Practical reason and the stability standard

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 5 (3):339-354 (2002)
Abstract
Practical reasoning, reasoning about what to do, is a very familiar activity. When we think about whether to cook or to go out for dinner, to buy a house or rent, or to study law or business, we are engaged in practical reasoning. If the kind of reasoning we engage in is truly a rational process, there must be some norms or standards that govern it; the process cannot be arbitrary or random. In this paper I argue that one of the standards that governs practical reasoning is the stability standard. The stability standard, I argue, is a norm that is constitutive of practical reasoning: insofar as we do not take violations of this norm to be relevant considerations, we do not count as engaged in reasoning at all. Furthermore, I argue that it is a standard we can explicitly employ in order to deliberate about our ends or desires themselves. Importantly, this standard will not require that some ends are prescribed or determined by reason alone. The stability standard, therefore, allows us to retain some of the attractive features of instrumentalism without accepting the implication that there is no rational way to evaluate ends.
Keywords deliberation of ends  Instrumentalism  practical reason  rational principles  stability
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