Reasons and requirements

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 11 (1):73 - 83 (2008)
In this essay I defend the claim that all reasons can ground final requirements. I begin by establishing a prima facie case for the thesis by noting that on a common-sense understanding of what finality is, it must be the case that all reasons can ground such requirements. I spend the rest of the paper defending the thesis against two recent challenges. The first challenge is found in Joshua Gert’s recent book, Brute Rationality. In it he argues that reasons play two logically distinct roles – requiring action and justifying action. He argues, further, that some reasons – ‘purely justificatory’ reasons – play only the latter role. Jonathan Dancy offers the second challenge in his Ethics Without Principles, where he distinguishes between the ‘favoring’ and ‘ought-making’ roles of reasons. While all reasons play the former role, some do not play the latter, and are therefore irrelevant to what one ought to do. My contention is that both Gert and Dancy are going to have trouble accounting for our intuitions in a number of cases.
Keywords Reasons  Practical reason
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DOI 10.2307/40284219
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