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First Principles to Further our Understanding of What is to be Done


The first chapter argues that certain axioms are equally justified as first principles for practical reasoning as they are for theoretical reasoning. In each case, these axioms should be accepted by anyone seeking to answer theoretical or practical questions because doing so is necessary if one is to have any hope of answering these questions. The second chapter confronts anticipated objections to this view, especially to the objectivism that it entails. The third chapter uses these axioms to consider what goods constitute basic reasons for action. The fourth chapter explores what practical norms emerge from recognizing these goods as reasons for action, in particular the rational error of acting for the sake of anything other than these goods, the failure to respond appropriately to the possibility of achieving goods in others, and the error of acting so as to impede these goods, which leads to a discussion of the Doctrine of Double Effect. Finally, the fifth chapter argues for an understanding of Warren Quinn’s revised Doctrine of Double Effect that aims to account for nonconsequentialist intuitions and to help nonconsequentialists understand when it is problematic to usefully involve others without their consent.

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