Perspectives and Good Dispositions

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (forthcoming)
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I begin with by discussing cases that seem to show that a range of norms – norms like Choose the best!, Believe the truth!, and even Keep your promises! – fail to map out an important part of normative space. At the core of the problem is the observation that in some cases we can only conform to these norms by luck, in a way that is not creditable to us. I outline a prevalent diagnosis of the problem of luck, which I label perspectivist. According to this diagnosis, the problem with a range of objectivist norms is that they make reference to facts that may lie outside our perspectives, not being present to our minds. An agent’s perspective is a kind of representation of the world: her evidence, knowledge, beliefs, experiences, etc. The first aim of this paper is to argue that the perspectivist diagnosis of the problem of luck is not ultimately correct. The correct diagnosis, I argue, is feasibilist: in some situations it is not feasible to choose, act, or believe in ways that conformity to objectivist norms robustly depends on. That is, it is sometimes not feasible to manifest dispositions that robustly enough track what one ought to do or believe, according to norms like those listed above. The same, I argue, is true of perspectivist norms: sometimes it is not feasible to track facts about our own perspectives. This shift in focus from the limits of our perspectives to limits on what dispositions it is feasible to manifest has, I argue, deep ramifications for normative theory. My second aim is to sketch an alternative, feasibilist way of thinking about a more subject-directed kind of normativity, one that takes into account our limitations as human agents. The result is a normative picture that unifies the practical and theoretical domains.

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Maria Lasonen-Aarnio
University of Helsinki


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