Reasons, Patterns, and Cooperation
Routledge – 2007 – 154 pages
This book is about fundamental questions in normative ethics. It begins with the idea that we often respond to ethical theories according to how principled or pragmatic they are. It clarifies this contrast and then uses it to shed light on old debates in ethics, such as debates about the rival merits of consequentialist and deontological views. Using the idea that principled views seem most appealing in dilemmas of acquiescence, it goes on to develop a novel theory of pattern-based reasons. These are reasons to play one’s part in some larger pattern of action because of the goodness or rightness of that pattern. Existing accounts of pattern-based reasons usually assume that such reasons can exist only in cooperative contexts.
This book rejects that assumption, and claims instead that we can have pattern-based reasons even when the other agents involved in the pattern are wholly unwilling to cooperate. The result is a pluralist teleological structure for ethics, with similarities to some forms of Rule Consequentialism. Woodard claims that this structure achieves an attractive balance between the two virtues of being pragmatic and being principled.
"This is an excellent, sophisticated, thought-provoking book. It makes a real contribution to a central issue in teleological ethics. Anyone interested in teleological ethics will learn a great deal from this book." - . Tim Mulgan, University of St. Andrews, UK
"[The] focus on pattern-based reasons (and also on the pluralist approach) seems to me to be an important contribution to moral theory…Reasons, Patterns, and Cooperation offers a new theory that could be a candidate for the title of most plausible version of consequentialism." - Dr. Rob Lawlor, University of Leeds, UK
"This beautifully concise monograph is an invaluable resource for those interested in pattern-based reasons, cooperation and pluralistic approaches in ethics. The book contains a range of resources for categorizing and evaluating ethical positions, and some tremendously interesting extensions of traditional thought experiments to illustrate the centrality of structural claims to ethics. I highly recommend it." - Dr. Mitch Parsell, Macquarie University, Australia
One Pragmatism, Consequentialism, and Teleology
Two Acquiescence and Necessity
Three The Cooperative Conception
Four The Bare Idea of Pattern-Based Reasons
Five Rejecting the Willingness Requirement
Six Recklessness and Futility
Christopher Woodard is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nottingham, UK.