Compunction, Second-Personal Morality, and Moral Reasons

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (3):719-733 (2018)
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In The Second-Person Standpoint and subsequent essays, Stephen Darwall develops an account of morality that is “second-personal” in virtue of holding that what we are morally obligated to do is what others can legitimately demand that we do, i.e., what they can hold us accountable for doing through moral reactive attitudes like blame. Similarly, what it would be wrong for us to do is what others can legitimately demand that we abstain from doing. As part of this account, Darwall argues for the proposition that we have a distinctive “second-personal reason” to fulfill all of our obligations and to avoid all wrong-actions, an “authority-regarding” reason that derives from the legitimate demands the “moral community” makes of us. I show that Darwall offers an insufficient case for this proposition. My criticism of this aspect of Darwall’s account turns in part on the fact that we have compunction-based or “compunctive” reasons to fulfill all of our obligations and to avoid all wrong actions, a type of reason that Darwall seemingly overlooks.



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Dale E. Miller
Old Dominion University

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References found in this work

Ethics Without Principles.Jonathan Dancy - 2004 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 2002 - Mind 111 (442):323-354.
Wise Choices, Apt Feelings.Allan Gibbard - 1990 - Ethics 102 (2):342-356.
Moral Thinking: Its Levels, Method and Point.David Zimmerman - 1984 - Philosophical Review 93 (2):293.

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