Doing the Best We Can

Doing the Best We Can : An Essay in Informal Deontic Logic

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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 assumptions, that the doctrine is virtually unintelligible. The gist of Castaneda's argument is this: suppose we understand act utilitarianism to be the view that an act is obligatory if and only if its utility exceeds that of each alternative. Suppose it is obligatory for a certain person to perform an act with two parts - we can call it 'A & B'. Then, obviously enough, it is also obligatory for this person to perform the parts, A and B. If act utilitarianism were true, we appar- ently could infer that the utility of A & B is higher than that of A, and higher than that of B (because A & B is obligatory, and the other acts are alternatives to A & B).
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Product details

  • Hardback | 246 pages
  • 210 x 297 x 20.32mm | 1,210g
  • Kluwer Academic Publishers
  • Dordrecht, Netherlands
  • English
  • 1986 ed.
  • XIV, 246 p.
  • 9027721645
  • 9789027721648

Table of contents

One/Absolute Moral Obligation.- 1. Utilitarian Foundations.- 1.1. Formulating Traditional Act Utilitarianism.- 1.2. A Puzzle about Prerequisites.- 1.2.1 A Problem about Action Descriptions.- 1.2.2. A Puzzle about Time.- 1.2.3. Axiological Problems.- 1.3. A Solution to the Puzzles.- 2. A Theory of Moral Obligation.- 2.1. Accessibility.- 2.1.1. Indiscernibility with Respect to the Past.- 2.1.2. Some Formal Features of Accessibility.- 2.1.3. Unalterability, Power, and Openness.- 2.1.4. The Epistemology of Accessibility.- 2.2. Intrinsic Value.- 2.2.1. Identifying Intrinsic Value.- 2.2.2. The Isolation Test.- 2.2.3. Intrinsic Value as Necessary Value.- 2.2.4. Intrinsic Value of Possible Worlds.- 2.2.5. Basic Intrinsic Value States.- 2.2.6. More Complex Axiologies.- 2.3. The Fundamental Normative Principle.- 2.3.1. MO and Ideal Utilitarianism.- 2.3.2. Some Deontic Principles.- 3. Moral Objections to MO.- 3.1. An Epistemic Objection.- 3.2. An Objection Based on Moral Rigor.- 3.3. An Objection Based on Justice.- 3.4. An Objection Based upon Moral Imperfection.- 3.5. An Objection Based on the Case of Jim and the Indians.- 3.5.1. Obviousness.- 3.5.2. Projects and Commitments.- 3.5.3. Neo-Utilitarian Agents.- 3.5.4. Moral Integrity and "Clean Hands".- 3.5.5. Responsibility.- Two/Iffy Oughts.- 4. Basic Iffy Oughts.- 4.1. Materially Conditioned Absolute Moral Obligation.- 4.2. Strictly Conditioned Absolute Moral Obligation.- 4.3. Subjunctively Conditioned Absolute Moral Obligation.- 4.4. Conditonal Moral Obligation.- 4.4.1. CMO and SuCAMO.- 4.4.2. The Iffy Ought of Commitment.- 4.5. The Chisholm Puzzle.- 5 Hypothetical Imperatives.- 5.1. Hypothetical Imperatives.- 5.2. Some Puzzles about Hypothetical Imperatives.- 5.3. An Account of Hypothetical Imperatives.- 5.3.1. Absolute Prudential Obligation.- 5.3.2. Iffy Prudential Oughts.- 5.3.3. CPO and Hypothetical Imperatives.- 5.4. Solutions to the Puzzles.- 5.4.1. Other Formal Features of HI.- 5.4.2. Kant's Thesis.- 5.4.3. The Hypothetical Imperative.- 6. Defeasible Commitment and Prima Facie Obligation.- 6.1. Statements of Defeasible Commitment.- 6.2. Some Formal Features of Defeasible Commitment.- 6.3. Defeasible Commitment and Chisholmian Requirement.- 6.4. Defeasible Commitment and Probabilistic Requirement.- 6.5. The Truth about Defeasible Commitment and Prima Facie Duty.- Three/Extensions.- 7. Individual Obligation and Group Welfare.- 7.1. Some Preliminary Difficulties for PMH.- 7.2. Moral Obligation and PMH.- 7.3. Social Obligation and PMH.- 7.3.1. Social Obligation.- 7.3.2. The Disharmony of Social Obligations.- 7.4. Civic Obligation and PMH.- 7.4.1. Group Accessibility.- 7.4.2. Group Moral Obligation.- 7.4.3. Group Prudential Obligation.- 7.4.4. Civic Obligation.- 7.5 The `Ought' of Cooperative Utilitarianism.- 7.5.1. Cooperative Utilitarianism.- 7.5.2. Problems for CUO.- 7.5.3. MO and CUO.- 7.6. MO and Group Welfare.- 8. What Ought to be.- 8.1. Some Proposals Concerning the Ought-to-be.- 8.1.1. Deontically Perfect Worlds and the Ought-to-be.- 8.1.2. "Best Worlds" and the Ought-to-be.- 8.1.3. Another Approach.- 8.2. An Analysis of the Ought-to-be.- 8.3. Connections between the Ought-to-be and the Ought-to-do.- 9. Conflicts of Obligation.- 9.1. Moral Dilemmas.- 9.1.1. Five Arguments for Moral Conflicts.- 9.2. MO and Moral Obligation.- 9.3. Why Should I Be Moral?.- 10. Conclusions.- 10.0.1. Metaphysical Concepts.- 10.0.2. Axiological Concepts.- 10.0.3. Normative Concepts.- 10.1. An Attempt at Justification.- Notes.- Index of Names.- Index of Subjects.
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