Wrongfulness rewarded?: A normative paradox

Synthese 199 (3-4):6897-6916 (2021)
  Copy   BIBTEX


In this paper, we raise and discuss a puzzle about the relationships among goods, reasons, and deontic status. Suppose you have it within your power to give someone something they would enjoy. The following claims seem platitudinous: you can use this power to reward whatever kind of option you want, thereby making that option better and generating a reason for that person to perform it; this reason is then weighed alongside and against the other reasons at play; and altogether, the reasons determine the deontic statuses of that person’s options. We show, however, that in a certain class of cases at least one of these apparent platitudes must be false. In particular, we show that in a certain kind of case wrongfulness cannot be rewarded. In some cases, if one tries to reward wrongfulness, something surprising must go awry: either what you attempt to give as a reward would not, in fact, be good, or it would not generate a reason, or it would have a surprising effect on the deontic status of the relevant options. The upshot is that the relationships among goods, reasons, and deontic status are complicated in ways that have not previously been remarked.

Similar books and articles

The Wrongfulness Constraint in Criminalisation.Antje du Bois-Pedain - 2014 - Criminal Law and Philosophy 8 (1):149-169.
The Wrongfulness Constraint in Criminalisation.Antje Bois-Pedain - 2014 - Criminal Law and Philosophy 8 (1):149-169.
Perform Your Best Option.Douglas W. Portmore - 2013 - Journal of Philosophy 110 (8):436-459.
Reasons Not to Consider Our Options.Jeffrey Seidman - 2020 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 6 (3):353-371.
When Hard Choices Become Easy.Christopher Knapp - 2004 - American Philosophical Quarterly 41 (4):323-330.
Are all practical reasons based on value?Benjamin Kiesewetter - 2022 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 17:27-53.
Wrongfulness and Prohibitions.J. R. Edwards & A. P. Simester - 2014 - Criminal Law and Philosophy 8 (1):171-186.
Reasons and impossibility.Ulrike Heuer - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 147 (2):235 - 246.
Are Moral Reasons Morally Overriding?Douglas W. Portmore - 2008 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 11 (4):369-388.


Added to PP

216 (#93,618)

6 months
72 (#67,015)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

David O'Brien
Harvard University
Ben Schwan
Case Western Reserve University

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Slaves of the passions.Mark Andrew Schroeder - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Ethics without principles.Jonathan Dancy - 2004 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Famine, Affluence, and Morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Oxford University Press USA.
Famine, affluence, and morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.

View all 25 references / Add more references