SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

My Favorite Option
(Ethics, English)

Cases of normative moral uncertainty, as opposed to descriptive uncertainty, are those in which we know all the descriptive facts, but are uncertain regarding which moral theory is in actually correct. There are three meta-normative decision principles for agents under normative moral uncertainty. The two dominant principles in the literature are ''Maximize Expected Moral Value'' (MEMV), according to which agents should maximize the expected moral value of their actions, just as they would maximize expected utility in non-moral cases; and ''My Favorite Theory'' (MFT), according to which agents should follow the prescriptions of the theory they have most credence in. The last principle -- the one I defend -- is called ''My Favorite Option'' (MFO), and instructs agents to choose the action they believe is most likely to be morally right.

I argue that MFO is the only principle that successfully reflects the motivation of agents under moral uncertainty: motivation to do the right thing de dicto. We face a moral dilemma when we want to do the right thing, but do not know what the right thing is. Our motivation is thus to do the right thing whatever it may be. I show that MEMV and MFT might require agents to choose an action they believe is extremely unlikely to be morally right, which contradicts that motivation. Some vivid cases press the intuition even further, emphasizing that MFO never requires agents to choose against their motivation, and thus always yields the intuitively correct results.

While some argue against moral motivation de dicto, it is widely accepted that agents under moral uncertainty are necessarily motivated this way. If so, this kind of objection is not available to proponents of MEMV or MFT, leaving MFO as the only plausible decision principle for agents under normative moral uncertainty.

Time: 16:00-16:30, 18 September 2019 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.004

Amit Pinsker 
(The Hebrew University, Israel)

Currently studying for a master's degree in philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I completed my bachelor's degree in philosophy and the Amirim honor's program in the humanities, also at the Hebrew University. My main areas of philosophical interest are normative uncertainty, rationality, epistemology, ethics, and the intersections between them.

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