Friday, April 26, 2019

Deontic Pluralism [draft paper]

Abstract: Consequentialist views have traditionally taken a maximizing form, requiring agents to bring about the very best outcome that they can.  But this maximizing function may be questioned.  Satisficing views instead allow agents to bring about any outcome that exceeds a satisfactory threshold or qualifies as "good enough".  Scalar consequentialism, by contrast, eschews moral requirements altogether, instead evaluating acts in purely comparative terms, i.e., as better or worse than their alternatives.  After surveying the main considerations for and against each of these three views, I argue that the core insights of each are (despite appearances) not in conflict. Consequentialists should be deontic pluralists and accept a maximizing account of the ought of most reason, a satisficing account of obligation, and a scalar account of the weight of reasons.

* * *

So argues my new paper, 'Deontic Pluralism and the Right Amount of Good' [PDF link].  Comments/suggestions very welcome if you're interested enough to read the current draft.  Just to briefly expand on what the paper covers...

* The main upshot of the paper is that maximizing, satisficing, and scalar consequentialisms aren't in conflict (the basic idea was hinted at in my earlier 'Willpower Satisficing' paper, but here it is more in focus).

* The paper argues that scalar consequentialists are right to reject primitive rightness, but mistaken in offering only contextualist accounts of defined/constructed rightness, which lack normative significance.  There are other defined/constructed senses of rightness that draw a line between right and wrong acts in principled / normatively interesting ways.  I call this view 'deontic pluralism'.

* Along the way, I show how my account of the derived significance of doing/allowing enables satisficing consequentialists to answer an otherwise devastating objection that arises for views that allow for demandingness-moderating options (e.g. to refrain from aid) without deontic constraints (e.g. against killing).

I'm pretty excited about the paper, but I'm sure it could be improved, so comments (here or via email) would be much appreciated!


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