Thursday, July 1, 2010

The correct way to deal with a situation vs. what you ought to do

Suppose you're a rule consequentialist. I think you should think that situations could arise where you know that one of the available options, B, is better than A (i.e. contains more total intrinsic value), but you ought to pick A anyway. So, maybe you can get a smidge more utility if you break a promise than keep it, this is a fact that isn't lost on you, but it wouldn't thereby follow for the rule-consequentialist that the promise should be broken.

I think this much is pretty straightforward. This is what I'm not so sure about. Consider:

(1) Although you ought to have done A, the correct thing to do in the situation described is pick B.

(2) You know that the correct way to deal with the situation described is pick B. After all, you know that that's what you're supposed to do.

It seems to me that (2) is the clear winner here. So, I'm curious as to whether we should say that if you know you ought to A, the correct way to deal with the situation is to A.

Notice I haven't said that "correct" and "ought" come to the same thing, I'm just floating the idea that what you know you ought to do will thereby be the "correct" way to deal with the situation.

3 comments:

Jose said...

I think that you can't say that A is what you OUGHT to do, while B is the CORRECT thing to do because that would be a contradictory statement. You always OUGHT to do what is CORRECT, even if you don't always do it...and sometimes you may feel justified, and even excused for not doing what you OUGHT, what is CORRECT, but that doesn't mean that you should have done it the way you did.

Mandeville said...

This is mere sophistry and word play. Jose is right. But the topic is based on a false assumption nonetheless.

Human action in every case is to exchange a less desireable prior state of affairs with something more desirable, or less uncomfortable, or to remove a felt uneasiness, etc.

Humans always act to satisfy their highest valuation of alternatives at the moment of action. That vaulation is subjective. It may also be different a few moments before the action and afterwards, but, all things considered, it represented what the actor valued highest when he performed to act.

To argue the "ought" or the "correct" is merely to acknowledge the conflicting values, all subjective, that come into play when considering action, and particularly how they form a sense of guilt or regret after the action.

Humans are designed to do what we want to do when we do it. We can't ever say that we did the wrong thing at the moment of action. Only later, do we consider something wrong, and long after the rewards from that action have been digested.

Clayton said...

I agree with Jose, fwiw.