Brains, Persons, and Society *** ABSTRACTS
Cervelli, Persone e Società ***ABSTRACTS
Università di Roma
most common analysis of final value
(from now only value) to be found in the recent literature are in terms of reasons and favour, roughly: x has
is a reason to favour x for its own sake. (Favour is an umbrella term
to cover a wide range of positive responses: conations, affections and
actions like choosing and bringing about.) Many years ago, when the
reasons-talk wasn’t so pervasive, Broad
suggested that value might have been analyzed in terms of fittingness.
The aim of my paper is to assess which analysis we should go for. In section one I present some considerations that might lead us to prefer an analysis in terms of reasons to one in terms of fittingness. I argue that these considerations don’t establish their case. In section two I put forward a novel argument against the analysis of value in terms of reasons and conclude that we ought to prefer an analysis of value in terms of fittingenss.
Though fittingness isn’t value, fittingness remains an evaluative notion. Reasons instead are clearly deontic:
The rationale for this taxonomy is that reasons are bound to a sense of possibility (personal possibility) i.e. an agent a has a reason to f only if he can f; whereas value and fittingness don’t seem so bound to possibility. a’s f-ing would be good even though a can’t f. Likewise f-ing is fitting even though a can’t f. This difference marks the boundaries of the deontic. Fittingness and value are on the evaluative side; reasons, on the deontic. Be this as it may, in analyzing the value of something as the favour fitting to it, one is employing an evaluative notion (fittingness is evaluative); whereas in analyzing it as reasonable favour, one is employing a deontic notion (reasons are deontic). On this account understanding value in terms of reasons is more interesting. Were this understanding sound, we would have reduced value to a deontic notion; this is an important result that would be precluded by an analysis in terms of fittingness.
A way to tackle this consideration is to present an alternative taxonomy. According to it, fittingness and reasons are both on the deontic side:
Fittingness and reasons are on the deontic side because they have a common feature that is not shared by value. Acting or feeling in a certain way is fitting, even though no one acts or feels that way. Likewise someone has a reason to act or to feel in a certain way, even though he never feels or acts in that way. By contrast things that are valuable in order to be such need to exist (or to obtain if they are states of affairs). I think I have strong intuitions on this matter. John’s being happy has value only if he is happy. For how could John’s being happy have value if John weren’t happy? My contention is that this marks the difference between the deontic and the evaluative. To be fitting or reasonable things don’t need to exist; to be valuable things must exist. Fittingness and reasons turn out to be deontic. Thus both the analyses define value in terms of deontic notions and in this respect they are on a par. So far we have two taxonomies. The first (value and fittingness are evaluative vs. reasons are deontic) tips in favour of analyzing value in terms of reasons, the second (value is evaluative vs. reasons and fittingness are deontic) takes them to be on a par. To be honest I don’t know which taxonomy we should go for. Perhaps the best thing to do is to suspend our judgment on this issue and conclude that on this score it is not clear whether analyzing value in terms of reasons is better than analyzing it in terms of fittingness. What is clear is that there are independent considerations against analyzing value in terms of reasons .
We usually say that this is better than that, worse than or as good as that. An analysis of value needs to account for this. So if value (x has value) is to be analysed as a property F (x is F), F must be such that if certain things are ordered with respect to their value and have a certain order, those things when ordered with respect to their F-ness maintain that order. I call this condition on value’s analyses sameness of order. If the analysis of value in terms of reasons and favour is tenable it must respect the sameness of order condition that is, the property of favourability (x is favourable is a shorthand term for there is a reason to favour x) must be such that if certain things are ordered with respect to their value and have a certain order, those things, when ordered with respect to their favourability, maintain that order. My contention is that favourability fails to respect this condition.
That a is more favourable than b ought to mean that there is a reason to favour a more than b, where favouring a more than b is favouring a with a greater intensity than b. But as I have said in section one of the characterizing features of reasons is their tie with personal possibility. Thus if one has a reason to favour something with a certain intensity, one must be capable of that intensity of favour. Our capacities for intensity of favour are subject to certain limits. These limits, then, would also apply to the reasons one has to favour something with a greater intensity than something else; and, mutatis mutandis, they would also apply to its favourability. It is because of these limits, I will argue, that favourability fails to respect the sameness of order condition. This is an important result. For fittingness is not bound to personal possibility and on this score doesn’t fail to respect the sameness of order condition. As a result, I conclude, an analysis of value in terms of fittingness is more welcome.
Chisholm, Roderick M., and Ernest Sosa (1996), ‘On the logic of “intrinsically better”’, American philosophical quarterly 3
C. (1948), The definition of Good,
Ewing, A. C. (1959), Second
Thoughts in Moral Philosophy,
(1930), The Right and the Good,
M. (1998), What We Owe to Each Other,
Zimmerman, Michael J. (2001), The Nature of Intrinsic Value, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
 One for all: Scanlon (1998), p. 97.
 Broad (1930), p. 283.
 Broad (1930), Ross (1939) and
 Though with relevant distinctions, Chisholm and Sosa 1996, p. 244, Lemos 1994, p. 23, Zimmerman 2001 p. 47-48 have all subscribed to such an intuition.