Second Person Rules: An Alternative Approach to Second-Personal Normativity

Res Publica 23 (1):23-42 (2017)
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Stephen Darwall’s moral theory explains moral obligation by appealing to a “second-person” standpoint where persons use second-person reasons to hold one another accountable for their moral behavior. However, Darwall claims obligations obtain if and only if hypothetical persons endorse them, despite tying the second-person standpoint to our real-world moral practices. Focus on hypothetical persons renders critical elements of his account obscure. I solve this problem by distinguishing two ideas quietly working in tandem, the hypothetical endorsement of moral norms and the hypothetical recognition of these norms. Hypothetical endorsement is a plausible source of normativity; hypothetical recognition is not. A more plausible account of second-person normativity must combine hypothetical endorsement with actual recognition. I term these alternative conceptions justification and easy publication. To combine justification and easy publication in an account of moral obligation, second-person normativity should be applied first to rules. Following other moral philosophers, I introduce the concept of a “social-moral” rule into an account of moral obligation. Social-moral rules acquire normative force when they are justified for and easily published by the relevant moral community. I conclude that a rule-centric account of second-personality is superior to Darwall’s reason-centric account.



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Kevin Vallier
Bowling Green State University

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References found in this work

What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
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