Sarah Paul (NYU-Abu Dhabi)

Title: The Case for Commitment

Abstract:  Theories of structural, instrumental rationality generally do not make reference to anything we might call ‘commitment’, beyond the sense in which all intentions are a kind of settled commitment.  Some views do allow for things like commitments, resolutions, or faith to affect how we ought to reason, but these tend to be characterized as all-or-nothing notions whose role is to preserve inertia by preventing reconsideration and/or desensitizing us to new evidence.  I conjecture that we're led to this overly narrow conception of commitment by thinking of temptation as the primary cause of giving up on an end prematurely, and overlooking the importance of obstacles like procrastination and despair.  I will look at two phenomena associated with rational agency in the face of uncertainty:  backup planning, and what I will call "doing enough."  I argue that in each case, our understanding of these phenomena is deepened by bringing in a degreed notion of commitment that involves far more than merely blocking the effects of temptation.