Responding to Normativity

In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 2. Clarendon Press. 220--39 (2007)
To many it seems obvious that normativity or justification depends upon desire. Few answers to the question, ‘Why should I?’ seem more natural than ‘Because I want to,’ and if we are told, ‘You should do this,’ there is something natural about the objection, ‘But I don’t want to, so why?’ I believe that the very nature of normativity can be comprehensively explained in terms of desire: the mysterious ‘force’ of value, reasons, and obligation are explicable by appeal to the ‘force’ of our motivating psychological states. This desire-based normativity (DBN) thesis faces serious difficulties, however, that seem insuperable to most sophisticated minds who contemplate them. I remain convinced that DBN is correct, although as yet unvindicated. This paper seeks to lay the cornerstone of what could prove a successful strategy, sketching an Argument from Voluntary Response that is based on the autonomous character of our experience of normative authority and the voluntary character of our responses to it.
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