The Journal of Ethics 21 (2):117-150 (2017)

Authors
Michael Zimmerman
University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Abstract
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 substantive verdicts that the two theses render in particular cases, and the accounts that they yield of the conceptual structure of moral obligation. Possibilism is conceptually appealing, whereas actualism is not, but the latter may seem to render superior substantive verdicts. In this paper, it is argued that, by turning from the objectivist’s emphasis on what is actually best to the prospectivist’s emphasis on what one’s evidence indicates is best, possibilists can provide an account of moral obligation that is both conceptually and substantively attractive.
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DOI 10.1007/s10892-017-9245-1
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References found in this work BETA

On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1973 - Foundations of Language 13 (1):145-151.
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Citations of this work BETA

Opting for the Best: Oughts and Options.Douglas W. Portmore - 2019 - New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press.
Actualism and Possibilism in Ethics.Travis Timmerman & Yishai Cohen - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
How to Be an Actualist and Blame People.Travis Timmerman & Philip Swenson - 2019 - Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility 6.
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.

View all 7 citations / Add more citations

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