Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 145–157 | Cite as

Hypothetical Retrospection



Moral theory has mostly focused on idealized situations in which the morally relevant properties of human actions can be known beforehand. Here, a framework is proposed that is intended to sharpen moral intuitions and improve moral argumentation in problems involving risk and uncertainty. Guidelines are proposed for a systematic search of suitable future viewpoints for hypothetical retrospection. In hypothetical retrospection, a decision is evaluated under the assumption that one of the branches of possible future developments has materialized. This evaluation is based on the deliberator’s present values, and each decision is judged in relation to the information available when it was taken. The basic decision rule is to choose an alternative that comes out as morally acceptable (permissible) from all hypothetical retrospections.

Key words

hypothetical retrospection regret retrospection risk uncertainty expected utility prudence 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and the History of TechnologyRoyal Institute of TechnologyStockholmSweden

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