The Buck-Passing Stops Here
Thomas Scanlon influentially argues that, in the provision of reasons to act or believe, goodness and value ‘pass the buck’ to other properties. This paper first extends his arguments: if Scanlon shows that goodness and value pass the buck, then relevantly analogous arguments show that, contrary to Scanlon, duty and wrongness too pass this same buck. The paper then reverses Scanlon’s buck-passing arguments: if they show that goodness and value pass the reason-providing buck, then reasons themselves also pass the buck for providing goodness, value, duty, and wrongness. What to make of all this? The paper argues for scepticism about the significance of Scanlon’s buck-passing arguments for ethics.
KeywordsEthical Consideration Ethical Theory Analogous Argument Ethical Matter Reversal Argument
Conversations with Kent Hurtig started me on this paper. For comments on earlier drafts, I thank Martin Wilkinson, Jonas Olson, and Heather Dyke. Responses from participants at the Otago Philosophy Department seminar helped me to improve the paper. I thank James Maclaurin for leading the book project that this paper sits within. Above all, I thank Colin Cheyne – excellent philosopher, fine colleague and good friend.
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