PHIL-525 Deontic Pluralism
Spring for 2017-2018
Many moral theorists have tended to focus on the thinnest possible assessments of action —on what is permissible or impermissible, required or forbidden. While such categories are important, exclusive focus on them tends to obscure some of the most important categories we use to navigate the moral life: what does it mean to wrong another, rather than just do wrong with respect to them? what does it mean to act badly rather than wrongly? how do we understand regulative ideals and imperfectly structured duties? can we have a moral right to do wrong? Many theorists of practical rationality, in turn, have tended to focus on a similarly spare approach to the rational intelligibility of an action -- such intelligibility is a function of the balance of reasons, and reasons can be fully analyzed in terms of domain, direction, and strength. While such categories are important, building a theory of rational intelligibility and agency out of them may be problematic: is agency impossible when the reasons run out? do reasons always direct us deontically, or are they sometimes content to commend? are rules reducible to reasons? can speech acts, such as requests and demands, also serve as intelligible bases for action?
This seminar will explore these questions with an eye to asking whether a rich, rather than spare, theory of morality and again practical rationality does better justice to our lives as agents. Readings will include selections from a wide variety of contemporary authors, including Joseph Raz, Carl Wellman, Onora Oneil, Steve Darwall, David Owens, Patricia Greenspan, Jay Wallace, Julia Driver, and Jonathan Dancy.
Prerequisites: Permission of instructor and department chair.
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