“Comparativism: The Ground of Rational Choice,” in Errol Lord and Barry McGuire, eds., Weighing Reasons , 2016

In B. Maguire & E. Lord (eds.), Weighing Reasons. Oxford University Press. pp. 213-240 (2016)

Abstract

What, normatively speaking, are the grounds of rational choice? This paper defends ‘comparativism’, the view that a comparative fact grounds rational choice. It examines three of the most serious challenges to comparativism: 1) that sometimes what grounds rational choice is an exclusionary-type relation among alternatives; 2) that an absolute fact such as that it’s your duty or conforms to the Categorial Imperative grounds rational choice; and 3) that rational choice between incomparables is possible, and in particular, all that is needed for the possibility of rational choice is that one alternative is not worse than the others. Each challenge is questioned. If comparativism is correct, then no matter what normative theory you favor, your answer to the question, ‘What makes my choice rational?’ must be comparative in form. In this way, comparativism provides a framework for normative theorizing.

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