Chapter

The moral clout of reasonable beliefs

Holly M. Smith

in Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Volume 1

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199693269
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191732058 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199693269.003.0001

Series: Oxford Studies In Normative Ethics

The moral clout of reasonable beliefs

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Because we must often make decisions in light of imperfect information about our prospective actions, the standard principles of objective obligation must be supplemented with principles of subjective obligation (which evaluate actions in light of what the agent believes about their circumstances and consequences). The point of principles of subjective obligation is to guide agents in making decisions. But should these principles be stated in terms of what the agent actually believes or what it would be reasonable for her to believe about her prospective actions? This paper shows that there are many decisions for which “reasonable belief” principles can’t be used by the decision-maker, especially in cases in which whether (or how) the agent investigates or deliberates affects the nature of the prospective action itself. The paper’s conclusion is that subjective rightness depends on what the agent actually believes, not what it would be reasonable for her to believe.

Keywords: actual beliefs; decision-making; deliberation; epistemic justification; factual ignorance; intuitions; objective obligation; rational beliefs; reasonable beliefs; subjective obligation

Chapter.  10762 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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