, Volume 157, Issue 1, pp 77-91

Resisting buck-passing accounts of prudential value

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Abstract

This paper aims to cast doubt upon a certain way of analysing prudential value (or good for), namely in the manner of a ‘buck-passing’ analysis. It begins by explaining why we should be interested in analyses of good for and the nature of buck-passing analyses generally (§I). It moves on to considering and rejecting two sets of buck-passing analyses. The first are analyses that are likely to be suggested by those attracted to the idea of analysing good for in a buck-passing fashion (§II). The second are the buck-passing analyses of good for proposed by John Skorupski (§III), Henry Sidgwick (§IV), and Stephen Darwall (§V). Along the way the paper shows that Michael Smith’s and Peter Railton’s analyses of other concepts—analyses that could be (and have been) taken to be analyses of good for—are similarly unsuitable as analyses of it. The paper concludes by suggesting that the fact that none of the buck-passing accounts of good for considered here is satisfactory, coupled with an appreciation of the various problems that a buck-passing analysis of good for would have to avoid, suggests that we should be sceptical about the prospects of finding such an analysis and should look for one of a different type.