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  1. Epistemic Modesty in Ethics.Nicholas Laskowski - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (7):1577-1596.
    Many prominent ethicists, including Shelly Kagan, John Rawls, and Thomas Scanlon, accept a kind of epistemic modesty thesis concerning our capacity to carry out the project of ethical theorizing. But it is a thesis that has received surprisingly little explicit and focused attention, despite its widespread acceptance. After explaining why the thesis is true, I argue that it has several implications in metaethics, including, especially, implications that should lead us to rethink our understanding of Reductive Realism. In particular, the thesis (...)
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  • The Normativity of Rationality.Benjamin Kiesewetter - 2017 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Kiesewetter defends the normativity of rationality by presenting a new solution to the problems that arise from the common assumption that we ought to be rational. He provides a defence of a reason-response conception of rationality, an evidence-relative account of reason, and an explanation of structural irrationality in relation to these accounts.
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  • Actualism and Possibilism in Ethics.Travis Timmerman & Yishai Cohen - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  • Three Forms of Actualist Direct Consequentialism.Shyam Nair - forthcoming - Utilitas.
    One family of maximizing act consequentialist theories are actualist direct theories. Indeed, historically there are at least three different forms of actualist direct consequentialism (due to Bentham, Moore, and contemporary consequentialists). This paper is about the logical differences between these three actualist direct theories and the differences between actualist direct theories and their competitors. Three main points emerge. First, the sharpest separation between actualist direct theories and their competitors concerns the so-called inheritance principle. Second, there are a myriad of other (...)
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  • Opting for the Best: Oughts and Options.Douglas W. Portmore - 2019 - New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press.
    The book concerns what I take to be the least controversial normative principle concerning action: you ought to perform your best option—best, that is, in terms of whatever ultimately matters. The book sets aside the question of what ultimately matters so as to focus on more basic issues, such as: What are our options? Do I have the option of typing out the cure for cancer if that’s what I would in fact do if I had the right intentions at (...)
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  • Avoidable Harm.Peter A. Graham - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 101 (1):175-199.
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, EarlyView.
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  • Maximalism and Moral Harmony.Douglas W. Portmore - 2018 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (2):318-341.
    Maximalism is the view that an agent is permitted to perform a certain type of action if and only if she is permitted to perform some instance of this type, where φ-ing is an instance of ψ-ing if and only if φ-ing entails ψ-ing but not vice versa. Now, the aim of this paper is not to defend maximalism, but to defend a certain account of our options that when combined with maximalism results in a theory that accommodates the idea (...)
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  • Agency and Evidence.Berislav Marusic & John Schwenkler - forthcoming - In Luca Ferrero (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Agency. Routledge. pp. 244-252.
    How does evidence figure into the reasoning of an agent? This is an intricate philosophical problem but also one we all encounter in our daily lives. In this chapter, we identify the problem and outline a possible solution to it. The problem arises, because the fact that it is up to us whether we do something makes a difference to how we should think of the evidence concerning whether we will actually do it. Otherwise we regard something that is up (...)
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  • Deliberators Must Be Imperfect.Derek Clayton Baker - 2015 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 90 (3):321-347.
    This paper argues that, with certain provisos, predicting one's future actions is incompatible with rationally deliberating about whether to perform those actions. It follows that fully rational omniscient agents are impossible, since an omniscient being could never rationally deliberate about what to do . Consequently, theories that explain practical reasons in terms of the choices of a perfectly rational omniscient agent must fail. The paper considers several ways of defending the possibility of an omniscient agent, and concludes that while some (...)
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  • Sweatshops and Free Action: The Stakes of the Actualism/Possibilism Debate for Business Ethics.Travis Timmerman & Abe Zakhem - 2021 - Journal of Business Ethics 171 (4):683-694.
    Whether an action is morally right depends upon the alternative acts available to the agent. Actualists hold that what an agent would actually do determines her moral obligations. Possibilists hold that what an agent could possibly do determines her moral obligations. Both views face compelling criticisms. Despite the fact that actualist and possibilist assumptions are at the heart of seminal arguments in business ethics, there has been no explicit discussion of actualism and possibilism in the business ethics literature. This paper (...)
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  • Prospective Possibilism.Michael Zimmerman - 2017 - The Journal of Ethics 21 (2):117-150.
    There has been considerable debate regarding the relative merits of two theses about moral obligation known as actualism and possibilism. Both theses seek to give expression to the general idea that one ought to do the best one can. According to actualism, one’s obligations turn on what would happen if one chose some course of action, whereas, according to possibilism, they turn on what could happen if one chose some course of action. There are two strands to the debate: the (...)
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  • Conflicting Reasons, Unconflicting ‘Ought's.Shyam Nair - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (3):629-663.
    One of the popular albeit controversial ideas in the last century of moral philosophy is that what we ought to do is explained by our reasons. And one of the central features of reasons that accounts for their popularity among normative theorists is that they can conflict. But I argue that the fact that reasons conflict actually also poses two closely related problems for this popular idea in moral philosophy. The first problem is a generalization of a problem in deontic (...)
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  • Actualism, Possibilism, and the Nature of Consequentialism.Yishai Cohen & Travis Timmerman - 2020 - In Douglas W. Portmore (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Consequentialism. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
    The actualism/possibilism debate in ethics is about whether counterfactuals of freedom concerning what an agent would freely do if they were in certain circumstances even partly determines that agent’s obligations. This debate arose from an argument against the coherence of utilitarianism in the deontic logic literature. In this chapter, we first trace the historical origins of this debate and then examine actualism, possibilism, and securitism through the lens of consequentialism. After examining their respective benefits and drawbacks, we argue that, contrary (...)
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  • Foundational Consequentialism and Its Primary Evaluative Focal Point.Douglas W. Portmore - manuscript
    Following Shelly Kagan’s useful terminology, foundational consequentialists are those who hold that the ranking of outcomes is at the foundation of all moral assessment. That is, they hold that moral assessments of right and wrong, virtuous and vicious, morally good and morally bad, etc. are all ultimately a function of how outcomes rank. But foundational consequentialists disagree on what is to be directly evaluated in terms of the ranking of outcomes, which is to say that they disagree on what the (...)
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  • How to Be an Actualist and Blame People.Travis Timmerman & Philip Swenson - 2019 - Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility 6.
    The actualism/possibilism debate in ethics concerns the relationship between an agent’s free actions and her moral obligations. The actualist affirms, while the possibilist denies, that facts about what agents would freely do in certain circumstances partly determines that agent’s moral obligations. This paper assesses the plausibility of actualism and possibilism in light of desiderata about accounts of blameworthiness. This paper first argues that actualism cannot straightforwardly accommodate certain very plausible desiderata before offering a few independent solutions on behalf of the (...)
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  • What Are Our Options?Douglas W. Portmore - manuscript
    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 upmost importance, for which (...)
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  • Maximalism and Rational Control.Douglas W. Portmore - manuscript
    Maximalism is the view that if an agent is permitted to perform a certain type of action (say, baking), this is in virtue of the fact that she is permitted to perform some instance of this type (say, baking a pie), where φ-ing is an instance of ψ-ing if and only if φ-ing entails ψ-ing but not vice versa. Now, the point of this paper is not to defend maximalism, but to defend a certain account of our options that when (...)
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  • Consequentialism and Coordination Problems.Douglas W. Portmore - manuscript
    Imagine both that (1) S1 is deliberating at t about whether or not to x at t' and that (2) although S1’s x-ing at t' would not itself have good consequences, good consequences would ensue if both S1 x's at t' and S2 y's at t", where S1 may or may not be identical to S2 and where t < t' ≤ t". In this paper, I consider how consequentialists should treat S2 and the possibility that S2 will y at (...)
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  • Instrumental Normativity: In Defense of the Transmission Principle.Benjamin Kiesewetter - 2015 - Ethics 125 (4):921-946.
    If you ought to perform a certain act, and some other action is a necessary means for you to perform that act, then you ought to perform that other action as well – or so it seems plausible to say. This transmission principle is of both practical and theoretical significance. The aim of this paper is to defend this principle against a number of recent objections, which (as I show) are all based on core assumptions of the view called actualism. (...)
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  • Does Scrupulous Securitism Stand-Up to Scrutiny? Two Problems for Moral Securitism and How We Might Fix Them.Travis Timmerman - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (6):1509-1528.
    A relatively new debate in ethics concerns the relationship between one's present obligations and how one would act in the future. One popular view is actualism, which holds that what an agent would do in the future affects her present obligations. Agent's future behavior is held fixed and the agent's present obligations are determined by what would be best to do now in light of how the agent would act in the future. Doug Portmore defends a new view he calls (...)
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  • Actualism Has Control Issues.Yishai Cohen & Travis Timmerman - 2016 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 10 (3):1-18.
    According to actualism, an agent ought to φ just in case what would happen if she were to φ is better than what would happen if she were to ~φ. We argue that actualism makes a morally irrelevant distinction between certain counterfactuals, given that an agent sometimes has the same kind of control over their truth-value. We then offer a substantive revision to actualism that avoids this morally irrelevant distinction by focusing on a certain kind of control that is available (...)
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  • Acts, Attitudes, and Rational Control.Douglas W. Portmore - manuscript
    I argue that when determining whether an agent ought to perform an act, we should not hold fixed the fact that she’s going to form certain attitudes (and, here, I’m concerned with only reasons-responsive attitudes such as beliefs, desires, and intentions). For, as I argue, agents have, in the relevant sense, just as much control over which attitudes they form as which acts they perform. This is important because what effect an act will have on the world depends not only (...)
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  • Does Ought Imply Ought Ought?Daniel Immerman - 2018 - Philosophical Quarterly 68 (273):702-716.
    Knows-knows principles in epistemology say that if you know some proposition, then you are in a position to know that you know it. This paper examines the viability of analogous principles in ethics, which I call ought-ought principles. Several epistemologists have recently offered new defences of KK principles and of other related principles, and there has recently been an increased interest in examining analogies between ethics and epistemology, and so it seems natural to examine whether defences of KK and related (...)
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  • Against Securitism, the New Breed of Actualism in Consequentialist Thought.Jean-Paul Vessel - 2016 - Utilitas 28 (2):164-178.
    In Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality, Douglas Portmore introduces a novel position regarding the actualist securitism – a position he argues is theoretically superior to the standard views in both the actualist and possibilist camps. After distinguishing the two camps through an examination of the original Procrastinate case, I present Portmore's securitism and its implications regarding his modified Procrastinate case. I level two serious objections against securitism: that it implausibly implies that morality is radically more demanding for the virtuous (...)
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