, Volume 158, Issue 2, pp 343-360
Date: 06 Mar 2012

Options and the subjective ought

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Determining what you ought to do can be broken down into two stages. The first stage is determining what your options are, and the second stage is ranking those options. While the second stage has been widely explored by philosophers of all stripes, from ethicists to decision theorists to epistemologists to action theorists, the first stage has gone largely unaddressed. And yet, without a theory of how to conceive of your options, the theory of practical rationality—of how you ought to act—will be incomplete.

I will argue that the fact that what you ought to do depends on your uncertainty about the world ultimately forces us to conceive of your options as consisting of all and only the decisions you are presently able to make. In this way, oughts apply only to decisions, and not to the non-mental acts that we ordinarily evaluate for moral and rational permissibility.

This change in our conception of your options is not of mere bookkeeping interest; it has substantive implicat ...