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Oxford Studies in Normative EthicsVolume 2$
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Mark Timmons

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199662951

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199662951.001.0001

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Actualism, Possibilism, and Beyond 1

Actualism, Possibilism, and Beyond 1

(p.74) 4 Actualism, Possibilism, and Beyond1
Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics

Jacob Ross

Oxford University Press

This chapter is about the following question: what is the relationship between how we ought to act and how we ought to prefer that we act? Part 1 concerns the actualist answer to this question, according to which one ought to Φ just in case one ought to prefer Φ-ing to what one would do otherwise. Part 2 concerns the possibilist answer, according to which one ought to Φ just in case one ought to prefer some option that involves Φ-ing to any option that does not involve Φ-ing. It is argued that actualism is absurd, and that, while different versions of possibilism differ in their levels of plausibility, no form of possibilism is acceptable. In part 3, some conditions of adequacy for a theory of obligation are proposed, and these are used to diagnose the failures of actualism and possibilism. An alternative theory is then presented which satisfies all these conditions.

Keywords:   actualism, possibilism, securitism, contextualism, options, obligation, Jackson, Pargetter, Portmore

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