Stephen Darwall (Yale): What Are Moral Reasons?

In The Second-Person Standpoint and subsequent essays, I argue that the deontic moral concepts of obligation, duty, right, wrong, and the like resist analysis in terms of moral reasons for acting. I claim that the “fully deontic” ought of moral obligation has a conceptual connection to accountability and culpability that being recommended by moral reasons, however weighty, does not. Since oughts and reasons are so closely connected generally, however, the thought can seem irresistible that moral oughts must be understood in terms of moral reasons also. Here I put additional pressure on this admittedly attractive idea by asking what makes a reason a moral reason. Far from supporting the thought that deontic moral oughts follow from (independent) moral practical reasons, I argue that the most promising account of what makes a reason a moral one is that it is a consideration that supports a pro tanto moral obligation, where this latter idea is irreducibly deontic and conceptually tied to accountability. Moral reasons for acting are, I claim, pro tanto moral obligation-making considerations. This turns the otherwise attractive idea on its head.

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Date & time

Thu 15 Mar 2018, 3:30pm


Seminar Room A, Coombs Building, ANU, 9 Fellows Road, Acton ACT 2601

Event series


Dr John Cusbert


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