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On Exploring Normative Constraints in New Situations

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Philip Pettit's ethocentric account of rule-following is elaborated and defended in this paper as basically a story about the capacity to reason organized around largely implicit assumptions about what is and what is not normal. It is argued that this account can be insightfully used to elucidate the practical reasoning of agents confronted with the normative indeterminacy that seems to be characteristic of radically new situations. It is shown that practical reasoning consists to a large extent in the capacity to articulate, specify, and evaluate implicit assumptions about what is and what is not normal. One corollary of this account of practical reason is investigated in some detail: the predominant role of intrapersonal divergence of habits in reasoning about an apparent normative indeterminacy and the related, merely criteriological role of convergence with respect to determining the right rules to follow.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2001

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