Reasons, Dispositions, and Value

Philosophers' Imprint 17 (2017)
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In this paper, I will discuss an objection to Buck-Passing accounts of value, such as Reasons Fundamentalism. Buck-Passing views take value to be derivative of or reducible to reasons. The objection is that since there can be value in possible worlds in which there are no reasons, value must not be ontologically derivative of reasons. Thus, BP is false. In this paper, I show that by accepting a dispositionalist revision, BP can allow such worlds while maintaining that reasons are interestingly prior to value, and without having to adopt any controversial metaphysics. I show this by exploring the debate over the nature of dispositions, identifying the diverse resources BP can appeal to. The paper proceeds as follows. I first explain BP. Next, I discuss a few versions of the challenge, settling on what seems to be the strongest form. Following this, I show that on many accounts of dispositions, while we should accept that particular instances of dispositions are prior to their particular manifestations, we should also accept that there is a sense in which dispositions are dependent on their manifestations. This provides BP with resources to respond to the challenge: BP can accept a dispositional revision, without committing to a theory of dispositions. Finally, I will respond to two objections. The first is about whether there are dispositions with impossible manifestations, contrary to my thesis that dispositions depend on their manifestations. The second is about whether there could be value where it would be impossible for that value to give reasons.

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Aaron P. Elliott
Lawrence University


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