The norms of acceptance

Philosophical Issues 22 (1):316-333 (2012)
An area in the theory of action that has received little attention is how mental agency and world-directed agency interact. The purpose of the present contribution is to clarify the rational conditions of such interaction, through an analysis of the central case of acceptance. There are several problems with the literature about acceptance. First, it remains unclear how a context of acceptance is to be construed. Second, the possibility of conjoining, in acceptance, an epistemic component, which is essentially mind-to-world, and a utility component, which requires a world-to-mind direction of fit, is merely posited rather than derived from the rational structure of acceptance. Finally, the norm of acceptance is generally seen as related to truth, which turns out to be inapplicable in a number of cases. We will argue, first, that the specific context-dependence of acceptances is derived from their being mental actions, each embedded in a complex hierarchy of acceptances composing, together, a planning sequence. Second, that acceptances come in several varieties, corresponding to the specific epistemic norm(s) that constitute them. The selection of a particular norm for accepting answers to considerations of utility – to the association of an epistemic goal with an encompassing world-directed action. Once a type of acceptance is selected, however, the epistemic norm constitutive for that acceptance strictly applies. Third, we argue that context-dependence superimposes a decision criterion on the output of the initial epistemic acceptance. Strategic acceptance is regulated by instrumental norms of expected utility, which may rationally lead an agent to screen off her initial epistemic acceptance.
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DOI 10.1111/j.1533-6077.2012.00232.x
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Michael Bratman (1987). Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason. Center for the Study of Language and Information.

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