Permissibility and practical inference

Ethics 115 (3):443-470 (2005)
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Abstract

I wish to examine a rather different way of thinking about permissibility, one according to which, roughly speaking, an agent acts impermissibly if and only if he acts for reasons insufficient to justify him in doing what he does. For reasons that will emerge in Section II, I call this the inferential account of permissibility. I shall not here try to prove that this account is superior to its rivals. My aims are more modest. I shall develop the inferential account, exhibiting some of its attractions along the way, and then show that it is invulnerable to a number of influential objections to the very idea that an agent's reasons for acting could be directly relevant to whether he acts permissibly. If these objections have seemed decisive, it is because we have not considered the full range of possible accounts. The inferential account of permissibility is both plausible and attractive---it deserves to be taken seriously.

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Matthew Hanser
University of California at Santa Barbara

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