Neurosentimentalism and Moral Agency
2011 ASSA Meetings: Ethics and economics sessions

Practical Equilibrium, Reflective Equilibrium, and Moral Choice

Mark D. White

Also in the new issue of Mind (July 2010) is an article by Ben Eggleston titled "Practical Equilibrium: A Way of Deciding What to Think about Morality," which (oddly enough) is again very relevant to the nascent discussion between me and Jonathan here:

Abstract: Practical equilibrium, like reflective equilibrium, is a way of deciding what to think about morality. It shares with reflective equilibrium the general thesis that there is some way in which a moral theory must, in order to be acceptable, answer to one’s moral intuitions, but it differs from reflective equilibrium in its specification of exactly how a moral theory must answer to one’s intuitions. Whereas reflective equilibrium focuses on a theory’s consistency with those intuitions, practical equilibrium also gives weight to a theory’s approval of one’s having those intuitions.

This parallels fairly closely my comment to Jonathan; as I understand it, Smith's impartial spectator is more like (Rawls') reflective equilibrium, in which a person facing a moral dilemma tries to take a view detached from personal circumstances, but nonetheless based on his or her moral sentiments (or, in a sense, intuitions). But Eggleston's practical equilibrium recognizes the need for some outside substantive theory of morality if that the person's choice (and by extension his or her intutions) are to be morally justified.

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