Opting for the Best

Opting for the Best : Oughts and Options

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We ought to opt for the best-that is, we ought to choose the option that is best in terms of whatever ultimately matters. So, if maximizing happiness is what ultimately matters, then we ought to perform the option that results in the most happiness. And if, instead, abiding by the Golden Rule is what ultimately matters, then we ought to perform the option that best abides by this rule. However, even if we know what ultimately matters, this is not always sufficient
for determining which option we ought to perform. There are other questions that we need to consider as well. Which events are options for us? How do we rank our options-in terms of their own goodness or in terms of the goodness of the best options that entail them? How exactly does that which
ultimately matters determine which options we ought to perform?

In Opting for the Best, Douglas W. Portmore focuses on these three questions, which he argues can best be answered by putting aside any specific determination of what ultimately matters. He argues that tackling these three questions is crucial to solving many of the puzzles concerning what we ought to do, including those involving supererogation, indeterminate outcomes, overdetermined outcomes, predictable future misbehavior, and good acts that entail bad acts, among others. Engaging
with arguments in areas as wide-ranging as action theory and deontic logic, the solutions that Portmore offers systematize our thinking about some of the most complex issues in practical philosophy.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 336 pages
  • 166 x 243 x 30mm | 610g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0190945354
  • 9780190945350
  • 2,897,533

Table of contents


1. Opting for the Best
1.1 The Opting-for-the-Best View
1.1.1. Perhaps, some options that ought to be performed are suboptimal
1.1.2. Not all possible events are eligible for deontic status
1.1.3. Alternatives matter
1.1.4. Oughts versus obligations
1.1.5. Best option versus best outcome
1.1.6. The best must be sufficiently good
1.1.7. 'Option' versus 'can'
1.1.8. Objective oughts versus subjective oughts
1.1.9. Directive oughts versus evaluative oughts
1.2 The Ecumenical Nature of the View
1.3 A Potential Objection to the Opting-for-the-Best View
1.4 Remaining Controversies and the Plan for the Rest of the Book

2. What are our options?
2.1 The Need to Restrict What Can Count as an Option
2.2 The Necessity of Control
2.3 The Sufficiency of Control
2.4 Conclusion

3. What's the relevant sort of control?
3.1 Complete and Synchronic Control
3.2 Personal Control versus Sub-Personal Control
3.3 Rational Control versus Volitional Control
3.3.1. Formations of attitudes
3.3.2. Mixed acts
3.3.3. Automatic, unthinking acts
3.3.4. Acts stemming from volitions that weren't under the subject's rational control
3.3.5. Acts that manifested a poor quality of will and were expressive of one's deep self but were not under one's rational control
3.3.6. Lapses
3.4 Volitional Control and the Trouble with Insisting on Always Tracing Back to Some Intentional Act
3.5 What about voluntary control?
3.6 Conclusion

4. Which options have their deontic statuses in virtue of their own goodness?
4.1 Omnism (All Options) and the Problem of Act Versions
4.2 Nonnullusism (Only Some Options)
4.3 Nullusism (No Option)
4.4 Supererogation and the Latitude Problem
4.5 Supererogation and Evaluative Inheritance
4.6 Three Objections to Maximalism
4.6.1. Ross's Paradox
4.6.2. The Arbitrariness Objection
4.6.3. The Implausible Grounds Objection
4.7 The Implications of Maximalism

5. Rationalist Maximalism
5.1 Three More Objections to Maximalism
5.1.1. The 'Did ?'-Implies-'Had the option to ?' Objection
5.1.2. Gustafsson's Objection
5.1.3. The Professor Procrastinate Objection
5.2 The Actualism/Possibilism Distinction versus the Omnism/Maximalism Distinction
5.3 The Principle of Moral Harmony and the Problem of Overdetermination
5.4 Conclusion

6. Maximalism and the Ought-Most-Reason View
6.1 Omnism and Maximalism about Reasons
6.2 The Inheritance Problem for Omnism
6.3 The Intuition Problem for Omnism
6.4 The All or Nothing Problem for Omnism
6.5 Maximalism and the Basic Belief
6.6 Objections to Maximalism about Reasons
6.6.1. Incorrect Explanation
6.6.2. Incorrect Weights
6.6.3. Incorrect Account of Instrumental Reasons
6.6.4. Incorrect Account of Reasons to Perform Acts with Side Effects
6.7 Conclusion

7. Which, if either, are we to assess directly in terms of what ultimately matters: our options or their prospects?
7.1 A Case Study: Teleology, Deontology, Non-Teleology, and Agent-Centered Constraints
7.2 Ignorance versus Indeterminacy
7.3 Indeterminacy and Subjective Rightness
7.4 Indeterminacy and Objective Rightness
7.5 A Teleological Approach
7.6 Rationalist Teleological Maximalism

8. Rationalist Teleological Maximalism
8.1 An Illustration of How Rationalist Teleological Maximalism Works
8.2 Rationalist Teleological Maximalism's Many Virtues
8.3 On What Matters and the Importance of Structure

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Review quote

This is a beautiful and insightful work on an important set of topics. It systematically brings together a number of important and interrelated issues."
-Peter Vallentyne, Florence G. Kline Professor of Philosophy, University of Missouri
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About Douglas W. Portmore

Douglas W. Portmore is Professor of Philosophy in the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies at Arizona State University. He is the author of Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011) and is an Associate Editor for Ethics: An International Journal of Social, Political and Legal Philosophy. His
research focuses mainly on morality, rationality, and the interconnections between the two, but he has also written on well-being, posthumous harm, and the non-identity problem.
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