would be like for them to disrespect their moral right to revelatory autonomy. Akhlaghi suggests that the more likely a choice is to affect someone's core identity and values the more moral reasons required for interfering in their decisions. Advice on whether to eat a cheeseburger or not is easier to justify than to advise a friend on whether to go to university, he writes.