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Symposium on Larry Temkin’s Rethinking the Good: Moral Ideals and the Nature of Practical Reasoning

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Rethinking the Good: Moral Ideals and the Nature of Practical Reasoning: A Précis

image of Journal of Moral Philosophy

This article gives a brief overview of Rethinking the Good, whose impossibility arguments illuminate the difficulty of arriving at a coherent theory of the good. I show that an additive-aggregationistprinciple is plausible for some comparisons, while an anti- additive-aggregationistprinciple is plausible for others. Invoking SpectrumArguments, I show that these principles are incompatible with an empirical premise, and various Axioms of Transitivity. I argue that whether the “all-things-considered better than” relation is transitive is not a matter of language or logic, but the nature of moral ideals. If an Internal Aspects View holds, then many standard assumptions about rationality follow, including the Axioms of Transitivity, but not if an Essentially Comparative View holds. Yet many important ideals are essentially comparative. My results have important implications for the normative significance of economics, and require substantial revision in our understanding of the good, moral ideals, and the nature of practical reasoning.

Affiliations: 1: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey,


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