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Pragmatic theories focus on whether agents fare better acting on the basis of a particular intention or plan, rather than whether this can be justified in terms of the expected utility associated with the plan. This article argues that, while attractive, pragmatic theories have difficulty vindicating the rationality of plans involving an element of risk. In “Assure and Threaten,” David Gauthier noticed this difficulty with respect to deterrent threats. This article argues that the same difficulty exists for assurances involving an element of risk. It then explores whether Pragmatists could solve the shortcomings of their approach by adopting the Chance Benefit Thesis, namely, the thesis that a chance of benefit is itself a benefit.


David Gauthier, Morals by Agreement, Assure and Threaten, practical rationality, pragmatism, expected utility, pragmatic deliberative principle

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123 Ethics 673 (2013)