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Actualism, Possibilism, and the Nature of Consequentialism

In Douglas W. Portmore (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Consequentialism. New York, USA: Oxford University Press (2020)

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  1. What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
    In this book, T. M. Scanlon offers new answers to these questions, as they apply to the central part of morality that concerns what we owe to each other.
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  • Doing the Best We Can: An Essay in Informal Deontic Logic.Fred Feldman - 1986 - D. Reidel Publishing Company.
    Several years ago I came across a marvelous little paper in which Hector-Neri Castaneda shows that standard versions of act utilitarian l ism are formally incoherent. I was intrigued by his argument. It had long seemed to me that I had a firm grasp on act utilitarianism. Indeed, it had often seemed to me that it was the clearest and most attractive of normative theories. Yet here was a simple and relatively uncontrover sial argument that showed, with only some trivial (...)
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  • Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality.Douglas W. Portmore - 2011 - New York, USA: Oxford University Press USA.
    Commonsense Consequentialism is a book about morality, rationality, and the interconnections between the two. In it, Douglas W. Portmore defends a version of consequentialism that both comports with our commonsense moral intuitions and shares with other consequentialist theories the same compelling teleological conception of practical reasons. Broadly construed, consequentialism is the view that an act's deontic status is determined by how its outcome ranks relative to those of the available alternatives on some evaluative ranking. Portmore argues that outcomes should be (...)
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  • The Concept of Moral Obligation.Michael J. Zimmerman - 1996 - Cambridge University Press.
    The principal aim of this book is to develop and defend an analysis of the concept of moral obligation. The analysis is neutral regarding competing substantive theories of obligation, whether consequentialist or deontological in character. What it seeks to do is generate solutions to a range of philosophical problems concerning obligation and its application. Amongst these problems are deontic paradoxes, the supersession of obligation, conditional obligation, prima facie obligation, actualism and possibilism, dilemmas, supererogation, and cooperation. By virtue of its normative (...)
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  • Subjunctive Reasoning.John Pollock - 1976 - Reidel.
    Reidel, 1976. This book is out of print, but can be downloaded as a pdf file (3.3 MB).
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  • Consequentialism Reconsidered.Erik Carlson - 1995 - Dordrecht, Netherland: Springer.
    In Consequentialism Reconsidered, Carlson strives to find a plausible formulation of the structural part of consequentialism. Key notions are analyzed, such as outcomes, alternatives and performability. Carlson argues that consequentialism should be understood as a maximizing rather than a satisficing theory, and as temporally neutral rather than future oriented. He also shows that certain moral theories cannot be reformulated as consequentialist theories. The relevant alternatives for an agent in a situation are taken to comprise all actions that they can perform (...)
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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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  • Maximalism and the Structure of Acts.Campbell Brown - 2018 - Noûs (4):752-771.
    Suppose we believe that a property F is coextensive with moral permissibility. F may be, for example, the property of having the best consequences, if we are Consequentialists, or that of conforming to a universalisable maxim, if we are Kantians, and so on. This may raise the following problem. It is plausible that permissibility is “closed under implication”: any act that is implied by a permissible act must itself be permissible. Yet, in some cases, F might not be closed under (...)
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  • Procrastinate Revisited.Frank Jackson - 2014 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 95 (4):634-647.
    How is what an agent ought to do at time t related to what they ought to do over a period of time that includes t? I revisit an example that sheds light on this question, taking account of issues to do with the agent's intentions and the distinction between subjective and objective obligation.
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  • Maximalism Versus Omnism About Permissibility.Douglas Portmore - 2017 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 98 (S1):427-452.
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  • Consequentializing.Douglas W. Portmore - 2009 - Philosophy Compass 4 (2):329-347.
    A growing trend of thought has it that any plausible nonconsequentialist theory can be consequentialized, which is to say that it can be given a consequentialist representation. In this essay, I explore both whether this claim is true and what its implications are. I also explain the procedure for consequentializing a nonconsequentialist theory and give an account of the motivation for doing so.
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  • The Alternatives to an Action.Dag Prawitz - 1970 - Theoria 36 (2):116-126.
  • A Discussion Note on Utilitarianism.Dag Prawitz - 1968 - Theoria 34 (1):76-84.
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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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  • Defending a Possibilist Insight in Consequentialist Thought.Jean-Paul Vessel - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 142 (2):183 - 195.
    There is a heated dispute among consequentialists concerning the following deontic principle.
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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's Wrong with Possibilism.C. Woodard - 2009 - Analysis 69 (2):219-226.
    Argues (1) that the debate between actualists and possibilists in deontic logic distorts what is really at issue, and (2) that reframing the debate as being about reasons strongly suggests that those with possibilist sympathies should adopt more moderate claims (which may nevertheless be distinct from actualism).
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  • Consequence and Contrast in Deontic Semantics.Fabrizio Cariani - 2016 - Journal of Philosophy 113 (8):396-416.
    Contrastivists view ought-sentences as expressing comparisons among alternatives. Deontic actualists believe that the value of each alternative in such a comparison is determined by what would actually happen if that alternative were to be the case. One of the arguments that motivates actualism is a challenge to the principle of agglomeration over conjunction—the principle according to which if you ought to run and you ought to jump, then you ought to run and jump. I argue that there is no way (...)
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  • Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1973 - Philosophy of Science 42 (3):341-344.
     
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  • In Defense of Consequentializing.James Dreier - 2011 - In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Volume 1. Oxford University Press.
  • Alternative Actions and the Spirit of Consequentialism.Krister Bykvist - 2002 - Philosophical Studies 107 (1):45 - 68.
    The simple idea behind act-consequentialism isthat we ought to choose the action whoseoutcome is better than that of any alternativeaction. In a recent issue of this journal, ErikCarlson has argued that given a reasonableinterpretation of alternative actions thissimple idea cannot be upheld but that the newtheory he proposes nevertheless preserves theact-consequentialist spirit. My aim in thispaper is to show that Carlson is wrong on bothcounts. His theory, contrary to his ownintentions, is not an act-consequentialisttheory. By building on a theory formulated (...)
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  • Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1974 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 36 (3):602-605.
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  • Contrary-to-Duty Scenarios, Deontic Dilemmas, and Transmission Principles.Benjamin Kiesewetter - 2018 - Ethics 129 (1):98-115.
    Actualists hold that contrary-to-duty scenarios give rise to deontic dilemmas and provide counterexamples to the transmission principle, according to which we ought to take the necessary means to actions we ought to perform. In an earlier article, I have argued, contrary to actualism, that the notion of ‘ought’ that figures in conclusions of practical deliberation does not allow for deontic dilemmas and validates the transmission principle. Here I defend these claims, together with my possibilist account of contrary-to-duty scenarios, against Stephen (...)
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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, Possibilism, and Beyond.Jacob Ross - 2012 - Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics.
    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 prospects 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  just (...)
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  • Oughts, Options, and Actualism.Frank Jackson & Robert Pargetter - 1986 - Philosophical Review 95 (2):233-255.
  • Oughts and Determinism: A Response to Goldman.P. S. Greenspan - 1978 - Philosophical Review 87 (1):77-83.
  • Dated Rightness and Moral Imperfection.Holly S. Goldman - 1976 - Philosophical Review 85 (4):449-487.
  • 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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  • On the Semantics and Logic of Obligation.Frank Jackson - 1985 - Mind 94 (374):177-195.
    This paper develops an informal semantics for 'ought to be' and 'ought to be given...' and argues for its plausibility. A feature of the semantics is that it invalidates 'if a entails b, And o(a), Then o(b)' and 'if o(a) & o(b), Then o(a&b)', While validating detachment for conditional obligation.
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  • Moral Obligations: Actualist, Possibilist, or Hybridist?Travis Timmerman & Yishai Cohen - 2016 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 94 (4):672-686.
    Do facts about what an agent would freely do in certain circumstances at least partly determine any of her moral obligations? Actualists answer ‘yes’, while possibilists answer ‘no’. We defend two novel hybrid accounts that are alternatives to actualism and possibilism: Dual Obligations Hybridism and Single Obligation Hybridism. By positing two moral ‘oughts’, each account retains the benefits of actualism and possibilism, yet is immune from the prima facie problems that face actualism and possibilism. We conclude by highlighting one substantive (...)
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  • Combinative Consequentialism and the Problem of Act Versions.Johan E. Gustafsson - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 167 (3):585-596.
    In the 1960’s, Lars Bergström and Hector-Neri Castañeda noticed a problem with alternative acts and consequentialism. The source of the problem is that some performable acts are versions of other performable acts and the versions need not have the same consequences as the originals. Therefore, if all performable acts are among the agent’s alternatives, act consequentialism yields deontic paradoxes. A standard response is to restrict the application of act consequentialism to certain relevant alternative sets. Many proposals are based on some (...)
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  • Headaches, Lives and Value.Dale Dorsey - 2009 - Utilitas 21 (1):36.
    University of Alberta Forthcoming in Utilias Consider Lives for Headaches: there is some number of headaches such that the relief of those headaches is sufficient to outweigh the good life of an innocent person. Lives for Headaches is unintuitive, but difficult to deny. The argument leading to Lives for Headaches is valid, and appears to be constructed out of firmly entrenched premises. In this paper, I advocate one way to reject Lives for Headaches; I defend a form of lexical superiority (...)
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  • Utilitarianism and Deontic Logic.Lars Bergström - 1968 - Analysis 29 (2):43 - 44.
  • A problem for utilitarianism.Hector-Neri Castaneda - 1968 - Analysis 28 (4):141.
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  • Utilitarianism and Past and Future Mistakes.Jordan Howard Sobel - 1976 - Noûs 10 (2):195-219.
  • Where Did I Go Wrong?Michael J. Zimmerman - 1990 - Philosophical Studies 59 (1):55 - 77.
  • Subsidiary Obligation.Michael J. Zimmerman - 1986 - Philosophical Studies 50 (1):65 - 75.
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  • Actualism and Possibilism in Ethics.Travis Timmerman & Yishai Cohen - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  • Great Harms From Small Benefits Grow: How Death Can Be Outweighed by Headaches.A. Norcross - 1998 - Analysis 58 (2):152-158.
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  • The Paradoxes of Feldman's Neo-Utilitarianism.Michael J. Almeida - 1992 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 70 (4):455 – 468.
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  • Utilitarianism and "Conjunctive Acts": A Reply to Professor Castañeda.Fred Westphal - 1972 - Analysis 32 (3):82 - 85.
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