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The Aim(s) of Practical Deliberation

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My new paper on 'Deontic Pluralism' argues for "a maximizing account of the ought of most reason, a satisficing account of obligation, and a scalar account of the weight of reasons."  One question that emerges towards the end of the paper is whether we really need all of this.  Can we identify a sense of 'ought' that has primacy in virtue of its special relevance to first-personal deliberation—i.e., as the sense of ‘ought’ that a conscientious agent has in mind when they ask themselves, “What ought I to do?” I've previously cast doubt on the idea that the deliberative question has a suitably fixed and determinate meaning. But even just focusing on the choice between the ought of most reason and the ought of minimal decency (or blamelessness), we aren’t obviously forced in either direction here, e.g. by the constitutive norms of agential deliberation. Some agents in some contexts are particularly concerned to at least meet the standards for minimal decency, whereas others are more morally ambitious. We can certainly say that it’s better for agents to do better. But it isn’t clear that there’s much more we can say beyond this trivial evaluative observation. In particular, I see no clear basis for insisting that there is just one proper aim of deliberation. On the contrary, I think we can make good sense of why both standards have a limited place in our normative lives. The ought of most reason is perhaps the most obviously significant. It picks out the best choice for us to make, the option which is most well-justified, providing an ideal standard to which it makes sense to aspire. (Of course, whether it is practically useful or advisable to aspire to it in any given situation is a further, empirical question. Some may just be disheartened were they to try. But I don’t take such practical concerns to undermine the in-principle aptness of the aspiration, which is what I’m concerned with here.) The practical relevance of the. . .

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