Requiring and justifying: Two dimensions of normative strength [Book Review]

Erkenntnis 59 (1):5 - 36 (2003)

Joshua Gert
College of William and Mary
Many contemporary accounts of normative reasons for action accord a single strength value to normative reasons. This paper first uses some examples to argue against such views by showing that they seem to commit us to intransitive or counterintuitive claims about the rough equivalence of the strengths of certain reasons. The paper then explains and defends an alternate account according to which normative reasons for action have two separable dimensions of strength: requiring strength, and justifying strength. Such an account explains our intuitions in the cases that make trouble for single-value views. The justifying/requiring account is compared with two other solutions that have been offered to justify and explain our intuitions about these sorts of cases. These other solutions appeal to the notions of incommensurability of reasons, and to second-order normative entities called `exclusionary permissions'. It is argued that the justifying/requiring distinction provides a superior solution.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Ethics   Logic   Ontology
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Reprint years 2004
DOI 10.1023/A:1023930108900
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