Being Realistic about Reasons by T. M. Scanlon

By T. M. Scanlon

T. M. Scanlon bargains a certified safeguard of normative cognitivism--the view that there are irreducibly normative truths approximately purposes for motion. He responds to 3 widespread objections: that such truths might have troubling metaphysical implications; that we might haven't any approach of understanding what they're; and that the position of purposes in motivating and explaining motion couldn't be defined if accepting a end approximately purposes for motion have been one of those trust. Scanlon solutions the 1st of those objections inside of a basic account of ontological dedication, utilizing to arithmetic in addition to normative judgments. He argues that the strategy of reflective equilibrium, correctly understood, offers an enough account of the way we come to understand either normative truths and mathematical truths, and that the assumption of a rational agent explains the hyperlink among an agent's normative ideals and his or her activities. no matter if each assertion approximately purposes for motion has a determinate fact price is a question to be replied through an total account of purposes for motion, in normative phrases. because it turns out not likely that there's such an account, the safety of normative cognitivism provided here's certified: statements approximately purposes for motion could have determinate fact values, however it isn't transparent that each one of them do. alongside the way in which, Scanlon bargains an interpretation of the excellence among normative and non-normative claims, a brand new account of the supervenience of the normative at the non-normative, an interpretation of the belief of the relative power of purposes, and a security of the strategy of reflective equilibrium.

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2. Let me turn now from these general remarks about ontology to some more specific questions about the normative domain. 19 The things that can be reasons are not a special kind of entity but ordinary facts, in many cases facts about the natural world. 20 The distinctive aspect of normative truths is not the things that are reasons but the normative relations, such as being a reason for something, or being a sufficient or conclusive reason. What is special about normative claims is thus not a matter of ontology in Quine’s sense (the things quantified over), but rather of what Quine called “ideology” (the predicates employed).

We might, for example, have a first-order theory of witches and spirits. That is, we might have established criteria for deciding whether someone is or is not a witch, and whether or not a ghost is present. But such conclusions entail claims about events in the physical world and their causes: about what causes, or can cause, cows to stop giving milk, and people to become sick and die. 5 To put the same point more generally: there can be meaningful “external” questions about the adequacy of the reasoning in a domain, and about the truth of statements, including existential statements, that these modes of reasoning support.

Even pure statements in one domain can entail or presuppose claims in some other domain, and when this happens these claims need to be reconciled, and some of them modified or given up. We might, for example, have a first-order theory of witches and spirits. That is, we might have established criteria for deciding whether someone is or is not a witch, and whether or not a ghost is present. But such conclusions entail claims about events in the physical world and their causes: about what causes, or can cause, cows to stop giving milk, and people to become sick and die.

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