By Fred Feldman

Several years in the past I stumbled on a wonderful little paper within which Hector-Neri Castaneda exhibits that normal types of act utilitarian­ l ism are officially incoherent. i used to be intrigued by way of his argument. It had lengthy looked as if it would me that I had a company grab on act utilitarianism. certainly, it had frequently looked as if it would me that it used to be the clearest and most fascinating of normative theories. but the following was once an easy and comparatively uncontrover­ sial argument that confirmed, with just some trivial assumptions, that the doctrine is almost unintelligible. The gist of Castaneda's argument is that this: feel we comprehend act utilitarianism to be the view that an act is compulsory if and provided that its software exceeds that of every substitute. think it's compulsory for a definite individual to accomplish an act with components - we will name it 'A & B'. Then, evidently sufficient, it's also compulsory for this individual to accomplish the components, A and B. If act utilitarianism have been actual, we appar­ ently may well infer that the application of A & B is larger than that of A, and better than that of B (because A & B is compulsory, and the opposite acts are choices to A & B).

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Extra info for Doing the Best We Can: An Essay in Informal Deontic Logic

Example text

Instead of saying that a best is an accessible world better than every other accessible world, let us say that a best is an accessible world than which there is none better. In other words: B': w' is a best for s at t from w = df. As, t, w', w & -(EwH)(As, t, w", W&IV(WH) > IV(w')) Now we can say that a person has a moral obligation to do a thing iff he does it in all of his current bests. That is: M02: MO s, t, P is true at w iff p is true at every best for s at t from w. It is not clear to me that there is anything wrong with M02.

It remains among his live options. 1. Indiscernibility with Respect to the Past If a world, w', is accessible to an agent, s, at a time, t, from a world, w, then w' must be quite like w up to t. Indeed, there is a natural inclination to suppose that wand w' must be exactly alike up to t. To suppose otherwise is to suppose that, as of t, s has it in his power to change the past. For if wand w' differ with respect to their pasts as of t, and s still has the power to determine which of them will occur, then s has it in his power to affect how things will have been before t.

If we assume that there is a certain possible world that would exist if I were to tend my garden today, and we stick to this broad conception of consequences, we will be led to the conclusion that the intrinsic value of the consequences of g are equal to the intrinsic value of the world that would exist if I were to tend my garden. Just for this example, let us make the necessary assumptions. Here's the question: is there any difference between ideal utilitarianism, thus interpreted, and the view formulated as MO?