Taking Prudence Seriously

In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics: volume 14. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 70-94 (2019)
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Philosophers have long theorised about which things make people’s lives go well (and why) and the extent to which morality and self-interest can be reconciled. By contrast, we have spent little time on meta-prudential questions, questions about prudential discourse. This is surprising given that prudence is, prima facie, a normative form of discourse and, as such, cries out for further investigation of how exactly it functions and whether it has problematic commitments. It also marks a stark contrast from moral discourse, which has been extensively theorised about. In this paper I first examine whether there is a distinct set of prudential reasons, generated by evaluative prudential properties. I then investigate whether prudential discourse is normative, arguing that prudential judgements are normatively on a par with moral judgements.
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