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The Harmful Influence of Decision Theory on Ethics
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, Philosophy.
2010 (English)In: Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, ISSN 1386-2820, E-ISSN 1572-8447, Vol. 13, no 5, 585-593 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In the last half century, decision theory has had a deep influence on moral theory. Its impact has largely been beneficial. However, it has also given rise to some problems, two of which are discussed here. First, issues such as risk-taking and risk imposition have been left out of ethics since they are believed to belong to decision theory, and consequently the ethical aspects of these issues have not been treated in either discipline. Secondly, ethics has adopted the decision-theoretical idea that action-guidance has to be based on cause-effect or means-ends relationships between an individual action and its possible outcomes. This is problematic since the morally relevant connections between an action and future events are not fully covered by such relationships. In response to the first problem it is proposed that moral theory should deal directly and extensively with issues such as risk-taking and risk imposition, thereby intruding unabashedly into the traditional territory of decision theory. As a partial response to the second problem it is proposed that moral theorizing should release itself from the decision-theoretical requirement that the moral status of an action has to be derivable from the consequences (or other properties) that are assignable to that action alone. In particular, the effects that an action can have in combination with other actions by the same or other agents are valid arguments in an action-guiding moral discourse, even if its contribution to these combined consequences cannot be isolated and evaluated separately.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 13, no 5, 585-593 p.
Keyword [en]
Decision theory, Ethics, Moral philosophy, Means-ends relationship, Causality, Cause-effect relationship, Instrumental reasoning, Risk, Ethics of risk, Expected utility, Multi-agent problems
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-33731DOI: 10.1007/s10677-010-9232-0ISI: 000289721200007ScopusID: 2-s2.0-78650070986OAI: diva2:417251
QC 20110516Available from: 2011-05-16 Created: 2011-05-16 Last updated: 2011-05-16Bibliographically approved

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