Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Instrumental Reasoning Essays -- Philosophy

Can Instrumental Reasoning Stand Alone? I. Introduction There is something appealing about ordinary instrumental or means-end reasoning. One begins with a want, a goal or a desire and considers available options as means to its satisfaction or achievement. If, among the available options, one is the best or only way to satisfy the desire or achieve the goal, one has a reason to select it. If two or more options both seem to lead to the goal, they may still differ in other ways, e.g., in the probability with which they lead to the goal – in which case (if that was the only difference) one would have reason to choose the option which led to the goal with higher probability. To consider things in the simplest form possible, consider a being with only a single desire. Suppose that this being wants nothing but to break a street-lamp. Even in so simple a case, we can begin to say what he ought to do. Any number of things may be effective. If he has no other goals – not even going unapprehended so that he can do it again with some other street-lamp – he may use a rifle, a pistol, throw rocks at it, climb the lamp-post to bash it with his fist, etc. But we can say that there are some things that, in terms of his goal, he ought not to do, for example, that he ought not to try breaking it (because he won’t succeed) by throwing feathers at it, one by one. It looks as though, even in this deliberately simplified case, means-end reasoning, combined with some knowledge of the world, is enough to tell us something about what he ought to do. This is not, to be sure, a moral ‘ought,’ but we seem to have generated a normative conclusion, an ought-judgment of a modest sort, without appealing to any mysterious non-natural properties ... ...h a person? Perhaps, a real example of an existentialist chooser would say that there is not even a reason for committing oneself rather than not; one just does (or does not). [15] This is not being offered as a solution to the central problem that Korsgaard has raised. I am, as stated earlier, only assuming that there is some solution. Rather, I am trying to show that, given the existence of some solution to that problem, though we need some further normative principle, it does not have to be one that picks out certain ends for us. In short, we can do almost what could have been done had the defenders of the autonomy of instrumental reasoning been correct. (In fact, I think we can do quite a bit more than we could if they had been correct – but that’s a topic for another paper.) [16] And I do not in any case have non-dialectical proofs that they are mistaken.

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