Maximalism and Rational Control


Maximalism is the view that if an agent is permitted to perform a certain type of action (say, baking), this is in virtue of the fact that she is permitted to perform some instance of this type (say, baking a pie), where φ-ing is an instance of ψ-ing if and only if φ-ing entails ψ-ing but not vice versa. Now, the point of this paper is not to defend maximalism, but to defend a certain account of our options that when combined with maximalism results in a theory that both avoids the sorts of objections that have typically been levelled against maximalism and accommodates the plausible idea that a moral theory must be collectively successful in the sense that everyone’s satisfying the theory guarantees that our theory-given aims will be best achieved. I argue that, for something to count as an option for an agent, it must, in the relevant sense, be under her control. And I argue that the relevant sort of control is the sort that we exercise over our reasons-responsive attitudes (e.g., our beliefs, desires, and intentions) by being both receptive and reactive to reasons. I call this sort of control rational control, and I call the view that φ-ing is an option for an agent if and only if she has rational control over whether she φs rationalism. When we combine this view with maximalism, we get rationalist maximalism, which I argue is a promising moral theory.

Author's Profile

Douglas W. Portmore
Arizona State University


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