How Not to Solve the Wrong Kind of Reasons Problem

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<ul><li><p>How Not to Solve the Wrong Kind of Reasons Problem</p><p>Christos Kyriacou</p><p> Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013</p><p>1 Introduction</p><p>Recent debates in metanormativity have paid considerable attention to the wrong</p><p>kind of reasons (henceforth, WKR) problem that afflicts so-called buckpassing</p><p>accounts of value.1 Let me very briefly introduce buckpassing accounts of value and</p><p>what the WKR problem is about. Roughly, buckpassing accounts of value contend</p><p>that for something to be valuable is to have other properties that give reasons for</p><p>proattitudes.2 For example, a work of art might be valuable because it has certain</p><p>properties (e.g. colourful, soft texture etc.) that give reasons to think it admirable.</p><p>Buckpassing accounts, however, seem to run straight into the WKR problem.</p><p>Roughly, the problem consists in the fact that agents may very easily have</p><p>pragmatic reasons for proattitudes that may have to do with the instrumental valueof having the attitude itself and nothing to do with epistemic reasons about the valueof the object, act, event etc. itself. Thus, buckpassing accounts seem to allow for</p><p>C. Kyriacou (&amp;)University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus</p><p>e-mail: ckiriakou@gmail.com</p><p>1 See Justin DArms and Daniel Jacobsen, Sentiment and Value, Ethics, Vol. 110, pp. 722748 (2000);Wlodek Rabinowicz and Toni Ronnow-Rasmussen, The Strike of the Demon: On Fitting Pro-Attitudes</p><p>and Value, Ethics ,Vol. 114, pp. 391423 (2004); Jonas Olson, Buckpassing and the Wrong Kind ofReasons, The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 54, No. 215, pp. 295300 (2004); Pamela Hieronymi, TheWrong Kind of Reason, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 102, No. 9, pp. 437457 (2005); MarkSchroeder, Value and the Right Kind of Reason, in R. Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies inMetaethics 5 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); Ulrike Heuer, Beyond Wrong Reasons: TheBuck-Passing Account of Value, in M. Brady (ed.), New Waves in Metaethic (Palgrave Macmillan,Hampshire, 2011), pp. 166184.2 See Timothy Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,1998); DArms and Jacobsen, 2000, op. cit.; Rabinowicz and Ronnow-Rasmussen, 2004, op. cit.</p><p>123</p><p>J Value Inquiry</p><p>DOI 10.1007/s10790-013-9368-y</p></li><li><p>such wrong kind of reasons that, intuitively, cant constitute the right kind ofreasons for proattitudes. They cant constitute the right kind of reasons because they</p><p>are not epistemically justifying reasons.3 Hence, buckpassing accounts seem to get</p><p>the facts about what is valuable wrong because they may include as valuable things</p><p>that are obviously not valuable and exclude things that are obviously valuable as not</p><p>valuable.</p><p>For example, suppose I would like to marry someone not because I love him but</p><p>because he is rich and can provide for a comfortable life. But this someone is</p><p>especially shrewd and can reliably discern who is after his money and who truly</p><p>cares about him. So, I need to bring myself to truly love him, if I will manage to</p><p>marry him and have access to the comfortable life he can provide. But does the fact</p><p>that he has the property of being rich\able to provide a comfortable life give me an</p><p>epistemic reason to sincerely love him? Is this the correct (or fitting) proattitude to</p><p>the occasion? It seems not. It seems plain wrong to try to fall in love with someone</p><p>just in order to have a comfortable life. It is a wrong kind of reason for having the</p><p>attitude of love. The problem is, exactly, that a buckpassing account seems to allow</p><p>for such cases.</p><p>Of important note is that the WKR problem is a thorny problem plaguing all kind of</p><p>normative buckpassing accounts: moral/practical, epistemic, aesthetic and other. You</p><p>might have a pragmatic reason to believe, to admire, to approve, to respect, to intend, to</p><p>plan, to improve etc. that is of the wrong kind.4 Thus, the WKR problem is a quite</p><p>general problem that afflicts buckpassing accounts in all their normative applications.</p><p>But Heuer (2011) has recently argued that we can easily avoid the problem if we</p><p>turn from a buckpassing account of reasons for attitudes to a buckpassing account of</p><p>reasons for action. In this paper I argue that Heuers (2011) attempt not only fails to</p><p>avoid the problem but it actually exacerbates it. Heuers proposal is still afflicted by</p><p>the WKR problem in regard to reasons for attitudes and is also carried over to</p><p>reasons for action. In what follows, in section 1 I briefly present Heuers proposal</p><p>and in section 2 argue against the proposal. In section 3 I sum up the argument and</p><p>close with some rumination about the possible source of the WKR problem.</p><p>2 Heuers (2011) Novel Buckpassing Account</p><p>Heuers (2011:172-2) interesting paper examines the source of the WKR problem</p><p>and reaches the diagnosis that the source of the problem lies in the commitment of</p><p>buckpassing accounts to a so-called fitting attitude analysis of value.5 According</p><p>to fitting attitude analyses of value, to be valuable is to be a fitting object of a pro-</p><p>attitude like admiration, desirability, love, gratitude, approval etc. It is easy to see</p><p>how a buckpassing account of value incorporates such a commitment. It does so</p><p>3 See Olson, 2004, op. cit.; Hieronymi, 2005, op. cit.; Schroeder, 2010, op. cit., for proposed solutions to</p><p>the problem that try to spell out the right kind of justification.4 See Pascals famous wager and Gregory Kavka, The Toxin Puzzle, Analysis, Vol. 43, No. 1,pp. 3336 (1983).5 See A.C. Ewing. The Definition of Good (London: Macmillan, 1949); Franz Brentano, 1969, op.cit.;Rabinowicz and Ronnow-Rasmussen (2004: 394400), op. cit.</p><p>C. Kyriacou</p><p>123</p></li><li><p>because it relies on the idea that something is valuable only if we have reason to</p><p>respond to it with a certain proattitude. And as we have sketched, the WKR problem</p><p>arises because we might have reason to respond with a certain proattitude that is not</p><p>of the right kind (and, inversely, we might have reason not to respond with a certain</p><p>proattitude that is of the right kind).</p><p>Heuer argues that what causes the problem is not, as has been identified in</p><p>literature, that there can be reasons for pro-attitudes towards things that are devoid</p><p>of value but rather the commitment to a fitting attitude analysis of value per se,quite independently of whether the things the pro-attitudes are towards are devoid of</p><p>value or not. To illustrate her point, she (2011:172-3) gives the example of a benign</p><p>and caring benefactor that wants you to love a beautiful painting that she is going to</p><p>bequeath to you. As the example goes, you have one reason for loving the painting,</p><p>namely, that it is truly beautiful, and you have a further reason, because your</p><p>benefactor wishes you so. Your reason is perhaps a reason of gratitude or a reason</p><p>not to disappoint your benefactor. And you would have this further reason even if</p><p>your benefactor, not being the best judge in matters aesthetic, were mistaken on this</p><p>occasion and the painting were but a poor piece of artwork.</p><p>Heuer goes on to correctly point out that, even if the painting is beautiful and</p><p>merits admiration, having a reason to love it in order to show gratitude to your</p><p>benefactor is a reason of the wrong kind. The aesthetic value of a beautiful painting</p><p>consists not in its having properties like being commended by a person you owe a</p><p>debt of gratitude to, but consists in its aesthetic properties, no matter what these are</p><p> as she says, this much we know a priori. As the attitude of loving has nothing to do</p><p>with the value of the painting but has all to do with other pragmatically justifying</p><p>considerations (like showing gratitude to your benefactor), this is again a case of the</p><p>familiar WKR problem.</p><p>On the basis of this example, she diagnoses that the problem has not been clearly</p><p>identified in the literature because (i)t is not the problem that there can be reasons for</p><p>pro-attitudes towards things that are devoid of value. Some reasons for admiring things</p><p>are of the wrong kind, whether or not these things are of value or admirable. Given that</p><p>reasons for attitude can be of the wrong kind independently of the value of the object, she</p><p>concludes that the problem is endemic to reasons for attitudes and, therefore, the sourceof the problem is the buckpassers commitment to a fitting attitude analysis of value.</p><p>As a result of this diagnosis, she formulates a buckpassing account not tied on a</p><p>fitting attitude analysis of value (and, hence, reasons for attitudes) but tied on</p><p>reasons for action. She is hopeful that such an account could avoid the WKR</p><p>problem because, remember, what causes the problem is the commitment to a fitting</p><p>attitude analysis of value. Her (2011:179) version of the buckpassing account</p><p>proposes that X is good consists in Xs having some other property, P, that</p><p>provides a reason for action. As she says, her reasons for action version of the</p><p>buckpassing account dodges the problem because both in cases of instrumental and</p><p>final value we do not run into the WKR problem. To illustrate, first, her point about</p><p>instrumental value, she (2011:170) gives this nice example:</p><p>Assume that the evil demon orders you to express your admiration for him</p><p>(or for a saucer of mud) by bowing three times, or he will torture you. Clearly</p><p>How Not to Solve the Wrong Kind of Reasons Problem</p><p>123</p></li><li><p>you have a pro tanto reason to bow three times and do whatever else it takes toexpress admiration, and this reason is not of the wrong kind: it is a typical</p><p>instrumental reason. If [the buckpassing account] were phrased in terms of</p><p>reason for action only, there would be no problem: the value of Uing (bowing,in our case) may consist in Uings having other properties (e.g. beingnecessary to averting the demons wrath) that give you a reason to U. Thevalue in question is instrumental value. Thus, there is no problem with giving</p><p>a buck-passing account of the value that relates to reasons for action it is</p><p>quite straightforward.</p><p>As for final value, she argues that cases of action that have final value, like doing</p><p>ones duty, pose no threat to her account because in such cases the agent has not a</p><p>WKR for action, but only an additional one. As she (2011:170) says: If an evil</p><p>demon orders you to do your duty (or else he will torture you), you dont have a</p><p>wrong reason you just have an additional one. And she adds (2011:171) that, even</p><p>if the evil demon asks you to express your admiration for his final value (something</p><p>he does not have because he is evil), this does not result in a WKR for action</p><p>because of the instrumental value of avoiding torture. You can still play-act and</p><p>express your admiration in order to avoid torture, even though you dont believe that</p><p>the demon is a right object of admiration, for the problem is with having the</p><p>attitude and not with acting in a certain way. Given, of course, that her version of</p><p>buckpassing account does not incorporate a reasons for attitude clause, it evades the</p><p>WKR problem; or at least this is the line of thought.</p><p>3 The WKR Problem Returns with a Vengeance</p><p>Unfortunately, however, eschewing reasons for attitudes and turning to reasons for</p><p>action does not seem to insulate Heuers own buckpassing account from the WKR</p><p>problem. To the contrary, Heuers account does not only fail to address the problem</p><p>but also seems to exacerbate it. If I am right, the problem both remains in its original</p><p>form, that is, in relation to reasons for attitudes, and it is also carried over to reasons</p><p>for action. Let me explain.</p><p>First, by her theorys own lights, one may still have WKR, but for action this time.</p><p>As we have WKR for attitudes, we can have WKR for action arising by the same sort</p><p>of pragmatically justifying considerations that have nothing to do with the value of the</p><p>object or action in question. For example, take the case of instrumental value where an</p><p>evil demon proposes to grant humanity eternal happiness if only we agree to boil a</p><p>baby.6 The (instrumental) value (i.e. eternal happiness) of such an act (i.e. boiling a</p><p>baby) consists in a consequentialist property (i.e. say, maximization of aggregate</p><p>desire satisfaction) but still, intuitively, we have a WKR for action. We have a WKR</p><p>for action because the reason we have is not epistemically justifying and does not</p><p>abide by normative standards. Alas, it is only pragmatically justifying and abides by</p><p>consequentialist standards and, as we know very well, that is how WKR cases emerge.</p><p>6 See Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (London: Penguin Books, 2003).</p><p>C. Kyriacou</p><p>123</p></li><li><p>Of note is that, plausibly, by any non-consequentialist normative theorys</p><p>conception of moral standards this reason would count as a WKR for action.</p><p>Kantians would presumably stress that we have a WKR for action because it is a</p><p>reason that does not respect the value of humanity and its inalienable rights and such</p><p>reasons for action cannot be considered as justifying reasons that abide by moral</p><p>standards. Virtue-ethicists would perhaps stress that in the example we have a WKR</p><p>for action because it is a reason for action that does not abide by the moral standards</p><p>that any virtuous agent would approve of etc. At any rate, Kantians, virtue-ethicists</p><p>and others would concur that such a reason for action is a WKR for action because it</p><p>is not epistemically justifying and does not abide by moral standards.</p><p>Of course, Heuer could bite the bullet and argue that by the lights of a broadly</p><p>consequentialist normative theory we have the right kind of reason to boil the baby</p><p>because, according to consequentialist normative standards, this is what we ought to</p><p>do. The problem with this response is that most people will be inclined to think that</p><p>this is a reason to believe that the consequentialist theory does not provide us with</p><p>the correct normative standards and, thus, so much the worse for consequentialism.</p><p>Besides, this is one of the reasons why many philosophers have serious qualms</p><p>about consequentialist theories of value. It is because consequentialist theories seem</p><p>too permissive and often count certain cases of moral value where, intuitively, these</p><p>cases are not of moral value.7</p><p>Thus, it seems that as we have WKR for attitudes in Scanlons original</p><p>buckpassing account, despite being otherwise beneficial having the attitude, we</p><p>have WKR for action in Heuers buckpassing account, despite being otherwise</p><p>beneficial acting accordingly. WKR either for attitudes or for reasons arise in</p><p>exactly the same pattern: because of pragmatic considerations. True enough,</p><p>consequentialist properties often realize value and provide us with the right kind of</p><p>reason for action but not always. In the context of the boiling baby example,</p><p>intuitively, the consequentialist property that realizes instrumental value does not</p><p>provide us with the right kind of reason.8</p><p>But I might have been too quick here and credulously relied on my own anti-</p><p>consequentialist intuitions. This might look like cheating because it is a common</p><p>place that intuitions (moral and other) can and often do prove misguiding.9 Besides, a</p><p>staunch consequentialist might be willing to go as far as claimi...</p></li></ul>