Ethics 122 (3):489-515 (2012)

Jonathan Way
University of Southampton
According to fitting-attitudes accounts of value, the valuable is what there is sufficient reason to value. Such accounts face the famous wrong kind of reason problem. For example, if an evil demon threatens to kill you unless you value him, it may appear that you have sufficient reason to value the demon, although he is not valuable. One solution to this problem is to deny that the demon’s threat is a reason to value him. It is instead a reason to want to value the demon, and to bring it about that you value him. However, many proponents of the wrong kind of reason problem find this solution unmotivated. This paper thus offers a new argument for this solution. The argument turns on the ‘transmission’ of reasons – the familiar fact that there is often reason for one action or attitude because there is reason for another. I observe that putative reasons of the wrong kind transmit in a very different way to other reasons. I then argue that this difference is best explained by the hypothesis that putative reasons of the wrong kind are not reasons for the attitude in question, but are instead reasons to want and bring about that attitude.
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DOI 10.1086/664749
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