Assuring, Threatening, a Fully Maximizing Theory of Practical Rationality, and the Practical Duties of Agents

Ethics 123 (4):625-656 (2013)
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Theories of practical rationality say when it is rational to form and fulfill intentions to do actions. David Gauthier says the correct theory would be the one our obeying would best advance the aim of rationality, something Humeans take to be the satisfaction of one’s desires. I use this test to evaluate the received theory and Gauthier’s 1984 and 1994 theories. I find problems with the theories and then offer a theory superior by Gauthier’s test and immune to the problems. On this theory, it is rational to treat something different as the aim when doing so would advance the original aim. I argue that the idea that this would be irrational bad faith entails contradictions and so is false, as must be theories saying that rationally we must always treat as the aim the bringing about of objectively good states of affairs or obeying a universalizable moral code. (Note: the published version differs somewhat from the version on the website of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law; please quote from the published version.)

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Duncan MacIntosh
Dalhousie University


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