Compunction, Buck-Passing, and Moral Reasons: Reply to Darwall

Abstract

In “’But It Would Be Wrong,’” Stephen Darwall advances a mixed view regarding “deontic buck-passing.” He holds that a wrong action’s “wrong-making features” are our reasons for reactive attitudes like blame; with respect to these reasons, the action’s wrongness “passes the buck” to these features. Yet the action’s being wrong is itself an additional reason for the agent not to do the action, Darwall contends, a “second-personal” moral reason. So with respect to reasons for action, the buck doesn’t get passed. But once we remember that compunction is one of the moral reactive attitudes, we can see that Darwall’s rationale for treating these two sorts of reasons differently is insufficient. While giving up on deontic buck-passing altogether would require significant revisions to his second-personal account of morality, Darwall can easily adopt a thoroughgoing buck-passing, since a wrong action’s wrong-making features can be second-personal reasons not to do it.

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Dale E. Miller
Old Dominion University

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