Stefan Fischer


In a recent article, Sharadin and van Someren Greve call into question an idea many philosophers take to be platitudinous, namely that deontic evaluation is capable of action guidance. In this critical note, I argue that their skeptical worries are unwarranted. The central problem in their argument, I claim, is a too unrestrained account of "actual guidance". According to  this account, an agent's deontic evaluation of an action alternative that bears the result that the action in question is both right and wrong would actually guide the agent with respect to whether or not to perform it. This, I argue, is implausible because it does not help the agent to settle the issue she is interested in. I propose an alternative account of actual guidance, according to which a deontic evaluation actually guides an agent with respect to whether or not to perform an action, X, if, and only if, it changes the agent's perception of the relative weight of the pros and cons of X-ing. This understanding of "actual guidance", I claim, is coherent, natural, and better captures our pre-theoretical sense of what it means for a consideration to help an agent to settle the question of whether or not to perform an action. However, since Sharadin's and van Someren Greve's skeptical endeavor entirely depends on the claim that we could not understand "actual guidance" in this way, their argument never really gets off the ground. I conclude that the authors do not provide a sufficient basis for doubting that deontic evaluation is capable of doing what it is for.


Discussion Notes