On the Rationalist Solution to Gregory Kavka's Toxin Puzzle

Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 90, pp. 267-289, 2009

23 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2009 Last revised: 9 Jan 2015

See all articles by Ken Levy

Ken Levy

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge - Paul M. Hebert Law Center

Date Written: July 30, 2009

Abstract

Gregory Kavka's 'Toxin Puzzle' suggests that I cannot intend to perform a counter-preferential action A even if I have a strong self-interested reason to form this intention. The 'Rationalist Solution,' however, suggests that I can form this intention. For even though it is counter-preferential, A-ing is actually rational given that the intention behind it is rational. Two arguments are offered for this proposition that the rationality of the intention to A transfers to A-ing itself: the 'Self-Promise Argument' and David Gauthier's 'Rational Self-Interest Argument.' But both arguments, and therefore the Rationalist Solution, fail. The Self-Promise Argument fails because my intention to A does not constitute a promise to myself that I am obligated to honor. And Gauthier's Rational Self-Interest Argument fails to rule out the possibility of rational irrationality.

Keywords: toxin puzzle, intention, action, reasons, course of action, rule-utilitarianism, rationality, rational irrationality, self-interest, self-promise, Kavka, Gauthier

Suggested Citation

Levy, Ken, On the Rationalist Solution to Gregory Kavka's Toxin Puzzle (July 30, 2009). Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 90, pp. 267-289, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1441339

Ken Levy (Contact Author)

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge - Paul M. Hebert Law Center ( email )

420 Law Center Building
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
United States

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