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The Right Kind of Solution to the Wrong Kind of Reason Problem

  • GERALD LANG (a1)
Abstract

Recent discussion of Scanlon's ‘buck-passing’ account of value, which analyses the value of X in terms of agents' reasons for having certain pro-attitudes or contra-attitudes towards X, has generated the ‘wrong kind of reason’ problem (WKR problem): this is the problem, for the buck-passing view, of being able to acknowledge that there may be good reasons for attributing final value to X that have nothing to do with the final value that X actually possesses. I briefly review some of the existing solutions offered to the WKR problem, including those by Philip Stratton-Lake and Jonas Olson, and offer a new, better one, which accommodates all the relevant cases presented in the literature.

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1 Scanlon T. M., What We Owe to Each Other (London, 1998), p. 96.

2 See Stratton-Lake Philip and Hooker Brad, ‘Scanlon versus Moore on Goodness’, Metaethics after Moore, ed. Horgan T. and Timmons M. (Oxford, 2006), for a helpful discussion of these issues.

3 See Rabinowicz Wlodek and Rønnow-Rasmussen Tonni, ‘The Strike of the Demon: On Fitting Pro-Attitudes and Value’, Ethics 114 (2004), p. 400.

4 Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen, ‘The Strike of the Demon’, p. 402.

5 Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen, ‘The Strike of the Demon’, p. 403.

6 ED1 originally derives from Roger Crisp's review of Value . . . and What Follows, by Kupperman Joel, in Philosophy 75 (2000), p. 459; the other cases are taken from Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen, ‘The Strike of the Demon’, and are further discussed by Stratton-Lake Philip, ‘How to Deal with Evil Demons: Comment on Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen’, Ethics 115 (2005), and Olson Jonas, ‘Buck-Passing and the Wrong Kind of Reasons’, The Philosophical Quarterly 54 (2004). (Some of the labels are borrowed from Stratton-Lake.)

7 Parfit Derek, ‘Rationality and Reasons’, in Exploring Practical Philosophy: From Action to Values, ed. Egonsson D., Petersson B., Josefsson J., and Rønnow-Rasmussen T. (Aldershot, 2001), p. 21.

8 Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen, ‘The Strike of the Demon’, p. 406; emphases and lettering marginally altered.

9 See Stratton-Lake, ‘How to Deal with Evil Demons’.

10 Stratton-Lake, ‘How to Deal with Evil Demons’, p. 793.

11 Stratton-Lake, ‘How to Deal with Evil Demons’, p. 792.

12 Stratton-Lake, ‘How to Deal with Evil Demons’, p. 794; emphasis added.

13 Stratton-Lake, ‘How to Deal with Evil Demons’, p. 793.

14 Stratton-Lake, ‘How to Deal with Evil Demons’, p. 793.

15 See Olson, ‘Buck-Passing and the Wrong Kind of Reasons’, p. 299.

16 Olson, ‘Buck-Passing and the Wrong Kind of Reasons’, p. 299. Stratton-Lake, ‘How to Deal with Evil Demons’, p. 797n., alleges that Olson does not offer his own buck-passing account of final value, but it seems to me, in the form of BPV3, that Olson does exactly that.

17 Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen , ‘Buck-Passing and the Right Kind of Reasons’, The Philosophical Quarterly 56 (2006), p. 118.

18 I will, however, have cause to return to Lovable in section VII, in order to diagnose a potential ambiguity in it.

19 Stratton-Lake, ‘How to Deal with Evil Demons’, p. 796.

20 Stratton-Lake, ‘How to Deal with Evil Demons’, p. 796.

21 I find Stratton-Lake's reasons for thinking that ED3 generates non-instrumental reasons rather elusive (see ‘How to Deal with Evil Demons’, p. 797), but I take this to be the most likely interpretation of his argument.

22 See Danielsson Sven and Olson Jonas, ‘Brentano and the Buck-Passers’, Mind 116 (2007). (As will be obvious, the reference they make to the present article is to an earlier, unpublished incarnation of it.)

23 Danielsson and Olson, ‘Brentano and the Buck-Passers’, pp. 514–15.

24 Danielsson and Olson, ‘Brentano and the Buck-Passers’, p. 516.

25 Danielsson and Olson, ‘Brentano and the Buck-Passers’, p. 516.

26 See John Skorupski, ‘Buck-Passing about Goodness’, Hommage à Wlodek: Philosophical Essays Dedicated to Wlodek Rabinowicz, ed. D. Egonsson, J. Josefsson, B. Petersson and T. Rønnow-Rasmussen (Lund, forthcoming); available at <www.fil.lu.se/hommageawlodek>.

27 See Danielsson and Olson, ‘Brentano and the Buck-Passers’, p. 513.

28 Danielsson and Olson, ‘Brentano and the Buck-Passers’, pp. 513–14.

29 Thus I think Skorupski is perfectly correct to suppose that Danielsson's and Olson's criticism of his solution applies to their own: see ‘Brentano and the Buck-Passers’, p. 518n.

30 Danielsson and Olson, ‘Brentano and the Buck-Passers’, pp. 517–18.

31 Thanks to Andy McGonigal for pressing this possibility on me.

32 In presenting ED4, I have switched from the first-person plural to the first-person singular, but this does not leave us with any troubling inconsistency with the other cases I have considered.

33 Many thanks to Kent Hurtig, Arto Laitinen, and the participants in a graduate colloquium on practical reason held in the Philosophy Department at the University of Jävyskylä in December 2005, for very helpful and constructive comments on an earlier version of this material. Thanks also to Ulrike Heuer, Andy McGonigal, Andrew Reisner and, especially, Jonas Olson, for useful exchanges about these issues and/or comments on later versions of this article.

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Utilitas
  • ISSN: 0953-8208
  • EISSN: 1741-6183
  • URL: /core/journals/utilitas
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