The Moral Clout of Reasonable Beliefs

In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Vol. I. Oxford University Press (2010)
Abstract
Because we must often make decisions in light of imperfect information about our prospective actions, the standard principles of objective obligation must be supplemented with principles of subjective obligation (which evaluate actions in light of what the agent believes about their circumstances and consequences). The point of principles of subjective obligation is to guide agents in making decisions. But should these principles be stated in terms of what the agent actually believes or what it would be reasonable for her to believe about her prospective actions? I show that there are many decisions for which “reasonable belief” principles can’t be used by the decision-maker, especially in cases in which whether (or how) the agent investigates or deliberates affects the nature of the prospective action itself. I conclude that subjective rightness depends on what the agent actually believes, not what it would be reasonable for her to believe.
Keywords Actual beliefs  decision-making  deliberation  epistemic justification  factual ignorance  objective obligation  rational beliefs  reasonable beliefs  subjective obligation
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