Silent prudence

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Abstract

It is commonly recognized that not all actions are candidates for moral evaluation. For instance, morality is silent on the issue whether to tie one's right shoe before one's left shoe or the other way around. This shoe-tying action is not a candidate for moral appraisal. The matter is amoral, for neither alternative is morally required nor forbidden, and both are permissible. It is not commonly recognized that not all actions are candidates for prudential evaluation. I shall argue, however, that there are cases of individual action over time, as well, that are aprudent in the sense that none of the alternatives under consideration are required or forbidden by prudence, but all of them are permissible. These are cases in which there is no fact of the matter as to what is the best choice for one. There are at least two such cases: first, cases in which the alternative courses of action open to one are incommensurable; and second, cases in which one's values are not yet determined and one is deciding what values to adopt, what sort of person to become, or what ideals to pursue. In these cases, prudence is silent on the question of what one ought to do. Indeed, I go on to argue prudence can even be silent on the question whether to act according to the values one currently holds or to pursue an entirely different course that will result in changes to one's values, which is the third case of aprudent choice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-364
Number of pages16
JournalPhilosophical Explorations
Volume12
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy

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