Friday, November 30, 2012

What Matters and What I Should Do

Considering the two quotations I used in the previous post, it occurs to me that in one way, they're offering answers to two different questions. Korsgaard is, in part, responding to the question "What do I have most reason to do?" or "What should I do?" Nagel, on the other hand, can be seen as answering the question, "What matters?"

Parfit, from whom I lifted Nagel's quote, seems to see these as the same question. This is one way of understanding his strongly consequentialist leanings (Nagel, arguably, ends up leaning toward consequentialism as well.) If you believe the answer to "What should I do?" is "Promote what matters," you will likely end up endorsing some sort of consequentialist moral theory. However, if you see these questions as more distinct, allowing for the possibility that what we have most reason to do at any given moment might not be value-maximizing, then the door is open for a non-consequentialist theory.

I'm not attempting to argue that these questions necessarily are distinct. Perhaps the best way to do that is just to see whether or not consequentialist theories are plausible moral theories. But it's important to notice that the way we ask these basic questions, at the very fundamental level of ethical inquiry, has downstream implications for the structure of moral theories.

No comments:

Post a Comment