Value-based accounts of normative powers and the wishful thinking objection

Philosophical Studies 179 (11):3211-3231 (2022)
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Normative powers like promising allow agents to effect changes to their reasons, permissions and rights by the means of communicative actions whose function is to effect just those changes. An attractive view of the normativity of such powers combines a non-reductive account of their bindingness with a value-based grounding story of why we have them. This value-based view of normative powers however invites a charge of wishful thinking: Is it not bad reasoning to think that we have a given power because it would be good? In this article, I offer a defence of the value-based view of normative powers against this surprisingly under-discussed objection. First, I clarify the challenge by distinguishing between two components of normative powers, which I call the material and normative components, respectively. Secondly, I defend the form of normative explanation involved, showing that it is needed to give convincing value-based explanations for other important normative phenomena, especially rights of autonomy.



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Daniele Bruno
Humboldt University, Berlin

Citations of this work

Trust-Based Theories of Promising.Daniele Bruno - 2020 - Philosophical Quarterly 70 (280):443-463.
Conventionalism and contingency in promissory powers.Andrew Lichter - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (5-6):1769-1792.

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References found in this work

What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 2002 - Mind 111 (442):323-354.
The Morality of Freedom.Joseph Raz - 1986 - Philosophy 63 (243):119-122.
Shaping the Normative Landscape.David Owens - 2012 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.

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