Theology and Philosophy

Dr Richard Rowland - 8 April

The Normative and the Evaluative

Abstract

According to the buck-passing account of value, facts about goodness and value just consist in facts about normative reasons for pro-attitudes. For instance, the fact that equality and freedom are of value just consists in the fact that there are reasons for us to desire and promote equality and freedom. Many have endorsed the buck-passing account. And a substantial literature exists attempting to defend the buck-passing account from the most persistent objection that has been made against it, namely that it produces too much value. But little has been said about why we should accept the buck-passing account over the most plausible view with which it competes, namely the value-first account of reasons for pro-attitudes. According to the value-first account, facts about normative reasons for pro-attitudes just consist in facts about value. For instance, the fact that there is a reason to desire equality and freedom just consists in the fact that equality and freedom are valuable. I provide two new arguments for accepting the buck-passing account over the value-first account. First I argue that the value-first account is inconsistent with pluralist and other deontological views in normative ethics. And I argue that (a) regardless of whether we are deontologists or not we should reject a view of the relationship between reasons and value that arbitrarily entails the falsity of popular and plausible substantial first-order views in normative ethics. And (b) if we accept the value-first account and thereby accept the falsity of pluralist and deontological views, we would be arbitrarily accepting the falsity of deontological views. So, we should reject the value-first account. Secondly, I argue that we should hold what I call The Unity of the Normative. That is, we should hold that epistemic reasons for belief and reasons for pro-attitudes are instances of the same relation. But the only plausible version of the value-first account does not extend to provide an account of epistemic reasons for belief. And because of this, I argue, if we accept the value-first account, we cannot accept The Unity of the Normative. But, I argue, if we accept the buck-passing account we can hang onto The Unity of the Normative. So, we should accept the buck-passing account over the value-first account.