Reasons, Competition, and Latitude

In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Volume 16. Oxford: Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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The overall moral status of an option—whether it is required, permissible, forbidden, or something we really should do—is explained by competition between the contributory reasons bearing on that option and the alternatives. A familiar challenge for accounts of this competition is to explain the existence of latitude: there are usually multiple permissible options, rather than a single required option. One strategy is to appeal to distinctions between reasons that compete in different ways. Philosophers have introduced various kinds of non-requiring reasons that do not generate requirements, even if they win the competition. This paper rejects two familiar versions of this strategy, one appealing to merely justifying reasons and one appealing to merely commendatory reasons. It offers a new account of how reasons compete that instead appeals to a sharp distinction between the reasons against an option and the reasons for the alternatives to that option.
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