Actualism, Possibilism, and Beyond<sup>1</sup>

Jacob Ross

in Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199662951
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745195 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies In Normative Ethics

Actualism, Possibilism, and Beyond1

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This chapter is about the following question: what is the relationship between how we ought to act and how we ought to prefer that we act? Part 1 concerns the actualist answer to this question, according to which one ought to Φ just in case one ought to prefer Φ-ing to what one would do otherwise. Part 2 concerns the possibilist answer, according to which one ought to Φ just in case one ought to prefer some option that involves Φ-ing to any option that does not involve Φ-ing. It is argued that actualism is absurd, and that, while different versions of possibilism differ in their levels of plausibility, no form of possibilism is acceptable. In part 3, some conditions of adequacy for a theory of obligation are proposed, and these are used to diagnose the failures of actualism and possibilism. An alternative theory is then presented which satisfies all these conditions.

Keywords: actualism; possibilism; securitism; contextualism; options; obligation; Jackson; Pargetter; Portmore

Chapter.  9820 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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