Taking Prudence Seriously

Oxford Studies in Metaethics 14:70-94 (2019)
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Philosophers have long theorized about which things make people’s lives go well, and why, and the extent to which morality and self-interest can be reconciled. Yet little time has been spent 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. Chapter 4 takes up two major meta-prudential questions. It first examines whether there is a set of prudential reasons, generated by evaluative prudential properties, and defends the view that evaluative well-being facts generate agent-relative reasons for the relevant agent. It also investigates whether prudential discourse is normative. It is proposed that prudential discourse is normative by arguing that prudential judgements are normative judgements. The case for this is presented by analogy with moral discourse by showing that the features of moral judgements that metaethicists appeal to when articulating, explaining, and justifying the claim that moral judgements are normative are also possessed by prudential judgements. Various objections to the analogy are also considered.

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Guy Fletcher
University of Edinburgh


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