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date: 04 July 2022

Abstract and Keywords

Consequentialists have long debated (as deontologists should) how to define an agent’s alternatives, given that (a) at any particular time an agent performs numerous “versions” of actions, (b) an agent may perform several independent co-temporal actions, and (c) an agent may perform sequences of actions. We need a robust theory of human action to provide an account of alternatives that avoids previously debated problems. After outlining Alvin Goldman’s action theory (which takes a fine-grained approach to act individuation) and showing that the agent’s alternatives must remain invariant across different normative theories, I address issue (a) by arguing that an alternative for an agent at a time is an entire “act tree” performable by her, rather than any individual act token. I argue further that both tokens and trees must possess moral properties, and I suggest principles governing how these are inherited among trees and tokens. These proposals open a path for future work addressing issues (b) and (c).

Keywords: action theory, act sequence, act token, act tree, act versions, alternative, Alvin Goldman, consequentialism, co-temporal acts, inheritance principle

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