Maximalism vs. Omnism about Reasons


The performance of one option can entail the performance of another. For instance, I have the option of baking a pumpkin pie as well as the option of baking a pie, and the former entails the latter. Now, suppose that I have both reason to bake a pie and reason to bake a pumpkin pie. This raises the question: Which, if either, is more fundamental than the other? Do I have reason to bake a pie because I have reason to perform some instance of pie-baking—perhaps, pumpkin-pie baking? Or do I have reason to bake a pumpkin pie because I have reason to bake a pie? Or are they equally fundamental, as they would be if, say, I had reason to do each because each would have optimal consequences? The aim of this paper is to compare two possible answers to this question—omnism and maximalism—and to argue that the latter is preferable. Roughly speaking, maximalism is the view that only those options that are not entailed by any other option are to be assessed in terms of whether they have some feature (such as that of having optimal consequences), whereas omnism is the view that all options are to be assessed in terms of whether they have this feature. I argue that there are at least two reasons to prefer maximalism, for it is able to overcome two critical problems with omnism.



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Douglas W. Portmore
Arizona State University

References found in this work

Internal and External Reasons.Bernard Williams - 1979 - In Ross Harrison (ed.), Rational Action. Cambridge University Press. pp. 101-113.
The limits of morality.Shelly Kagan - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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