Rational Choice & Moral Agency 2015

Author: David Schmidtz

Is it rational to be moral? How do rationality and morality fit together with being human? These questions are at the heart of David Schmidtz's exploration of the connections between rationality and morality. This inquiry leads into both metaethics and rational choice theory, as Schmidtz develops conceptions of what it is to be moral and what it is to be rational. He defends a fairly expansive conception of rational choice, considering how ends as well as means can be rationally chosen and explaining the role of self-imposed constraints in a rational life plan. His moral theory is dualistic, ranging over social structure as well as personal conduct and building both individual and collective rationality into its rules of recognition for morals.

To the "why be moral" question, Schmidtz responds that being moral is rational, but he does not assume we have reasons to be rational. Instead, Schmidtz argues that being moral is rational in a particular way and that beings like us in situations like ours have reasons to be rational in just that way. This approach allows him to identify decisive reasons to be moral; at the same time, it explains why immorality is as prevalent as it is. This book thus offers a set of interesting and realistic conclusions about how morality fits into the lives of humanly rational agents operating in an institutional context like our own.

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