Justin Snedegar develops and defends contrastivism about reasons. This is the view that normative reasons are fundamentally reasons for or against actions or attitudes only relative to sets of alternatives. Simply put, reasons are always reasons to do one thing rather than another, instead of simply being reasons to do something, full stop.
A promising but underexplored view about normative reasons is contrastivism, which holds that considerations are fundamentally reasons for things only relative to sets of alternatives. Contrastivism gains an advantage over non-contrastive theories by holding that reasons relative to different sets of alternatives can be independent of one another. But this feature also raises a serious problem: we need some way of constraining this independence. I develop a version of contrastivism that provides the needed constraints, and that is independently motivated by (...) the widespread idea that reasons involve the promotion of various kinds of objectives. (shrink)
Both in everyday life and in moral philosophy, many think that our own past wrongdoing can undermine our standing to indignantly blame others for similar wrongdoing. In recent literature on the ethics of blame, we find two different kinds of explanation for this. Relative moral status accounts hold that to have standing to blame, you must be better than the person you are blaming, in terms of compliance with the norm. Fault-based accounts hold that those who blame others for things (...) of which they are also guilty exhibit familiar moral faults, such as making an exception of oneself, and that these faults explain why they lack standing. I argue in support of relative moral status accounts, showing that they both better trace our practice of dismissing blame on the basis of lack of standing, and that they have more explanatory resources than has been appreciated. (shrink)
What an agent ought to do is determined by competition between reasons bearing on the options open to her. The popular metaphor of balancing or weighing reasons on a scale to represent this competition encourages a focus on competition between reasons for competing options. But what an agent ought to do also depends on the reasons against those options. The balancing metaphor does not provide an obvious way to represent reasons against. Partly as a result of this, there is a (...) serious lack of work on reasons against. A simple view is that there is no problem here, since reasons against an option are really just more reasons for—in particular, reasons for certain alternatives. This simple view lets us maintain the balancing metaphor, and more importantly, it simplifies theorizing about the competition between reasons. This is because if it’s true, there is really just one kind of competition, the competition between reasons for competing options. This paper challenges the simple view, arguing against several ways of identifying which alternatives to an option the reasons against it are reasons for. I also sketch a competing view, according to which reasons against are distinct from reasons for—these are two different normative relations. If this kind of view is correct, then our theory of the competition between reasons will need to recognize at least two kinds of competition: the one between reasons for competing options, and the one between the reasons for an option and the reasons against it. (shrink)
We use normative reasons in a bewildering variety of different ways. And yet, as many recent theorists have shown, one can discern systematic distinctions underlying this complexity. This paper is a contribution to this project of constructive normative metaphysics. We aim to bring a black sheep back into the flock: the balancing model of weighing reasons. This model is threatened by a variety of cases in which distinct reasons overlap, in the sense that they do not contribute separate weight for (...) or against an option. Our response is to distinguish between derivative reasons and load-bearing reasons, only the latter of which contribute non-overlapping weight to an option. This distinction is close at hand for analyses of reasons in terms of the promotion of significant outcomes. But we also develop an account of this distinction for fundamentalist theories of normative reasons. (shrink)
Contrastivism about reasons is the view that ‘reason’ expresses a relation with an argument place for a set of alternatives. This is in opposition to a more traditional theory on which reasons are reasons for things simpliciter. I argue that contrastivism provides a solution to a puzzle involving reason claims that explicitly employ ‘rather than’. Contrastivism solves the puzzle by allowing that some fact might be a reason for an action out of one set of alternatives without being a reason (...) for that action out of a different set of alternatives. (shrink)
Some philosophers hold that „ought‟ is ambiguous between a sense expressing a propositional operator and a sense expressing a relation between an agent and an action. We defend the opposing view that „ought‟ always expresses a propositional operator against Mark Schroeder‟s recent objections that it cannot adequately accommodate an ambiguity in „ought‟ sentences between evaluative and deliberative readings, predicting readings of sentences that are not actually available. We show how adopting an independently well-motivated contrastivist semantics for „ought‟, according to which (...) „ought‟ is always relativized to a contrast set of relevant alternatives, enables us to explain the evaluative-deliberative ambiguity and why the availability of these readings depends on sentential grammar. (shrink)
This paper raises a challenge for the recently popular reasons first approach to normativity, according to which all normative notions can be explained in terms of reasons. The reasons first theorist owes us an account of how these explanations go for all other normative notions. I focus here on requirement, and to a lesser extent, permission. There is a very plausible, widely accepted account of the relationship between your reasons and what you ought to do|roughly, what you ought to do (...) is just what you have most reason to do. But it is important to distinguish what you ought to do and what you are required to do. So we still need to give some account of the relationship between reasons and requirements, and relatedly, between reasons and permission. This is less straightforward than giving an account of ought in terms of reasons. I focus in this paper on a strategy I call the Two Kinds of Reasons strategy, and argue that it faces serious obstacles. (shrink)
Contrastivism about some concept says that the concept is relativized to sets of alternatives. Relative to some alternatives, the concept may apply, but relative to others, it may not. This article explores contrastivism about the central normative concepts of reasons and ought. Contrastivism about reasons says that a consideration may be a reason for an action A rather than one alternative, B, but may not be a reason for A rather than some other alternative, C. Likewise, contrastivism about ought says (...) that it might be that you ought to perform action A rather than action B, while it is not the case that you ought to perform A rather than some other alternative, C. It explores the shape and motivations for, and the relationship between, these contrastivist theories. (shrink)
This chapter investigates different ways that pro tanto reasons bearing on our options can compete with one another in order to determine the overall normative status of those options. It argues for two key claims: (i) any theory of this competition must include a distinct role for reasons against, in addition to reasons for, and (ii) any theory must allow for comparative verdicts about how strongly supported the options are by the reasons, rather than simply which options are permissible or (...) required. A simple balancing account and an account based on a distinction between requiring and justifying reasons are rejected, and a new account giving a distinct role for reasons against is introduced. (shrink)
A plausible constraint on normative reasons to act is that it must make sense to use them as premises in deliberation. I argue that a central sort of deliberation – what Bratman calls partial planning – is question-directed: it is over, and aims to resolve, deliberative questions. Whether it makes sense to use some consideration as a premise in deliberation in a case of partial planning can vary with the deliberative question at issue. I argue that the best explanation for (...) this is that reasons are contrastive or relativized to deliberative questions. (shrink)
The overall moral status of an option—whether it is required, permissible, forbidden, or something we really should do—is explained by competition between the contributory reasons bearing on that option and the alternatives. A familiar challenge for accounts of this competition is to explain the existence of latitude: there are usually multiple permissible options, rather than a single required option. One strategy is to appeal to distinctions between reasons that compete in different ways. Philosophers have introduced various kinds of non-requiring reasons (...) that do not generate requirements, even if they win the competition. This paper rejects two familiar versions of this strategy, one appealing to merely justifying reasons and one appealing to merely commendatory reasons. It offers a new account of how reasons compete that instead appeals to a sharp distinction between the reasons against an option and the reasons for the alternatives to that option. (shrink)
Contrastivism about ‘ought’ holds that ‘ought’ claims are relativized, at least implicitly, to sets of mutually exclusive but not necessarily jointly exhaustive alternatives. This kind of theory can solve puzzles that face other linguistic theories of ‘ought’, via the rejection or severe restriction of principles that let us make inferences between ‘ought’ claims. By rejecting or restricting these principles, however, the contrastivist takes on a burden of recapturing acceptable inferences that these principles let us make. This paper investigates the extent (...) to which a contrastivist can do this. (shrink)
When someone blames you, you might accept the blame or you might reject it, challenging the blamer’s interpretation of the facts, or providing a justification or excuse. Either way, there are opportunities for edifying moral discussion and moral repair. But another common, and less constructive, response is to simply dismiss the blame, refusing to engage with the blamer. Even if you agree that you are blameworthy, you may refuse to engage with the blame—in particular, with blame coming from this particular (...) person. This paper aims to make sense of this kind of response: what are we doing when we dismiss blame? A common thought is that we dismiss demands issued by blame, but we still must identify the content of the relevant demands. My proposal is that when we dismiss blame, we dismiss a demand to respond to the blame with a second-personal expression of remorse to the blamer. (shrink)
In Reasons Without Persons, Brian Hedden argues that a theory of rationality need not provide diachronic norms for reasoning, since we can explain all we need to explain about rationality using purely synchronic norms. This article argues that a theory of rationality should contain at least one diachronic norm for reasoning, namely a norm to fill in the details of one's coarse-grained or partial plans. It also explores a possible synchronic approach to this aspect of rationality.
(Schroeder 2007) presents a puzzle about negative reason existentials—claims like ‘There's no reason to cry over spilled milk’. Some of these claims are intuitively true, but we also seem to be committed to the existence of the very reasons that are said not to exist. I argue that Schroeder's own pragmatic solution to this puzzle is unsatisfactory, and propose my own based on a contrastive account of reasons, according to which reasons are fundamentally reasons for one thing rather than another, (...) instead of reasons for things simpliciter, as has been traditionally held. (shrink)
A contrastive theory of some concept holds that the concept in question only applies or fails to apply relative to a set of alternatives. Contrastivism has been applied to a wide range of philosophically important topics, including several topics in ethics. Contrastivism about reasons, for example, holds that whether some consideration is […].