Choice: An essay on pluralism, value conflicts and decision-making

University dissertation from Cadmus

Abstract: This thesis examines decision-making in value conflicts, and argues in favor of a unified approach to decision-making that accepts partial success of a plurality of decision-making methods, and that uses these as alternative heuristic tools the appropriateness of which is established and guided by interpretative and creative reasoning. This general conclusion is reached in numerous steps. First, an uncontroversial form of prima facie pluralism is accepted as the point of departure. Second, the diversity of value conflicts as well as the variety of different relations that values can have to each other (the degree of comparability) is established. Third, the impact of representations and the importance of the selection of matter for reasoning are illustrated and named the problem with representation. This, fourthly, undermines the possibilities of monistic value theories to dissolve conflicts, but also means that explanatory models of values need to account for both currencies of values and the way in which representations of the world are created. Such types of explanatory models are dubbed explanatory pluralism. Once the problem with representation and need for explanatory pluralism are settled, it is shown that prevalent approaches to decision-making (including maximizing methods, subsumption under principles, and by Aristotle inspired approaches that assign importance to judgment) have some merit, but all fail to account for the complexities surrounding what it is like to make a choice in a value conflict. The only way of dealing with these complexities is by combining a plurality of first order methods so that these can be matched with particular situations with the assistance of interpretative and creative reasoning. A unified approach to decision-making that furthermore accepts the necessity of its procedural nature as well as the dialectical relation between holding a value and making a decision manages best to deal with the identified problems.

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