Philosophical Studies 173 (11):3037-3060 (2016)

Authors
David Wiens
University of California, San Diego
Abstract
The familiar complaint that some ambitious proposal is infeasible naturally invites the following response: Once upon a time, the abolition of slavery and the enfranchisement of women seemed infeasible, yet these things were actually achieved. Presumably, then, many of those things that seem infeasible in our own time may well be achieved too and, thus, turn out to have been perfectly feasible after all. The Appeal to History, as we call it, is a bad argument. It is not true that if some desirable state of affairs was actually achieved, then it was feasible that it was achieved. “Actual” does not imply “feasible,” as we put it. Here is our objection. “Feasible” implies “not counterfactually fluky.” But “actual” does not imply “not counterfactually fluky.” So, “actual” does not imply “feasible.” While something like the Flukiness Objection is sometimes hinted at in the context of the related literature on abilities, it has not been developed in any detail, and both premises are inadequately motivated. We offer a novel articulation of the Flukiness Objection that is both more precise and better motivated. Our conclusions have important implications, not only for the admissible use of history in normative argument, but also by potentially circumscribing the normative claims that are applicable to us.
Keywords feasibility
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-016-0649-8
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References found in this work BETA

Rescuing Justice and Equality.G. A. Cohen (ed.) - 2008 - Harvard University Press.
Why Be Rational.Niko Kolodny - 2005 - Mind 114 (455):509-563.
Utopophobia.David Estlund - 2014 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 42 (2):113-134.
Human Nature and the Limits (If Any) of Political Philosophy.David Estlund - 2011 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 39 (3):207-237.
Free Will Demystified: A Dispositional Account.Kadri Vihvelin - 2004 - Philosophical Topics 32 (1/2):427-450.

View all 30 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The Feasibility Issue.Nicholas Southwood - 2018 - Philosophy Compass 13 (8):e12509.
Justice, Feasibility, and Social Science as It Is.Emily McTernan - 2019 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 22 (1):27-40.

View all 11 citations / Add more citations

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