Doing the Best We Can

An Essay in Informal Deontic Logic

  • Fred Feldman

Part of the Philosophical Studies Series in Philosophy book series (PSSP, volume 35)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiv
  2. Absolute Moral Obligation

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Fred Feldman
      Pages 3-15
    3. Fred Feldman
      Pages 16-44
    4. Fred Feldman
      Pages 45-69
  3. Iffy Oughts

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 71-71
    2. Fred Feldman
      Pages 73-98
    3. Fred Feldman
      Pages 99-126
  4. Extensions

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 145-145
    2. Fred Feldman
      Pages 147-178
    3. Fred Feldman
      Pages 179-196
    4. Fred Feldman
      Pages 197-215
    5. Fred Feldman
      Pages 216-225
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 227-246

About this book


Several years ago I came across a marvelous little paper in which Hector-Neri Castaneda shows that standard versions of act utilitarian­ l ism are formally incoherent. I was intrigued by his argument. It had long seemed to me that I had a firm grasp on act utilitarianism. Indeed, it had often seemed to me that it was the clearest and most attractive of normative theories. Yet here was a simple and relatively uncontrover­ sial argument that showed, with only some trivial assumptions, that the doctrine is virtually unintelligible. The gist of Castaneda's argument is this: suppose we understand act utilitarianism to be the view that an act is obligatory if and only if its utility exceeds that of each alternative. Suppose it is obligatory for a certain person to perform an act with two parts - we can call it 'A & B'. Then, obviously enough, it is also obligatory for this person to perform the parts, A and B. If act utilitarianism were true, we appar­ ently could infer that the utility of A & B is higher than that of A, and higher than that of B (because A & B is obligatory, and the other acts are alternatives to A & B).


Immanuel Kant Indian Utilitarianism access accessibility concept deontic logic individual morality perfect project projects subject tradition truth

Authors and affiliations

  • Fred Feldman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Massachusetts at AmherstUSA

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 1986
  • Publisher Name Springer, Dordrecht
  • eBook Packages Springer Book Archive
  • Print ISBN 978-94-010-8531-1
  • Online ISBN 978-94-009-4570-8
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
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