Sunday, November 6, 2011

Derek Parfit -- Finally saying something

I suppose it's not surprising that it's easier to poke holes in the opposition's theories than it is to put forward one of your own; that's one reason why the next chapter, "Subjective Theories", is better.  He gives the example of running away from a snake in the mistaken belief that running will save your life(you should stand still).  He says:
"Subjectivists might claim that
(A) reasons are provided only by desires that depend on true beliefs,
You have no reason to run away, (A) implies, because your desire depens on the false belief that this act would save your life".(pg. 107)

He then defines the Telic Desire Theory:

"We have most reason to do whatever would best fulfil or achieve our present telic desires or aims."(pg. 108)

He then says that the problem here is that sometimes our telic desires are based on false beliefs.
Thus we have
"the Error-Free Desire Theory: We have most reason to do whatever would best fulfil or achieve our present error-free telic desires or aims."(pg. 109)

He follows this up with the "informed desire" theory.

He is moving us toward the following formulation:
"the Deliberartive Theory: We have most reason to do whatever, after fully informed and rational deliberation, we would choose to do."(pg. 110)

This is a master stroke!!  He says this formulation, Deliberative Subjectivism, is often confused with Objectivism(Kant, not Rand).   But there is a bit difference:

"Instead of claiming that what we ought to choose depends on our reasons, these Subjectivists claim that our reasons depend on what, after such deliberation, we would choose."(pg. 112)

Nice.

"Objectivists appeal to normative claims about what, after ideal deliberation, we have reasons to choose, and ought rationally to choose.   These Subjectivists appeal to psychological claims about what, after such deliberation, we would in fact choose."(pg. 112)

This coming together of Subjective and Objective, while maintaining the difference in causal direction, as a step on the way toward his defense of a normative type theory is, I think, brilliant, and worth the price of admission.

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