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Profile: Douglas W. Portmore (Arizona State University)
  1. Douglas W. Portmore, Acts, Attitudes, and Rational Choice.
    In this paper, I argue that we have obligations not only to perform certain actions, but also to have certain attitudes (such as desires, beliefs, and intentions), and this despite the fact that we rarely, if ever, have direct voluntary control over our attitudes. Moreover, I argue that whatever obligations we have with respect to actions derive from our obligations with respect to attitudes. More specifically, I argue that an agent is obligated to perform an action if and only if (...)
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  2. Douglas W. Portmore, Consequentialism and Coordination Problems.
    Imagine both that (1) S1 is deliberating at t about whether or not to x at t' and that (2) although S1’s x-ing at t' would not itself have good consequences, good consequences would ensue if both S1 x's at t' and S2 y's at t", where S1 may or may not be identical to S2 and where t < t' ≤ t". In this paper, I consider how consequentialists should treat S2 and the possibility that S2 will y at (...)
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  3. Douglas W. Portmore, Consequentializing Commonsense Morality.
    This is Chapter 4 of my Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality. In this chapter, I argue that that any plausible nonconsequentialist theory can be consequentialized, which is to say that, for any plausible nonconsequentialist theory, we can construct a consequentialist theory that yields the exact same set of deontic verdicts that it yields.
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  4. Douglas W. Portmore, Chapter 5: Dual-Ranking Act-Consequentialism: Reasons, Morality, and Overridingness.
    This is Chapter 5 of my Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality. In this chapter, I argue that those who wish to accommodate typical instances of supererogation and agent-centered options must deny that moral reasons are morally overriding and accept both that the reason that agents have to promote their own self-interest is a non-moral reason and that this reason can, and sometimes does, prevent the moral reason that they have to sacrifice their self-interest so as to do more to (...)
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  5. Douglas W. Portmore, Chapter 3: The Teleological Conception of Practical Reasons.
    This is Chapter 3 of my Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality. In this chapter, I defend the teleological conception of practical reasons, which holds that the reasons there are for and against performing a given act are wholly determined by the reasons there are for and against preferring its outcome to those of its available alternatives, such that, if S has most reason to perform x, all things considered, then, of all the outcomes that S could bring about, S (...)
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  6. Douglas W. Portmore, Foundational Consequentialism and Its Primary Evaluative Focal Point.
    Following Shelly Kagan’s useful terminology, foundational consequentialists are those who hold that the ranking of outcomes is at the foundation of all moral assessment. That is, they hold that moral assessments of right and wrong, virtuous and vicious, morally good and morally bad, etc. are all ultimately a function of how outcomes rank. But foundational consequentialists disagree on what is to be directly evaluated in terms of the ranking of outcomes, which is to say that they disagree on what the (...)
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  7. Douglas W. Portmore, Moral Reasons, Overridingness, and Supererogation.
    In this paper, I present an argument that poses the following dilemma for moral theorists: either (a) reject at least one of three of our most firmly held moral convictions or (b) reject the view that moral reasons are morally overriding, that is, reject the view that moral reasons override non-moral reasons such that even the weakest moral reason defeats the strongest non-moral reason in determining an act’s moral status (e.g., morally permissible). I then argue that we should opt for (...)
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  8. Douglas W. Portmore, Tips On Writing a Philosophy Paper.
    The point of having you write a philosophy paper is for you to develop and practice certain important fundamental skills. They include the following: (1) the ability to comprehend, reconstruct, and analyze complex philosophical arguments; (2) the ability to critically evaluate such arguments; (3) the ability to argue persuasively for your own views; and (4) the ability to articulate your thoughts in a clear, concise, and wellorganized manner.
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  9. Douglas W. Portmore, What Are Our Options?
    We ought to perform our best option—that is, the option that we have most reason, all things considered, to perform. This is perhaps the most fundamental and least controversial of all normative principles concerning action. Yet, it is not, I believe, well understood. For even setting aside questions about what our reasons are and about how best to formulate the principle, there is a question about how we should construe our options. This question is of the upmost importance, for which (...)
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  10. Douglas W. Portmore (forthcoming). Agent-Neutral and Agent-Relative. In J. E. Crimmins & D. C. Long (eds.), Encyclopedia of Utilitarianism.
    This is an introduction to the agent-relative/agent-neutral distinction as it pertains to utilitarianism.
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  11. Douglas W. Portmore (forthcoming). Agent-Relative Vs. Agent-Neutral. In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Wiley Blackwell.
    This is a general introduction to the agent-relative/agent-neutral distinction.
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  12. Douglas W. Portmore (forthcoming). Precis of Commonsense Consequentialism and Replies to Gert, Hurley, and Tenenbaum. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    For a symposium on Douglas W. Portmore's Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality.
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  13. Douglas W. Portmore (forthcoming). Parfit on Reasons and Rule Consequentialism. In Simon Kirchin (ed.), Reading Parfit. Routledge.
    I argue that rule consequentialism sometimes requires us to act in ways that we lack sufficient reason to act. And this presents a dilemma for Parfit. Either Parfit should concede that we should reject rule consequentialism (and, hence, Triple Theory, which implies it) despite the putatively strong reasons that he believes we have for accepting the view or he should deny that morality has the importance he attributes to it. For if morality is such that we sometimes have decisive reason (...)
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  14. Douglas W. Portmore (forthcoming). Perform Your Best Option. Journal of Philosophy.
    We ought to perform our best option—that is, the option that we have most reason, all things considered, to perform. This is perhaps the most fundamental and least controversial of all normative principles concerning action. Yet, it is not, I believe, well understood. For even setting aside questions about what our options are and what our reasons are, there are prior questions concerning how best to formulate the principle. In this paper, I address these questions. One of the more interesting (...)
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  15. Douglas W. Portmore (forthcoming). Review of Martin Peterson's The Dimensions of Consequentialism. [REVIEW] Journal of Moral Philosophy.
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  16. Douglas W. Portmore (forthcoming). Supererogation. In J. E. Crimmins & D. C. Long (eds.), Encyclopedia of Utilitarianism.
    This is a general introduction to supererogation in relation to utilitarianism.
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  17. Douglas W. Portmore (forthcoming). Teleological Reasons. In Daniel Star (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity. Oxford University Press.
    I explain what teleological reasons are, distinguish between direct and indirect teleological reasons, and discuss both whether all practical reasons are teleological and whether all teleological reasons are direct.
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  18. Douglas W. Portmore (2014). Précis: Commonsense Consequentialism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (1):209-216.
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  19. Douglas W. Portmore (2014). Replies to Gert, Hurley, and Tenenbaum. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (1):241-255.
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  20. Douglas W. Portmore (2012). Imperfect Reasons and Rational Options. Noûs 46 (1):24 - 60.
    Agents often face a choice of what to do. And it seems that, in most of these choice situations, the relevant reasons do not require performing some particular act, but instead permit performing any of numerous act alternatives. This is known as the basic belief. Below, I argue that the best explanation for the basic belief is not that the relevant reasons are incommensurable (Raz) or that their justifying strength exceeds the requiring strength of opposing reasons (Gert), but that they (...)
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  21. Douglas W. Portmore (2011). 7 Consequentialism. In Christian Miller (ed.), Continuum Companion to Ethics. Continuum. 143.
  22. Douglas W. Portmore (2011). Consequentialism and Moral Rationalism. In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics. Oxford Univ Pr.
    IN THIS PAPER, I make a presumptive case for moral rationalism: the view that agents can be morally required to do only what they have decisive reason to do, all things considered. And I argue that this view leads us to reject all traditional versions of act‐consequentialism. I begin by explaining how moral rationalism leads us to reject utilitarianism.
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  23. Douglas W. Portmore (2011). Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality. Oxford University Press.
    This is a book on morality, rationality, and the interconnections between the two. In it, I defend a version of consequentialism that both comports with our commonsense moral intuitions and shares with other consequentialist theories the same compelling teleological conception of practical reasons.
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  24. Douglas W. Portmore (2011). The Teleological Conception of Practical Reasons. Mind 120 (477):117 - 153.
    It is through our actions that we affect the way the world goes. Whenever we face a choice of what to do, we also face a choice of which of various possible worlds to actualize. Moreover, whenever we act intentionally, we act with the aim of making the world go a certain way. It is only natural, then, to suppose that an agent's reasons for action are a function of her reasons for preferring some of these possible worlds to others, (...)
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  25. Douglas W. Portmore (2010). Ben Bradley, Well-Being and Death (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2009), Pp. Xxi + 198. Utilitas 22 (4):500-503.
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  26. Douglas W. Portmore (2009). Consequentializing. Philosophy Compass 4 (2):329-347.
    A growing trend of thought has it that any plausible nonconsequentialist theory can be consequentialized, which is to say that it can be given a consequentialist representation. In this essay, I explore both whether this claim is true and what its implications are. I also explain the procedure for consequentializing a nonconsequentialist theory and give an account of the motivation for doing so.
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  27. Douglas W. Portmore (2009). Rule-Consequentialism and Irrelevant Others. Utilitas 21 (03):368-.
    AS MANY OF us know, millions of people on this planet are suffering for lack of potable water, basic healthcare, and adequate nutrition. And, as many of us also know, we (the well‐to‐do) could alleviate and/or prevent some of this suffering by making certain sacrifices, e.g., by donating some of our incomes to organizations such as Oxfam and UNICEF. Suppose, then, that we are wondering to what extent each of us is morally obligated to make sacrifices for the sake of (...)
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  28. Douglas W. Portmore (2008). Are Moral Reasons Morally Overriding? Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 11 (4):369 - 388.
    In this paper, I argue that those moral theorists who wish to accommodate agentcentered options and supererogatory acts must accept both that the reason an agent has to promote her own interests is a nonmoral reason and that this nonmoral reason can prevent the moral reason she has to sacrifice those interests for the sake of doing more to promote the interests of others from generating a moral requirement to do so. These theorists must, then, deny that moral reasons morally (...)
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  29. Douglas W. Portmore (2008). Dual-Ranking Act-Consequentialism. Philosophical Studies 138 (3):409 - 427.
    Dual-ranking act-consequentialism (DRAC) is a rather peculiar version of act-consequentialism. Unlike more traditional forms of act-consequentialism, DRAC doesn’t take the deontic status of an action to be a function of some evaluative ranking of outcomes. Rather, it takes the deontic status of an action to be a function of some non-evaluative ranking that is in turn a function of two auxiliary rankings that are evaluative. I argue that DRAC is promising in that it can accommodate certain features of commonsense morality (...)
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  30. Douglas W. Portmore (2007). Consequentializing Moral Theories. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 88 (1):39–73.
  31. Douglas W. Portmore (2007). Desire Fulfillment and Posthumous Harm. American Philosophical Quarterly 44 (1):27 - 38.
    This paper argues that the standard account of posthumous harm is untenable. The standard account presupposes the desire-fulfillment theory of welfare, but I argue that no plausible version of this theory can allow for the possibility of posthumous harm. I argue that there are, at least, two problems with the standard account from the perspective of a desire-fulfillment theorist. First, as most desire-fulfillment theorists acknowledge, the theory must be restricted in such a way that only those desires that pertain to (...)
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  32. Douglas W. Portmore (2007). Welfare, Achievement, and Self-Sacrifice. Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 2 (2):1-28.
    Many philosophers hold that the achievement of one’s goals can contribute to one’s welfare apart from whatever independent contributions that the objects of those goals, or the processes by which they are achieved, make. Call this the Achievement View, and call those who accept it achievementists. In this paper, I argue that achievementists should accept both (a) that one factor that affects how much the achievement of a goal contributes to one’s welfare is the amount that one has invested in (...)
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  33. Douglas W. Portmore (2007). Welfare and Posthumous Harm. American Philosophical Quarterly 44:27 - 38.
    WHEN ONE ASSUMES, as I will, that death marks the irrevocable end to one’s existence, it is difficult to make sense of the idea that a person could be harmed or benefited by events that take place after her death. How could a posthumous event either enhance or diminish the welfare of the deceased, who no longer exists? Yet we find that many people have a prudential (i.e., self-interested) concern for what’s going to happen after their deaths.1 People are, for (...)
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  34. Douglas W. Portmore (2005). Combining Teleological Ethics with Evaluator Relativism: A Promising Result. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 86 (1):95–113.
    Consequentialism is an agent-neutral teleological theory, and deontology is an agent-relative non-teleological theory. I argue that a certain hybrid of the two—namely, non-egoistic agent-relative teleological ethics (NATE)—is quite promising. This hybrid takes what is best from both consequentialism and deontology while leaving behind the problems associated with each. Like consequentialism and unlike deontology, NATE can accommodate the compelling idea that it is always permissible to bring about the best available state of affairs. Yet unlike consequentialism and like deontology, NATE accords (...)
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  35. Douglas W. Portmore (2005). Facing Death: Epicurus and His Critics. [REVIEW] Journal of Value Inquiry 39 (3-4):521-526.
    This is a book review of James Warren's book "Facing Death: Epicurus and His Critics.".
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  36. Douglas W. Portmore (2003). Position‐Relative Consequentialism, Agent‐Centered Options, and Supererogation. Ethics 113 (2):303-332.
    In this paper, I argue that maximizing act-consequentialism (MAC)—the theory that holds that agents ought always to act so as to produce the best available state of affairs—can accommodate both agent-centered options and supererogatory acts. Thus I will show that MAC can accommodate the view that agents often have the moral option of either pursuing their own personal interests or sacrificing those interests for the sake of the impersonal good. And I will show that MAC can accommodate the idea that (...)
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  37. Douglas W. Portmore (2001). Can an Act-Consequentialist Theory Be Agent Relative? American Philosophical Quarterly 38 (4):363-77.
    A theory is agent neutral if it gives every agent the same set of aims and agent relative otherwise. Most philosophers take act-consequentialism to be agent-neutral, but I argue that at the heart of consequentialism is the idea that all acts are morally permissible in virtue of their propensity to promote value and that, given this, it is possible to have a theory that is both agent-relative and act-consequentialist. Furthermore, I demonstrate that agent-relative act-consequentialism can avoid the counterintuitive implications associated (...)
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  38. Douglas W. Portmore (2001). McNaughton and Rawling on the Agent-Relative/Agent-Neutral Distinction. Utilitas 13 (03):350-356.
    In this paper, I criticize David McNaughton and Piers Rawling's formalization of the agent-relative/agent-neutral distinction. I argue that their formalization is unable to accommodate an important ethical distinction between two types of conditional obligations. I then suggest a way of revising their formalization so as to fix the problem.
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  39. Douglas W. Portmore (2000). Commonsense Morality and Not Being Required to Maximize the Overall Good. Philosophical Studies 100 (2):193-213.
    On commonsense morality, there are two types of situations where an agent is not required to maximize the impersonal good. First, there are those situations where the agent is prohibited from doing so--constraints. Second, there are those situations where the agent is permitted to do so but also has the option of doing something else--options. I argue that there are three possible explanations for the absence of a moral requirement to maximize the impersonal good and that the commonsense moralist must (...)
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  40. Douglas W. Portmore (1999). Does the Total Principle Have Any Repugnant Implications? Ratio 12 (1):80–98.
    On the Total Principle, the best state of affairs (ceteris paribus) is the one with the greatest net sum of welfare value. Parfit rejects this principle, because he believes that it implies the Repugnant Conclusion, the conclusion that for any large population of people, all with lives well worth living, there will be some much larger population whose existence would be better, even though its members all have lives that are only barely worth living. Recently, however, a number of philosophers (...)
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  41. Douglas W. Portmore (1998). Can Consequentialism Be Reconciled with Our Common-Sense Moral Intuitions? Philosophical Studies 91 (1):1-19.
    Consequentialism is usually thought to be unable to accommodate many of our commonsense moral intuitions. In particular, it has seemed incompatible with the intuition that agents should not violate someone's rights even in order to prevent numerous others from committing comparable rights violations. Nevertheless, I argue that a certain form of consequentialism can accommodate this intuition: agent-relative consequentialism--the view according to which agents ought always to bring about what is, from their own individual perspective, the best available outcome. Moreover, I (...)
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