Normative reasons and the agent-neutral/relative dichotomy

Philosophia 37 (2):227-243 (2009)
Abstract
The distinction between the agent-relative and the agent-neutral plays a prominent role in recent attempts to taxonomize normative theories. Its importance extends to most areas in practical philosophy, though. Despite its popularity, the distinction remains difficult to get a good grip on. In part this has to do with the fact that there is no consensus concerning the sort of objects to which we should apply the distinction. Thomas Nagel distinguishes between agent-neutral and agent-relative values, reasons, and principles; Derek Parfit focuses on normative theories (and the aims they provide to agents), David McNaughton and Piers Rawling focus on rules and reasons, Skorupski on predicates, and there are other suggestions too. Some writers suspect that we fundamentally talk about one and the same distinction. This work is about practical reasons for action rather than theoretical reasons for belief. Moreover, focus is on whether reasons do or do not essentially refer to particular agents. A challenge that undermines the dichotomy in this sense is posed. After having rejected different attempts to defend the distinction, it is argued that there is a possible defence that sets out from Jonathan Dancy’s recent distinction between enablers and favourers.
Keywords Agent-relative  Agent-neutral  Reasons  Motivating reasons  Justifying reasons-normative  Normative reasons  Apparent reasons  Dancy  Favourer  Enabler
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    References found in this work BETA
    Roger Crisp (2000). Particularizing Particularism. In Brad Hooker & Margaret Olivia Little (eds.), Moral Particularism. Oxford University Press. 23--47.

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    Citations of this work BETA
    Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen (2009). On for Someone's Sake Attitudes. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 12 (4):397 - 411.
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