Are all practical reasons based on value?

Oxford Studies in Metaethics 17:27-53 (2022)
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According to an attractive and widely held view, all practical reasons are explained in terms of the (instrumental or final) value of the action supported by the reason. I argue that this theory is incompatible with plausible assumptions about the practical reasons that correspond to certain moral rights, including the right to a promised action and the right to an exclusive use of one’s property. The argument is an explanatory rather than extensional one: while the actions supported by the relevant reasons (e.g. keeping a valid promise or respecting property) can be argued to have a certain kind of value, I argue that this value presupposes a moral right, and therefore cannot explain the reason. Reflection on such cases suggest the conclusion that reasons that are subject to normative powers are generally not value-based. This also has important implications for the dialectic between ‘value-first’ and ‘reasons-first’ approaches to normativity.

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Benjamin Kiesewetter
Bielefeld University


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