The Authority of Formality

Oxford Studies in Metaethics 13 (2018)
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Abstract

Etiquette and other merely formal normative standards like legality, honor, and rules of games are taken less seriously than they should be. While these standards are not intrinsically reason-providing in the way morality is often taken to be, they also play an important role in our practical lives: we collectively treat them as important for assessing the behavior of ourselves and others and as licensing particular forms of sanction for violations. This chapter develops a novel account of the normativity of formal standards where the role they play in our practical lives explains a distinctive kind of reason to obey them. We have this kind of reason to be polite because etiquette is important to us. We also have this kind of reason to be moral because morality is important to us. This parallel suggests that the importance we assign to morality is insufficient to justify it being substantive.

Author's Profile

Jack Woods
University of Leeds

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