Satisficing and Maximizing: Moral Theorists on Practical Reason
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This collection of essays explores two competing views of practical rationality. How do we think about what we plan to do? One dominant answer is that we select the best possible option available. However, a growing number of philosophers would offer a different reply. Since we are not equipped to maximize, we must often choose the next best alternative--one that is no more than satisfactory. This strategy choice is called "satisficing" (a term coined by the economist Herb Simon).
Next, consider the good of achieving or accomplishing something. Nonhedonists, especially advocates of “objective list” approaches, frequently mention this as a distinctive good, not reducible to the pleasure or desire-satisfaction to be obtained from achieving things; but once again this good may require its own distinctive virtue in order to make a life better. Genuine achievements require the virtue of perseverance, or strength 22 Michael Slote of purpose. Even Mozart, in whom musical
monistic elevationism to hold that appetitive goods require some degree of virtue, and it is in any event questionable. The French use the term “alumette” (literally “match”) to refer to hors d’oeuvres that are supposed to inﬂame one’s appetite, and this usage more than suggests that such appetizers are pleasurable yet the very opposite of satisfying. At this point, and for simplicity’s sake, I am relying on the intuitive assumption that insatiability and an inability to satisﬁce are
taking a perspective this broad even in worst-case scenarios where there is no well-deﬁned global optimum. But even if we suppose we can take a perspective encompassing our whole lives, why should we suppose this is the broadest perspective we can take? Satisﬁcing as a Humanly Rational Strategy 49 Perhaps there can be broader perspectives than what I call the global perspective. Indeed, in Rational Choice and Moral Agency, I argue that we do have access to a larger perspective, that there are
perspectives but also a perspective of tenseless reﬂection on life as a whole. The way to get a handle on this, I think, is to come to see that the so-called “narrative structure” of a life bears greatly on its quality: A life without a narrative structure is lacking, and some narratives are better than others. The quality of one’s life as a whole is organic in that the quality of a person’s life as a whole is not simply a sum of the A New Defense of Satisﬁcing 81 value of its parts, or the
an agent maximizes good consequences, the consequentialist just slurps up that value and tosses it into his basket of goods-to-be-maximized. Common-sense moralists then want to say that the consequentialist has entirely missed the point. But consequentialists rightly insist that the opponent say clearly just what the point is, and it is, to say the least, extremely hard to see how to say it in a way that resists the slurping-up strategy. Foot’s strategy is ingenious, and I think correct. She