Rules, Reasons, and Norms: Selected Essays

Rules, Reasons, and Norms: Selected Essays

Rules, Reasons, and Norms: Selected Essays

Rules, Reasons, and Norms: Selected Essays

Synopsis

Pettit presents a selection of essays touching upon metaphysics, philosophical psychology, and the theory of rational regulation. The first part of the book discusses the rule-following character of thought. The second considers how choice can be responsive to different sorts of factors, while still being under the control of thought. The third examines the implications of this view of choice and rationality for the normative regulation of social behavior.

Excerpt

The essays in this selection are all single-authored pieces published over the last decade or so. Many of the co-authored pieces I published in that period appear in Mind, Morality, and Explanation: Selected ColIaborations by Frank Jackson, Philip Pettit, and Michael Smith (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). The essays selected here come in three packages that deal respectively with: the rule-following, response-dependent character of thought; the reason-based explicability of choice; and the normative regulation of social and political life. These topics are fairly distinct, and may even be of primary interest to different groups of readers, but there are many thematic connections between the three sets of essays, and I hope that these will give the volume coherence.

Each set of essays is unified around a general theme. The opening essay of the first set presents an argument that the activity of thinking—roughly, the activity of considering what to believe or to desire—depends on rule--following and is consequently response-dependent in character: that is, dependent on contingencies of subjective response. The following three essays go on to explore some implications of this response-dependence, looking at how far we can be realists about the subject matter of thought; how far we have to think of reality as escaping our epistemic grasp—how far noumenalism threatens; and whether thought is an essentially communal activity, as social holists have traditionally claimed. The essays argue that realism remains available, noumenalism is not particularly troubling, and that social holism has firm if qualified support. The final essay in the set then explores in greater detail the view of normal and ideal conditions that is a central element in the response-dependent account of thinking.

The first essay in the second set argues that people generally make their choices on the basis of considerations that are framed in culturally established terms—on the basis of their thought about what to believe and desire, as that is characterized in the first set—and that the most distinctive way of explaining them is the interpretative mode of explanation that reveals the way such reasons weighed with the agent. The next three essays then go on to show that, despite this, there is room for modes of understanding and explaining choice that are quite different in character. The second essay maintains that Bayesian decision theory offers a valid but

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