Pragmatism and teleology

Abstract

This paper connects two ideas. The first is that some common responses to ethical views are responses to their degrees of pragmatism, where a view’s degree of pragmatism is its sensitivity to ethically relevant changes in the actor’s circumstances. I claim that we feel the pull of opposing pro-pragmatic and antipragmatic intuitions in certain cases. This suggests a project, of searching for an ethical view capable of doing justice to these opposing intuitions in some way. The second central idea is that a theory of pattern-based reasons looks more promising than the obvious alternatives to fulfil this role, amongst Teleological theories at least. Pattern-based reasons are reasons to perform some action because of the goodness or rightness of a larger pattern of action—such as a pattern that a group could perform or that the actor could perform over an extended period—of which the immediate action is a mere part. Existing theories of such reasons share two features that prevent them explaining the intuitions we wish to explain: they consider only one pattern at a time (they are monist), and they treat patterns as eligible only if the agents concerned are willing to realise them (they accept the Willingness Requirement). But we need not accept these doctrines. Moreover, a theory of patternbased reasons without them is able to explain the pro- and anti-pragmatic intuitions in an elegant way, and has other attractive features.

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Christopher Woodard
Nottingham University

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References found in this work

Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - New York: Basic Books.
The limits of morality.Shelly Kagan - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The Nature of Rationality.Robert Nozick - 1993 - Princeton University Press.
The act itself.Jonathan Bennett - 1995 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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