Substance and procedure in theories of prudential value

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In this paper I argue that the debate between subjective and objective theories of prudential value obscures the way in which elements of both are needed for a comprehensive theory of prudential value. I suggest that we characterize these two types of theory in terms of their different aims: procedural (or subjective) theories give an account of the necessary conditions for something to count as good for a person, while substantive (or objective) theories give an account of what is good for a person, given some set of necessary conditions. Characterizing the theories in this way allows us to see their mutual compatibility. To make this case, I assume that a theory of prudential value ought to be descriptively and normatively adequate. The criterion of descriptive adequacy requires that our theory explain the subject relativity of prudential value. I characterize subject relativity in terms of justifiability to subjects and I argue that certain procedural theories are well suited to meet this criterion. The criterion of normative adequacy requires that our theory be capable of guiding action and I argue that a certain kind of substantive theory is needed to meet this requirement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-391
Number of pages19
JournalAustralasian Journal of Philosophy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007


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