In a number of recent philosophical debates, it has become common to distinguish between two kinds of normative reasons, often called the right kind of reasons (henceforth: RKR) and the wrongkind of reasons (henceforth: WKR). The distinction was first introduced in discussions of the so-called buck-passing account of value, which aims to analyze value properties in terms of reasons for pro-attitudes and has been argued to face the wrongkind of (...)reasons problem. But nowadays it also gets applied in other philosophical contexts and to reasons for other responses than pro-attitudes, for example in recent debates about evidentialism and pragmatism about reasons for belief. While there seems to be wide agreement that there is a general and uniform distinction that applies to reasons for different responses, there is little agreement about the scope, relevance and nature of this distinction. Our aim in this article is to shed some light on this issue by surveying the RKR/WKR distinction as it has been drawn with respect to different responses, and by examining how it can be understood as a uniform distinction across different contexts. We start by considering reasons for pro-attitudes and emotions in the context of the buck-passing account of value (§1). Subsequently we address the distinction that philosophers have drawn with respect to reasons for other attitudes, such as beliefs and intentions (§2), as well as with respect to reasons for action (§3). We discuss the similarities and differences between the ways in which philosophers have drawn the RKR/WKR distinction in these areas and offer different interpretations of the idea of a general, uniform distinction. The major upshot is that there is at least one interesting way of substantiating a general RKR/WKR distinction with respect to a broad range of attitudes as well as actions. We argue that this has important implications for the proper scope of buck-passing accounts and the status of the wrongkind of reasons problem (§4). (shrink)
In this paper I argue against the stronger of the two views concerning the right and wrongkind of reasons for belief, i.e. the view that the only genuine normative reasons for belief are evidential. The project in this paper is primarily negative, but with an ultimately positive aim. That aim is to leave room for the possibility that there are genuine pragmatic reasons for belief. Work is required to make room for this view, because (...) evidentialism of a strict variety remains the default view in much of the debate concerning normative reasons for belief. Strict versions of evidentialism are inconsistent with the view that there are genuine pragmatic reasons for belief. (shrink)
Mark Schroeder has recently offered a solution to the problem of distinguishing between the so-called " right " and " wrong " kinds of reasons for attitudes like belief and admiration. Schroeder tries out two different strategies for making his solution work: the alethic strategy and the background-facts strategy. In this paper I argue that neither of Schroeder's two strategies will do the trick. We are still left with the problem of distinguishing the right from the wrong (...) kinds of reasons. (shrink)
In a recent issue of Utilitas Gerald Lang provided an appealing new solution to the WrongKind of Reason problem for the buck-passing account of value. In subsequent issues Jonas Olson and John Brunero have provided objections to Lang's solution. I argue that Brunero's objection is not a problem for Lang's solution, and that a revised version of Lang's solution avoids Olson's objections. I conclude that we can solve the WrongKind of Reason problem, and that (...) the wrongkind of reasons for pro-attitudes are reasons that would not still be reasons for pro-attitudes if it were not for the additional consequences of having those pro-attitudes. (shrink)
According to T.M. Scanlon's buck-passing account of value, to be valuable is not to possess intrinsic value as a simple and unanalysable property, but rather to have other properties that provide reasons to take up an attitude in favour of their owner or against it. The 'wrongkind of reasons' objection to this view is that we may have reasons to respond for or against something without this having any bearing on its value. The challenge (...) is to explain why such reasons are of the wrongkind. This is what I set out to do, after illustrating the objection more thoroughly. (shrink)
The ‘buck-passing’ account equates the value of an object with the existence of reasons to favour it. As we argued in an earlier paper, this analysis faces the ‘wrongkind of reasons’ problem: there may be reasons for pro-attitudes towards worthless objects, in particular if it is the pro-attitudes, rather than their objects, that are valuable. Jonas Olson has recently suggested how to resolve this difficulty: a reason to favour an object is of the right (...)kind only if its formulation does not involve any reference to the attitudes for which it provides a reason. We argue that despite its merits, Olson's solution is unsatisfactory. We go on to suggest that the buck-passing account might be acceptable even if the problem in question turns out to be insoluble. (shrink)
Ulrike Heuer (2011) has recently revisited ‘the wrongkind of reasons’ (WKR) problem for buckpassing accounts of value. She suggests that, insofar we want to avoid the problem, we have to abandon orthodox buckpassing accounts that incorporate a fitting attitude analysis of value. Instead, she proposes that we could do with a novel buckpassing account couched in terms of reasons for action. The aim of this paper is to show that the problem both remains in its (...) original form, that is, in relation to reasons for attitudes, and it is also carried over to reasons for action. Therefore, this is not the way to solve the WKR problem. (shrink)
Skepticism about the ‘wrongkind’ of reasons—the view that wrong-kindreasons are reasons to want and bring about certain attitudes, but not reasons for those attitudes—is more often assumed than argued for. Jonathan Way sets out to remedy this: he argues that skeptics about, but not defenders of, wrong-kindreasons can explain a distinctive pattern of transmission among such reasons and claims that this fact lends significant support to (...) the skeptical view. I argue that Way's positive case for wrong-kind reason skepticism fails. I conclude with an account of what's needed to resolve the debate between wrong-kind reason skeptics and defenders. (shrink)
I consider Antti Kauppinen’s recent proposal for solving the wrongkind of reasons problem for fitting attitude analyses through an appeal to the verdicts of ideal subjects. I present two problems for Kauppinen’s treatment of a foreseen objection, and construct a counterexample to his proposal as it applies to the wrongkind of reasons to admire someone. I then show how to construct similar counterexamples to his proposal as it applies to the wrong (...)kind of reasons for other attitudes, including guilt and shame. (shrink)
According to fitting-attitude (FA) accounts of value, X is of final value if and only if there are reasons for us to have a certain pro-attitude towards it. FA accounts supposedly face the wrongkind of reason (WKR) problem. The WKR problem is the problem of revising FA accounts to exclude so called wrongkind of reasons. And wrongkind of reasons are reasons for us to have certain pro-attitudes towards (...) things that are not of value. I argue that the WKR problem can be dissolved. I argue that (A) the view that there are wrongkind of reasons for the pro-attitudes that figure in FA accounts conflicts with the conjunction of (B) an extremely plausible and extremely weak connection between normative and motivating rea- sons and (C) an extremely plausible generality constraint on the reasons for pro- attitudes that figure in FA accounts. I argue that when confronted with this trilemma we should give up (A) rather than (B) or (C) because there is a good explanation of why (A) seems so plausible but is in fact false, but there is no good explanation of why (B) and (C) seem so plausible but are in fact false. (shrink)
The 'fitting-attitudes analysis' aims to analyze evaluative concepts in terms of attitudes, but suffers from the 'wrongkind of reasons' problem. This article critiques some suggested solutions to the WKR problem and offers one of its own, which appeals to the aims of attitudes. However, goodness is not a concept that can be successfully analyzed according to the method suggested here. Reasons are given why goodness should be thought of, instead, as a mind-independent property.
In his article , Gerald Lang formulates the buck-passing account of value so as to resolve the WrongKind of Reason Problem. I argue against his formulation of buck-passing. Specifically, I argue that his formulation of buck-passing is not compatible with consequentialism (whether direct or indirect), and so it should be rejected.
In his article ‘The Right Kind of Solution to the WrongKind of Reason Problem’, Gerald Lang formulates the buck-passing account of value so as to resolve the WrongKind of Reason Problem. I argue against his formulation of buck-passing. Specifically, I argue that his formulation of buck-passing is not compatible with consequentialism, and so it should be rejected.
In The Second Person Standpoint, Stephen Darwall makes a new argument against consequentialism, appealing to: the conceptual tie between obligation and accountability, and the for holding others accountable. I argue that Darwall's argument, as it stands, fails against indirect consequentialism, because it relies on a confusion between our being right to establish practices, and our having a right to do so. I also explore two ways of augmenting Darwall's argument. However, while the second of these ways is more promising than (...) the first, neither provides a convincing argument against indirect consequentialism. (shrink)
A good number of people currently thinking and writing about reasons identify a reason as a consideration that counts in favor of an action or attitude.1 I will argue that using this as our fundamental account of what a reason is generates a fairly deep and recalcitrant ambiguity; this account fails to distinguish between two quite different sets of considerations that count in favor of certain attitudes, only one of which are the “proper” or “appropriate” kind of reason (...) for them. This ambiguity has been the topic of recent discussion, under the head “the wrongkind of reasons problem.”2 I will suggest that confusion about “the wrongkind of reason” will be dispelled by changing our account of what a reason is. While I agree both that reasons are considerations and that certain.. (shrink)
Here I defend my solution to the wrong-kind-of-reason problem against Mark Schroeder’s criticisms. In doing so, I highlight an important difference between other accounts of reasons and my own. While others understand reasons as considerations that count in favor of attitudes, I understand reasons as considerations that bear (or are taken to bear) on questions. Thus, to relate reasons to attitudes, on my account, we must consider the relation between attitudes and questions. By considering (...) that relation, we not only solve the wrong-kind-of-reason problem, but we also bring into view rational agency—the use of reasons in thought. (shrink)
According to fitting-attitudes accounts of value, the valuable is what there is sufficient reason to value. Such accounts face the famous wrongkind 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 wrongkind 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 wrongkind 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 wrongkind are not reasons for the attitude in question, but are instead reasons to want and bring about that attitude. (shrink)
The fact that someone is generous is a reason to admire them. The fact that someone will pay you to admire them is also a reason to admire them. But there is a difference in kind between these two reasons: the former seems to be the ‘right’ kind of reason to admire, whereas the latter seems to be the ‘wrong’ kind of reason to admire. The WrongKind of Reasons Problem is the (...) problem of explaining the difference between the ‘right’ and the ‘wrong’ kind of reasons wherever it appears. In this article I argue that two recent proposals for solving the WrongKind of Reasons Problem do not work. I then offer an alternative solution that provides a unified, systematic explanation of the difference between the two kinds of reasons. (shrink)
T. M. Scanlon suggests that the binding nature of promises itself plays a role in allowing a promisee rationally to expect follow through even while that binding nature itself depends on the promisee’s rational expectation of follow through. Kolodny and Wallace object that this makes the account viciously circular. The chapter defends Scanlon’s theory from this objection. It argues that the basic complaint is a form of wrong kinds of reason objection. The thought is that the promisee’s reason to (...) expect compliance are undermined if the promise is binding only when the promisee forms that very expectation. The chapter suggests that other uncontroversially rational processes of multi-person coordination involve beliefs with the very same feature. Focal point reasoning in the theory of games is one example. In coordination situations it can be rational to believe that another person will do something precisely because that person expects you to believe what one does about what they’ll do. An examination of the reasoning in such cases motivates a group reflection principle that vindicates the reasoning employed in Scanlon’s account. -/- . (shrink)
The paper presents and discusses the so-called WrongKind of Reasons Problem (WKR problem) that arises for the fitting-attitudes analysis of value. This format of analysis is exemplified for example by Scanlon's buck-passing account, on which an object's value consists in the existence of reasons to favour the object- to respond to it in a positive way. The WKR problem can be put as follows: It appears that in some situations we might well have reasons (...) to have pro-attitudes toward objects that are not valuable. Or vice versa: we might have reasons not to have pro-attitudes toward some valuable objects. The paper goes through several attempts to solve (or dissolve) the WKR problem and argues that none of them is fully satisfactory. (shrink)
Recent discussion of Scanlon's account of value, which analyses the value of X in terms of agents' reasons for having certain pro-attitudes or contra-attitudes towards X, has generated the problem (WKR problem): this is the problem, for the buck-passing view, of being able to acknowledge that there may be good reasons for attributing final value to X that have nothing to do with the final value that X actually possesses. I briefly review some of the existing solutions offered (...) to the WKR problem, including those by Philip Stratton-Lake and Jonas Olson, and offer a new, better one, which accommodates all the relevant cases presented in the literature. (shrink)
In this paper it is argued that the buck-passing analysis (BPA) of final value is not a plausible analysis of value and should be abandoned. While considering the influential wrongkind of reason problem and other more recent technical objections, this paper contends that there are broader reasons for giving up on buck-passing. It is argued that the BPA, even if it can respond to the various technical objections, is not an attractive analysis of final value. It (...) is not attractive for two reasons: the first being that the BPA lacks the features typical of successful conceptual analyses and the second being that it is unable to deliver on the advantages that its proponents claim for it. While not offering a knock-down technical refutation of the BPA, this paper aims to show that there is little reason to think that the BPA is correct, and that it should therefore be given up as an analysis of final value. (shrink)
The so-called WrongKind of Reason (WKR) problem for Scanlon's account of value has been much discussed recently. In a recent issue of Utilitas Gerald Lang provides a highly useful critique of extant proposed solutions to the WKR problem and suggests a novel solution of his own. In this note I offer a critique of Lang's solution and respond to some criticisms Lang directs at a Brentano-style approach suggested by Sven Danielsson and me.
In a recent article in Utilitas, Gerald Lang suggests a solution to the so-called (WKR problem) for the buck-passing account of value. In two separate replies to Lang, Jonas Olson and John Brunero, respectively, point out serious problems with Lang's suggestion, and at least Olson concludes that the solution Lang opts for is of the wrongkind for solving the WKR problem. I argue that while both Olson and Brunero have indeed identified considerable flaws in Lang's suggestion for (...) a solution to the WKR problem, they have not provided sufficient grounds for dismissing the kind of solution that Lang proposes. I show how a version of this kind of solution can be formulated so as to avoid both Olson's and Brunero's objections. I also raise some worries concerning an alternative solution to the WKR problem suggested by Sven Danielsson and Jonas Olson. (shrink)
Philosophers have come to distinguish between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ kinds of reasons for belief, intention, and other attitudes. Several theories about the nature of this distinction have been offered, by far the most prevalent of which is the idea that it is, at bottom, the distinction between what are known as ‘object-given’ and ‘state-given’ reasons. This paper argues that the object-given/state-given theory vastly overgeneralizes on a small set of data points, and in particular that any adequate account (...) of the distinction between the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ kinds of reason must allow state-given reasons to be of the right kind. The paper has three main goals, corresponding to its three main parts. In part 1 I set up the problem by introducing the right-kind/wrong-kind distinction, the object-given/state-given distinction, and the object-given/state-given theory, according to which the former distinction simply amounts to the latter. Part 2 presents the main argument of the paper: I argue against the object-given/state-given theory by showing that all of the earmarks of the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ kinds of reason apply to reasons not to intend and not to believe, but that these cases can’t be captured by the object-given/state-given theory. Finally, in part 3 I use these arguments to motivate and explore a more general hypothesis about the rightkind/wrong-kind distinction, and explore some of the consequences of rejecting the object-given/stategiven theory. (shrink)
This special issue collects five new essays on various topics relevant to the ethics of belief. They shed fresh light on important questions, and bring new arguments to bear on familiar topics of concern to most epistemologists, and indeed, to anyone interested in normative requirements on beliefs either for their own sake or because of the way such requirements bear on other domains of inquiry.
Roger Crisp has inspired two important criticisms of Scanlon's buck-passing account of value. I defend buck-passing from the wrongkind of reasons criticism, and the reasons and the good objection. I support Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen's dual role of reasons in refuting the wrongkind of reasons criticism, even where its authors claim it fails. Crisp's reasons and the good objection contends that the property of goodness is buck-passing in virtue of its (...) formality. I argue that Crisp conflates general and formal properties, and that Scanlon is ambiguous about whether the formal property of a reason can stop the buck. Drawing from Wallace, I respond to Crisp's reasons and the good objection by developing an augmented buck-passing account of reasons and value, where the buck is passed consistently from the formal properties of both to the substantive properties of considerations and evaluative attitudes. I end by describing two unresolved problems for buck-passers. (shrink)
IntroductionIn a 1971 interview broadcast on Granada TV Manchester, Woody Allen made one of his trademark self-deprecating remarks about an early film of his: “It was a boring picture, as I recall.” The interviewer responded with surprise: “I rather enjoyed it.” To which Allen replied: “Yes, but you’re mistaken.” In the world of humor, Allen’s reply sounds odd – which is why it is funny. In the moral domain, an exchange like this would not sound weird at all. What is (...) or is not funny is settled by what we find funny. There is no being mistaken about it. Not so for morality: moral discourse – and our philosophical reconstruction of how it works – ought to allow for a considerable amount of error.Robust forms of sentimentalism about moral judgment, I will argue in this paper, fall short of this requirement.I will explain later what distinguishes robust forms of sentimentalism from softer ones. In its most general form, this charge is not new, and has been leveled against many metaethical. (shrink)
According to perspectivism about moral obligation, our obligations are affected by our epistemic circumstances. But how exactly should this claim be understood? On Zimmerman’s “Prospective View”, perspectivism is spelled out as the thesis that an option is obligatory if and only if it maximizes what Zimmerman calls “prospective value”, which is in turn determined by the agent’s present evidence. In this article, I raise two objections to this approach. Firstly, I argue that spelling out the difference between perspectivism and anti-perspectivism (...) in terms of value creates a number of problems that can be avoided by an account that proceeds in terms of reasons. Secondly, I argue that Zimmerman focuses on the wrong body of evidence, and that this commits him to an implausible solution to the problem that perspectivists face with regard to advice from better-informed sources. (shrink)
While other philosophers have pointed out that Libet’s experiment is compatible with compatibilist free will and also with some kinds of libertarian free will, this article ar- gues that it is even compatible with strong libertarian free will, i.e. a person’s ability to initiate causal processes. It is widely believed that Libet’s experiment has shown that all our actions have preceding unconscious causes. This article argues that Libet’s claim that the actions he invest- igated are voluntary is false. They are (...) urges, and there- fore the experiment shows at most that our urges have preceding unconscious causes, which is what also strong libertarianism leads us to expect. Further, Libet’s correct observation that we can veto urges undermines his claim that our actions are initiated unconsciously and supports the thesis that we have strong libertarian free will. (shrink)
I argue for the following four theses: (1) The Dread Thesis: human beings should fear having false religious beliefs concerning some religious doctrines; (2) The Radical Uncertainty Thesis: we, namely most human beings in our culture at our time, are in a situation where we have to commit ourselves on the truth or falsity of some propositions of ultimate importance; (3) The Radical Choice Thesis: considerations of expected loss or gain do not always provide guidance as to how to commit (...) ourselves on matters of religious doctrine that are both radically uncertain and of ultimate importance; (4) The Scandal Thesis: radical choice on matters of ultimate importance is neither good nor inevitable, but due to the collective failure of philosophers of religion. Then I consider some inadequate responses: playing the faith card; contra-Pascalian decision theory; spiritual chauvinism; that faith presupposes uncertainty; the older pachyderm; irony, subjectivity, relativism and non-cognitivism; tainted truth; and muddling through. Finally I submit that the way forward is quite simply to become better philosophers. (shrink)
This paper addresses a complaint, by Prichard, against Plato and other ancients. The charge is that they commit a mistake is in thinking that we are capable of giving reasons for the requirements of duty, rather than directly and immediately apprehending those requirements. I respond in two ways. First, Plato does not make the egregious mistake of substituting interest for duty, and thus giving the wrongkind of reason for duty’s requirements, as Prichard alleges. Second, we should (...) see that the ancient ethical enterprise as being comprehensive in a sense Prichard simply ignores. The ancients sought what we now call wide reflective equilibrium in judgments about both duty and interest, and to see this I focus on a puzzle in how to understand much of ancient moral philosophizing. This puzzle is to make sense of the work that formal constraints on happiness do to support their preferred views of happiness (or interest). This way of engaging not only our thoughts about duty and interest, but about what it is to be human and to lead a human life, make the ancient model far more satisfying than Prichard’s recommendation that we give it all up as a mistake. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: Confronted with the WrongKind of Reasons problem, several proponents of the fitting attitude analysis of emotional values have argued in favor of an epistemic approach. In such a view, an emotion fits its object because the emotion is correct. However, I argue that we should reorient our search towards a practical approach because only practical considerations can provide a satisfying explanation of the fittingness of emotional responses. This practical approach is partially revisionist, particularly because it (...) is no longer an analysis of final value and because it is relativistic. (shrink)
Worldwide wisdom teaches, and philosophy demonstrates, that universally valid is only the perspective able to recognize everybody’s right to be treated in a just manner. From this point of view we have to recognize that all propositions are in some sense true, and hence that even those who are wrong are, from a particular point of view, right. Therefore, we have the duty to understand in which sense even populist stances are, at least in some sense, true. For instance, (...) they can help us to keep in mind the limits of democracy and, in this way, to escape the dangerous “democratic superstition.”. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: In written work and a lecture at the 2008 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences that was co-sponsored by the Canadian Philosophical Association, Margaret Somerville has claimed that allowing same-sex marriage is unethical because doing so violates the inherently procreative function of marriage and thereby undermines the rights and duties that exist between children and their biological parents. In my paper, I offer five reasons for thinking that Somerville’s argument for this conclusion is unpersuasive. In each case (...) her argument either begs important questions about same-sex marriage or else relies on insufficient evidence to justify excluding a vulnerable minority group from participating in a state-sponsored social institution. RÉSUMÉ: Dans ses écrits ainsi que dans une conférence prononcée en 2008 au Congrès de la Fédération canadienne des sciences humaines, coparainnée par l’Association Canadienne de Philosophie, Margaret Somerville a prétendu que les mariages entre personnes de même sexe sont éthiquement inacceptables parce qu’ils violent la fonction primordiale du mariage, à savoir la procréation, et qu’ainsi ils portent atteinte aux droits et responsabilités qui lient les enfants et leurs parents biologiques. La présente communication se propose d’offrir cinq raisons pour lesquelles le point de vue de Margaret Somerville ne saurait convaincre. Dans chaque cas, sa pensée soit ne tient pas compte d’importantes questions soulevées par le mariage entre personnes de même sexe soit se fonde sur des prémisses inadéquates dans le but de faire interdire à une minorité vulnérable l’accès à une institution sociale garantie par l’État. (shrink)
Fitting Attitudes accounts of value analogize or equate being good with being desirable, on the premise that ‘desirable’ means not, ‘able to be desired’, as Mill has been accused of mistakenly assuming, but ‘ought to be desired’, or something similar. The appeal of this idea is visible in the critical reaction to Mill, which generally goes along with his equation of ‘good’ with ‘desirable’ and only balks at the second step, and it crosses broad boundaries in terms of philosophers’ other (...) commitments. For example, Fitting Attitudes accounts play a central role both in T.M. Scanlon’s  case against teleology, and in Michael Smith , [unpublished] and Doug Portmore’s  cases for it. And of course they have a long and distinguished history. (shrink)
This paper presents the results of training an artificial neural network (ANN) to classify moral situations. The ANN produces a similarity space in the process of solving its classification problem. The state space is subjected to analysis that suggests that holistic approaches to interpreting its functioning are problematic. The idea of a contributory or pro tanto standard, as discussed in debates between moral particularists and generalists, is used to understand the structure of the similarity space generated by the ANN. A (...) spectrum of possibilities for reasons, from atomistic to holistic, is discussed. Reasons are understood as increasing in nonlocality as they move away from atomism. It is argued that contributory standards could be used to understand forms of nonlocality that need not go all the way to holism. It is also argued that contributory standards may help us to understand the kind of similarity at work in analogical reasoning and argument in ethics. Some objections to using state space approaches to similarity are dealt with, as are objections to using empirical and computational work in philosophy. (shrink)
Subjects appear to take only evidential considerations to provide reason or justification for believing. That is to say that subjects do not take practical considerations—the kind of considerations which might speak in favour of or justify an action or decision—to speak in favour of or justify believing. This is puzzling; after all, practical considerations often seem far more important than matters of truth and falsity. In this paper, I suggest that one cannot explain this, as many have tried, merely (...) by appeal to the idea that belief aims only at the truth. I appeal instead to the idea that the aim of belief is to provide only practical reasons which might form the basis on which to act and to make decisions, an aim which is in turn dictated by the aim of action. This, I argue, explains why subjects take only evidential considerations to favour of or justify believing. Surprisingly, then, it turns out that it is practical reason itself which demands that there be no practical reasons for belief. (shrink)
A dialogue-based analysis of informal fallacies does not provide a fully adequate explanation of our intuitions about what is wrong with ad baculum and of when it is admissible and when it is not. The dialogue-based analysis explains well why mild, benign threats can be legitimate in some situations, such as cooperative bargaining and negotiation, but does not satisfactorily account for what is objectionable about more malicious uses of threats to coerce and to intimidate. I propose an alternative deriving (...) partly from virtue theory in ethics and epistemology and partly from Kantian principles of respect for persons as ends-in-themselves. I examine some specific kinds of social relations, e.g., parent-child and partner relationships, and ask what kinds of threats are permissible in these relationships and especially what is wrong with the objectionable threats. My explanation is framed in terms of the good character and contributing virtues of the ideal parent or partner on the one hand, and the bad character and contributing vices of the abusive parent or violent partner on the other. This analysis puts the discussion of theats in the context of virtue theory, of human flourishing, and of the kind of social relations it is best to have. In general, what's wrong with argumentum ad baculum should be explained in terms of the intentions, purposes, and character of threateners, and the differences in intentions and purposes for which threats are made. The characters of those who make the threats will provide the criteria for distinguishing benign and malicious threats. (shrink)
The increase in incarceration of offenders in the United States over the last 40 years has created a system of mass incarceration or mass punishment. While consequentialist theories of punishment may generate considerable doubts about the value of this system, it seems that retributive theories of punishment lack the resources to criticize mass punishment. Because of their focus on individual desert, it seems that they can say nothing about punishment in the aggregate. Nevertheless, there are good reasons for a (...) certain kind of retributivism to question the justice of mass punishment. When retributive punishment is considered as one of the functions of a state whose task is to create and maintain a system of equal freedom for all, then punishment must be justified not only at the individual level but also at the level of the system of punishment as a whole. If the criminal justice system inflicts excessive amounts of punishment in the aggregate, it becomes unjust, not because individual offenders are treated unjustly, but because a policy of relentless prosecution and punishment is not appropriate for a free society. (shrink)
Our concepts of good simpliciter, good for, and good as a particular kind of thing must share some common element. I argue that all three types of goodness can be analysed in terms of the reasons that there are for a certain sets of agents to have pro-attitudes. To this end I provide new and compelling accounts of good for and goodness of a kind in terms of reasons for pro-attitudes that are more explanatorily illuminating than (...) competing accounts and that evade the objections that undermine previous accounts of good for and goodness of a kind in terms of reasons. (shrink)