Parfit's arguments for the present-aim theory

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 70 (1):61 – 75 (1992)
Abstract
This paper has been about the question of what there is most reason to doin situations in which either there are no moral considerations to be takeninto account or the moral considerations to be taken into account are equally balanced. I have assessed all Parfit's arguments for concluding that the Present-aim Theory is right and the Self-interest Theory wrong aboutthis question. In § III, I showed how Parfit's argument from personal identity leads not to the abandonment of the Self-interest Theory, but merely to a revision of it. In § IV, I argued that a premiss relied on by Parfit's argument from incomplete relativity - the premiss that theoretical and practical reason are relevantly similar - is too weak to support the conclusion that knowingly doing what is against one's long- term self-interest is rational (when no moral considerations are in play). In § V, I addressed Parfit's argument that we must reject the Self-interest Theory because we believe that it is rational to care more about certain things (such as achievement) than about one's overall welfare. I suggested that he misdescribed what we believe: for what we really believe is that it is not irrational to care more about these things than about either having the most pleasant life possible or having the life with the strongest desires fulfilled. This thought is consistent with Objective List versions of the Self- interest Theory. In § VI, I suggested Parfit's argument from our bias towards the future might be answered by making a second revision to the Self-interest Theory. Therefore, for all Parfit has argued, a version of the Self-interest Theory might be the most plausible theory of what we have most reason to do when moral considerations do not decide the issue.21.
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