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Metaethics after Moore$
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Terry Horgan and Mark Timmons

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199269914

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199269914.001.0001

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What Do Reasons Do?

What Do Reasons Do?

(p.39) 2 What Do Reasons Do?*
Metaethics after Moore

Jonathan Dancy

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the issue of how we are to understand ‘contributory reasons’, particularly as they are related to oughts. It begins by rehearsing six proposals for understanding contributory reasons in terms of an ‘overall ought’, and by rejecting them all. It is proposed that a ‘reason is something that favours action’, where favouring is a normative relation in which a reason stands to a particular way of acting. Since the contributory cannot be reduced to an overall ought (or any overall notion, such as goodness), the chapter proposes to go the other way and reduce overall oughts to the contributory. However, instead of attempting to reduce overall oughts to favouring reasons, the notion of a ‘contributory ought’ is introduced — ‘a monadic feature of an action which is consequent on, or resultant from, some other feature — the ‘ought-making’ feature, whatever it is’. How are we to understand how an overall ought is related to the contributory ought? Here is where the appeal to fittingness, a notion employed by the classical intuitionists, offers promise. In partially defending this claim, it is argued that Michael Smith's ‘Humean realism’ and Allan Gibbard's expressivism lack the resources needed for adequately understanding practical reasons and oughts.

Keywords:   contributory reasons, reason, oughts, overall ought, contributory oughts, fittingness, Michael Smith, Allan Gibbard, action, normative relation

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