Discussions

There was an author-meets-critics session on the book at the Pacific Division Meeting of the APA in March 2013 in San Francisco, CA. The critics were Joshua Gert, Paul Hurley, and Sergio Tenenbaum, and Daniel Star chaired. Stemming from this, there is a symposium on the book in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (Volume 88, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 209-255) with the same cast of critics.


The following works discuss the book:


Abstract: Proposes an alternative to the traditional account of supererogatory acts.

Relevance: Dorsey criticizes the account of supererogation that I give in the book.

Abstract: Dorsey subjects “moral rationalism to critical scrutiny. [He argues] that there is at least a prima facie case against the rational supremacy of morality, and that arguments in favor of moral rationalism either cannot establish that immorality is never rationally justified, or end up—at best—simply pounding the table.”

Relevance: Dorsey criticizes my argument for moral rationalism from chapter 2.

Abstract: In this paper, Dorsey argues “that one class of objection to consequentialism is illegitimate. This class starts by noting that consequentialism requires agents to perform actions that, plausibly, agents lack decisive practical reasons to perform. But given that moral requirements are rationally decisive (i.e., one always has decisive practical reason to conform to moral requirements), this entails that consequentialism cannot adequately characterize the moral point of view. The demands of consequentialism fail to maintain the connection to practical rationality enjoyed by moral demands. Call this broad strategy the “objection from moral rationalism.”

Relevance: Dorsey criticizes my argument against traditional versions of consequentialism from chapter 2. This argument is a version of what Dorsey calls the "objection from moral rationalism."

Abstract: We ought to perform our best option—that is, the option that we have most reason, all things considered, to perform. This is perhaps the most fundamental and least controversial of all normative principles concerning action. Yet, it is not, I believe, well understood. For even setting aside questions about what our reasons are and about how best to formulate the principle, there is a question about how we should construe our options. This question is of the utmost importance, for which option will count as being best depends on how broadly or narrowly we are to construe our options. In this paper, I argue that we ought to construe an agent’s options at a time, t, as being all and only those actions (or sets of actions) that are scrupulously securable by her at t.

Relevance: This article provides a further defense of one of the claims that I make in chapter 6—that is, the claim that a subject, S, can be obligated at t to perform x at t' only if S's performing x at at t' is scrupulously securable by S at t. I also respond to some of Ross's criticisms of securatisim.  

Abstract: We ought to perform our best option—that is, the option that we have most reason, all things considered, to perform. This is perhaps the most fundamental and least controversial of all normative principles concerning action. Yet, it is not, I believe, well understood. For even setting aside questions about what our options are and what our reasons are, there are prior questions concerning how best to formulate the principle. In this paper, I address these questions. One of the more interesting upshots of this inquiry is that the deontic statuses (e.g., obligatory, optional, and impermissible) of individual actions are determined by the deontic statuses of the larger sets of actions of which they are a part. And, as I show, this has a number of interesting implications both for normative theory and for our understanding of practical reasons.

Relevance: This article provides a further defense of what I call, in chapter 6, the "top-down approach"the approach to assessing permissibility whereby normative principles are applied only to maximal sets of actions and the distribution principle is used to determine the permissibility of non-maximal sets of actions.

Abstract: "How is what an agent ought to do related to what an agent ought to prefer that she does? More precisely, suppose we know what an agent’s preference ordering ought to be over the outcomes of performing the various courses of action open to her. Can we infer from this information how she ought to act, and if so, how can we infer it? One view (which, for convenience, I will call ‘actualism’) is that an agent ought to φ just in case she ought to prefer the outcome that would result from her φ-ing to the outcome of that would result from her not φ-ing. Another view (which, for convenience, I will call ‘possibilism’) is that an agent ought to φ just in case all of her options (in the relevant domain) with maximally preferable outcomes involve φ-ing. I will discuss actualism and possibilism in parts 1 and 2, respectively. I will argue, in part 1, that actualism is very far from the truth. And I will argue, in part 2, that while the standard version of possibilism faces significant problems, there are much better versions of possibilism that avoid the objections to the standard view. Ultimately, however, I will argue that even the best forms of possibilism are not acceptable. Then, in part 3, I will offer a diagnosis of why the existing theories fail, and I will offer an alternative theory that is neither actualist nor possibilist in form, and that avoids the difficulties with the other theories."

Relevance: One of the "better versions of possibilism" that Ross discusses but then ultimately rejects is the view that I argue for in chapters 6 and 7 of my book
a view that I call 'securatism' and that Ross calls 'scrupulous securitism'.

Abstract: "According to traditional forms of act-consequentialism, we are always required to do the action which would have the best consequences of the alternatives available for us in the given circumstances.  It has been objected that this view does not leave for us enough moral freedom to choose between different actions which we intuitively think are morally permissible (but not required) options for us.  I will first go through the previous consequentialist responses to this freedom objection, and why I think those responses are not completely satisfactory.  I will then attempt to argue that agents have more options on consequentialist grounds than the traditional forms of act-consequentialism acknowledged.  This is because having a choice between many permissible options can itself make things go better."

Relevance: Suikkanen criticizes the account of agent-centered options that I give in the book.




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