Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 327–328 | Cite as



The papers on value theory published in this issue of ETMP derive, with one exception, from the contributions to a workshop on value we organized in connection with the 6th European Congress of Analytic Philosophy, held in Cracow in August 2008. The exception is the paper by Jennie Louise, which we decided to add at a later stage. We are grateful to the Swedish Research Council and the Swiss NCCR in affective science for the support which made possible the workshop in Cracow.

Five of the papers deal with different aspects of the analysis of value in terms of fitting pro-attitudes towards the valuable object or, what amounts to essentially the same thing, in terms of reasons for favouring the object. Following Thomas Scanlon, this format of analysis is often referred to as the buck-passing account of value.

Johan Brännmark notes that the buck-passing account cannot do justice to the phenomenology of value. Nor can it give an account of what it is to be a good F, for example, a good burglar; there is no real reason to favour burglars unless one wants to hire one. A better account of value, he argues, is metaphysical attributivism: the goodness of an object is relative to a comparison class.

Several papers consider the well-known Wrong Kind of Reasons-problem for this format of analysis: It seems there might be reasons to favour an object that are of the ‘wrong kind’, insofar as they have no bearing on the object’s value.

Jennie Louise criticises attempts to distinguish reasons of the right kind and reasons of the wrong kind for some attitude, in particular the appeal to a distinction between reasons for e.g. admiring someone and reasons for wanting to admire someone. Is a consideration a reason of the right kind for a response only if awareness of that consideration could directly produce the response? No. For it is a merely contingent fact that there are no creatures who respond directly to reasons of the wrong kind. She also considers the objection that the attitudes are inherently normative and argues that by no means all attitudes have this property.

Jonas Olson addresses the ‘partiality challenge’ to the fitting-attitudes analysis: An agent might have personal reasons to favour an object without it having any bearing on the object’s value. Several ways of dealing with this challenge are shown to be unsatisfactory. Since the partiality challenge is a special case of the Wrong Kind of Reasons-problem, Olson argues that we can deal with the special case in the same way as we should deal with the general problem. In each case, the solution is to be found in distinguishing between the moral ought and the ought of fittingness.

Andrew Reisner considers two types of objection to buck-passing and fitting-attitude theories of good or final value, the Wrong Kind of Reasons-problem and the ‘inaccuracy objection’ (the variety of value is greater than the variety of attitudes). He argues that replies to the objections by friends of the theories in fact rely on intuitions about value and that even if the theories could deal with the objections they cannot account for the links between value, pro-attitudes and action.

Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen investigates the nature of favouring something for someone’s sake, a property he has elsewhere appealed to in giving a buck-passing account of what it is for an object to be valuable for someone (x is valuable for y iff there are reasons to favour x for y’s sake). He argues that some of the peculiarities of for someone’s sake come into focus if we compare e.g. admiration and love. The properties which justify admiration typically make what is admired valuable but what makes a loved person valuable is the identity of that person.

The two remaining papers take up, respectively, the value of knowledge and the notion of goodness-for.

Christian Piller addresses the Meno problem: What reason is there to care about having a justified true belief regarding a matter we are interested in over and above simply having a true belief about that matter? He considers an analogous problem about ‘probabilistic goodness’: the property of being likely to be good or being likely to bring about something good. Piller rejects the consequentialist suggestion that the normative force of probabilistic goodness wholly derives from the goodness of its likely outcome. Likewise, he rejects the standard consequentialist explanation of the reason we ought to care about the justification of our beliefs. In both cases he opts for a deontological account of the relevant normativity.

Michael Zimmerman suggests that the concept of a good life should be analyzed in terms of goodness-for. A good life is a life that is good for the person who lives it. But what does it mean to say that something, x, is good for someone, P ? The list of unsatisfactory answers includes proposals such as that x is good and belongs to P, that x’s belonging to P is good, that P favours x, or would favour x under ideal circumstances, that P has reasons to favour x, or that everyone has reason to favour x for P’s sake. The answers that survive Zimmerman’s scrutiny account for goodness for P in terms of what benefits P or—equivalently—in terms of what P has a prudential reason to favour.


August 2009

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of GenevaGeneva, 4Switzerland
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyLund UniversityLundSweden

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