Normative Pluralism: Resolving Conflicts between Moral and Prudential Reasons (Oxford Moral Theory) 0197614698, 9780197614693

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Normative Pluralism: Resolving Conflicts between Moral and Prudential Reasons (Oxford Moral Theory)
 0197614698, 9780197614693

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Normative Pluralism

ox f ord moral the ory Series Editor David Copp, University of California, Davis (Emeritus) Drawing Morals Essays in Ethical Theory Thomas Hurka Commonsense Consequentialism Wherein Morality Meets Rationality Douglas W. Portmore Against Absolute Goodness Richard Kraut The Lewd, the Rude and the Nasty Pekka Väyrynen In Praise of Desire Nomy Arpaly and Timothy Schroeder Confusion of Tongues A Theory of Normative Language Stephen Finlay The Virtues of Happiness A Theory of the Good Life Paul Bloomfield Having It Both Ways Hybrid Theories and Modern Metaethics Edited by Guy Fletcher and Michael Ridge Motivational Internalism Edited by Gunnar Björnsson, Caj Strandberg, Ragnar Francén Olinder, John Eriksson, and Fredrik Björklund The Meaning of ‘Ought’ Beyond Descriptivism and Expressivism in Metaethics Matthew Chrisman Practical Knowledge Selected Essays Kieran Setiya Articulating the Moral Community Toward a Constructive Ethical Pragmatism Henry S. Richardson Consequentialism New Directions, New Problems Edited by Christian Seidel Opting for the Best Oughts and Options Douglas W. Portmore Normative Pluralism Resolving Conflicts between Moral and Prudential Reasons Mathea Slåttholm Sagdahl

Normative Pluralism Resolving Conflicts between Moral and Prudential Reasons M AT H E A SL ÅT T HO L M S AG DA H L

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and certain other countries. Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America. © Oxford University Press 2022 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by license, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reproduction rights organization. Inquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above. You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer. Library of Congress Control Number: 2022908204 ISBN 978–​0–​19–​761469–​3 DOI: 10.1093/​oso/​9780197614693.001.0001 1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2 Printed by Integrated Books International, United States of America

Contents Preface 


1. Introduction 


1.1. What We Ought to Do  1.2. Topic, Scope, and Aims  1.3. Normative Pluralism and Value Pluralism: Separate Topics  1.4. Procedure 

1 3 7 10

2. Structures of Normativity and the Concept of “Ought” 


2.1. Introduction  2.2. Morality and Prudence as Normative Sources  2.3. A Non-​Relational View: Morality and Prudence as Competing Theories of Ought  2.4. Normative Pluralism and Incommensurable Oughts 

19 21

2.5. Qualified Oughts as Genuine Oughts  2.6. The Unqualified Ought 

26 28

2.7. The Meaning of “Ought All Things Considered” and “Just Plain Ought” 


3. The Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism 


3.4.1. Top-​Down versus Bottom-​Up Approach to Normativity  3.4.2. Derivative and Fundamental Normativity 

52 58

3.5.1. The Dualism as Normative Pluralism  3.5.2. The Grounding of the Dualism 

2.4.1. Incommensurability as Noncomparability 

2.6.1. Comprehensiveness  2.6.2. Supremacy 

2.7.1. Reasons and “Most Reason”  2.7.2. Permissibility and Silence 

14 16

24 29 32 37 38

3.1. Introduction  3.2. A Teleological Grounding  3.3. Deflationary Normative Pluralism  3.4. Grounding a Reasonable Set of Normative Standpoints 

41 41 47 50

3.5. Sidgwick and the Dualism of Practical Reason 


3.6. A Kantian Approach?  3.7. The Dualism of Practical Reason and Reasons of Meaningfulness  3.8. Summary and Conclusion 

71 76 84

62 64

vi Contents

4. Incommensurability, Rationality, and Choice 

4.1. Introduction  4.2. Normative Monism and Practical Rationality  4.3. Normative Pluralism and Practical Rationality  4.4. Rationality and Incommensurable Options  4.5. Choice and Intelligibility  4.6. Incommensurable Options and Stable Intentions  4.7. Human Agency with and without Incommensurability  4.8. Summary 


86 88 91 97 103 105 110 111

5. The Argument from Nominal-​Notable Comparisons 


134 139

5.1. Introduction  5.2. The Structure of the Argument  5.3. The Possibility of Nominal-​Notable Conflicts  5.4. The Dialectical Situation  5.5. Ways to Debunk the Central Intuition of the Argument  5.6. Biting the Bullet  5.7. A Test of Commensurability and an Argument against Monism  5.8. Two Alternative Variants of the Argument from Nominal-​Notable Comparisons  5.9. The Concurrence Argument 

6. The Supremacy Challenge 

6.1. The Codification Challenge and the Supremacy Challenge  6.2. The Incoherence Argument against Supremacy  6.3. Rationality and the Nature of the Overarching Normative Standpoint 

6.4. The Overarching Normative Standpoint and the Overridingness of Morality 

6.3.1. The Overarching Normative Standpoint as Rationality  6.3.2. Two Meanings of “Rational”  6.3.3. Different Conceptions of Rationality as the Overarching Normative Standpoint  6.3.4. The Relevance of “Rational” Criticism as an Indicator of Ought Simpliciter  6.4.1. Monism with Moral Overridingness Compared with Normative Pluralism  6.4.2. Ways for the Monist to Avoid Overridingness 

6.5. Summary 

113 114 116 123 124 127 130


143 144 148

150 151 153 159

160 165 169


7. The Codification Challenge: Can We Discover an Overarching Normative Standpoint? 


185 191

7.1. Parfit’s Wide Dualism  7.2. Weak Monism 

7.2.1. Gert’s Two-​Dimensional Weak Monism  7.2.2. Comparing Gert’s Weak Monism with Normative Pluralism 

178 183

Contents  vii

7.3. Dorsey’s Hybrid Voluntarism  7.4. Rejecting the Codifiability Challenge 

7.4.1. Particularism  7.4.2. Three Types of Aristotelianism  7.4.3. Source Monistic Aristotelianism  7.4.4. Phronetic Comparativism  7.4.5. Integrative Aristotelianism 

197 203 205 206 207 210 213

8. Conclusion and Integration 


References  Index 

225 231

8.1. Conclusion  8.2. Is Normative Pluralism Revisionary?  8.3. Integrating versus Comparing 

216 218 221

Preface This book has been long in the making. It all started with a casual conversation outside the National Theatre in Oslo with my friend and fellow student Eivind Kirkeby many years ago about why morality and self-​interest could not coexist as sources of normative requirements. My thinking must also have been informed by some brief dabbling in international relations theory, where the assumption is quite dominant that agents can be expected to, and even have reason to, be primarily guided by their own interests. This was in stark contrast to what seemed to be the impetus in philosophy to subsume self-​interest under the authority of morality. With these beginnings, I started to work on a question that would come to be of great importance to the emerging new focus on reasons in metaethics, where the comparability assumption of reasons was often assumed but rarely defended. After a Ph.D. thesis and some published papers on the subject, I was urged to submit a manuscript, which eventually resulted in this book. The book project was considerably delayed by a personal crisis, leading up to a gender transition. This very demanding process has occurred at the same time as the writing of this book and has laid claim to much of my mental focus, making the writing of the book a very hard thing to do. I would like to give my deepest thanks to the colleagues who were essential in helping me find acceptance in who I am and who helped me out of my darkest period: Trine Antonsen, Cathrine V. Felix, Heine A. Holmen, Ole Martin Moen, and Monica Roland. I’m not sure I could have gone on to finish this book without you. Thanks also to every philosopher anywhere who works to keep the discipline friendly to and inclusive of trans people and voices. There are also a number of people who have been essential to the development of this book and who have given me their time and advice. In particular, this book would not have been written without the encouragement of David Copp. Also special thanks to Olav Gjelsvik, Edmund Henden, and Krister Bykvist, who served as my advisers during my Ph.D. and helped shape my ideas. Conversations with John Broome, Ruth Chang, Herlinde Pauer-​ Studer, Joseph Raz, and Sarah Stroud have also provided essential input to the arguments of this book. In addition, my work has benefited from

x Preface discussions with the following: Chrisoula Andreou, Caroline T. Arruda, Einar Duenger Bøhn, Andreas Brekke Carlsson, Timothy Chan, Dale Dorsey, Jakob Elster, Julian Fink, Roe Fremstedal, Christel Fricke, Carsten M. Hansen, Heine A. Holmen, Antti Kauppinen, Ivar Labukt, Ole Martin Moen, Michael Morreau, Fredrik Nilsen, Fredrik Nyseth, Bjørn Ramberg, Kari Refsdal, Andrew Reisner, Monica Roland, Robert Shaver, Knut Olav Skarsaune, Caj Strandberg, Attila Tanyi, Franco Trivigno. I’m sure I have forgotten someone, and I am so sorry! In addition, this book has benefited tremendously from the comments of three anonymous reviewers. Much of the content of c­ hapters 4 and 5 has already been previously published in journals under my previous name, but their content is not quite identical to the chapters.1 A paper further discussing the role of noncomparability in agency is also forthcoming, the ideas of which I have sadly not found the space to fully include in this book.2

1 Mathea Slåttholm Sagdahl, “The Argument from Nominal-​ Notable Comparisons, ‘Ought All Things Considered,’ and Normative Pluralism,” Journal of Ethics 18, no. 4 (2014): 405–​425; and “Enkratic Reasoning and Incommensurability of Reasons,” Journal of Value Inquiry 50, no. 1 (2016): 111–​127. I cite these papers with the name with which I would prefer to be cited. 2 Mathea S. Sagdahl, “The Relevance of Noncomparability for Agency,” Journal of Philosophical Research (forthcoming).

1 Introduction 1.1.  What We Ought to Do When philosophers think about what agents ought to do, they tend to engage with questions of moral philosophy. What often happens is that the philosophers try to find out what considerations are morally relevant and what moral significance those considerations have. They then tend to give a verdict about what one ought to do with respect to such a moral parameter. For example, the fact that I have to forgo some good may be of little moral significance compared to the good I can bestow on others by forgoing it, and therefore I ought to do it with respect to what matters morally. This conclusion is a verdict about what one morally ought to do. But at the same time, it is clear that there is another way of assessing our options that we seem to engage with all the time and that operates from a different parameter. In particular, the moral way of assessing considerations sometimes conflicts with a prudential way of assessing considerations, where the relevance and significance of a consideration are determined by the extent to which harms and benefits befall the agent. If the good is important to the agent, then the agent prudentially ought not to forgo it. The concerns of prudence and morality are different and may therefore in many cases be conflicting. Such conflicts between concern for oneself and concern for others are very familiar and give rise to some fundamental problems, both in the public sphere and in our private lives. In public questions such as whether to implement measures to reduce carbon emissions or granting access to migrants with little resources, considerations concerning the common interest or the interest of outsiders may conflict with considerations concerning the particular interests of that society. In our individual lives, there are parallel questions about, say, forgoing the freedom and convenience of a car to reduce our personal carbon footprint. These questions also extend beyond mere material conflicts and down to deep existential questions about the human condition, such as whether to uphold our commitments or live a life of freedom, whether to nurse a family member or Normative Pluralism. Mathea Slåttholm Sagdahl, Oxford University Press. © Oxford University Press 2022. DOI: 10.1093/​oso/​9780197614693.003.0001

2  Normative Pluralism pursue one’s aspirations, or whether to endure suffering in order not to cause misery to those whom one loves. Such conflicts between morality and prudence are often recognized, but philosophers also tend to assume that in addition to the questions of what one morally and prudentially ought to do, there is a broader, more generic question of what one just plain ought to do, or ought simpliciter to do. This question is almost always conflated with the question of what one ought to do all things considered, but I shall argue for the separateness of these two questions. Many philosophers also tend to assume that this latter question can be answered and that it is the most fundamental question we, as agents, should be asking when trying to decide how to act—​much more significant than the moral or prudential questions about what one ought to do, which are at best seen as nothing more than partial answers to the broader question. It is peculiar, then, that so little attention has been given to the broader question and how to answer it and to what answers it is supposed to give.1 While there have been attempts to argue that only morality or only prudence is a source of genuine reasons, very few have made any sort of attempt to recognize them both as distinct reasons and determine how to commensurate them under a broader normative standpoint that could resolve conflicts between them and tell us what we just plain ought to do. One notable and historically important exception who dealt with this problem is Henry Sidgwick. Sidgwick wanted to investigate the relationship between different rational procedures to determine what agents ought to do. But despite Sidgwick’s expressed aim to find a rational ground to subordinate “interest” to “duty,” he in the end failed to achieve this subordination. Instead, he ended up with a “dualism of practical reason” under which, he said, both morality and prudence could be taken as “the ultimate standard of right conduct.” He furthermore described this conclusion as an “irreducible result of ethical reflection.”2 In the spirit of Sidgwick’s conclusion, we should therefore examine the possibility that the widespread assumption among philosophers that there is a broader, more generic “ought” and a normative standpoint that commensurates moral and prudential reasons could in fact be false. This need not result from any skepticism about normativity or oughts in general. In the absence of a broader, more generic ought, we are still left with the more 1 This lack of attention is also noted by Roger Crisp, “Prudential and Moral Reasons,” in Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity, ed. Daniel Star (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 813. 2 Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, 3rd ed. (Milton Keynes: Lightning Source, 2009), 401.

Introduction  3 particular oughts that this broader ought was supposed to encompass and that we are familiar with from moral and prudential philosophy. So instead of being one unified domain, normativity could be thought to consist of a pluralism of several incommensurable domains. Call this idea normative pluralism. This book explores the prospects for normative pluralism as a viable theory of normativity. It will attempt to motivate and defend this kind of theory and to show that it has resources to deal with various problems.

1.2.  Topic, Scope, and Aims In this book I shall be focusing on that part of normativity that governs actions. A pluralism with respect to this part of normativity divides reasons for action into two or more incommensurable kinds. The two domains that I will focus on are the domains of morality and prudence. By prudence I mean roughly those reasons that concern one’s own welfare and expectations of a good life. By morality I mean roughly those reasons that also concern the welfare and good lives of others.3 This is not to say that they are necessarily the only two relevant domains of practical normativity, only that they are types of reasons that are especially significant and that I think are especially likely candidates for making up a normative pluralism. This fundamental division of normativity also follows Sidgwick’s “dualism of practical reason.” What makes the division interesting is that morality and prudence, as Sidgwick recognized, are both central to human decision-​making and to our assessment of choices, often prescribing different actions. While it could be possible to formulate a thesis of normative pluralism with respect to other domains of normativity, for example, as a division of pragmatic and epistemic reasons to believe, this possibility touches on a whole different set of topics from those of a division between moral and prudential reasons to act.4 Because of this, they deserve to be treated separately. 3 These are very unrefined specifications that ignore the many ways in which one’s own and others’ welfare may be connected. We will look at such connections later. There are also many different theories about what moral and prudential considerations amount to and where their differences lie. In its general form, normative pluralism is not committed to any specific theory of this. Some definitional slack must therefore be allowed for. 4 Important topics for this discussion are whether there can at all be reasons to believe that are not based on evidence and the relationship between pragmatic reasons for coming to believe and epistemic reasons for believing. For a model on how to compare pragmatic and evidential reasons for belief, see Andrew Reisner, “Weighing Pragmatic and Evidential Reasons for Belief,” Philosophical Studies 138, no. 1 (2008): 17–​27. There is also a related question about whether there could be

4  Normative Pluralism Normative pluralism is currently not a well-​developed theory, nor has it been the subject of extensive debate. An exception to this can be found in the work of David Copp, who has introduced and defended a relevant form of normative pluralism.5 Nevertheless, in spite of Copp’s important contributions, it remains an undeveloped and unexamined idea. The primary aim of this book is to further examine, develop, and defend this kind of pluralistic theory about normativity. The most important objective is to establish it as a viable theory of normativity by showing that it is both grounded and coherent and that it has the resources to answer a number of possible and actual objections that may otherwise be thought to disqualify it. If normative pluralism is correct, then morality and prudence provide us with separate normative reasons that cannot be brought together and commensurated. This means that when morality and a person’s self-​interest conflict, there will be no normative resolution of that conflict. Instead, in investigating the relationship between morality and prudence, we would have to look at how the verdicts of prudence and morality overlap or do not and how they could be brought to do so by transforming the choice context. In order to establish normative pluralism as a viable theory of normativity, it is also necessary to compare it with its rival view, namely, normative monism. Normative monism is the view that moral and prudential reasons can be compared, such that it would be possible to resolve conflicts and reach a broader, more generic and unqualified verdict about what we ought to do (what we “just plain ought to do”). But a major challenge in discussing such a view is that although it seems to be widely assumed, few philosophers have explicitly discussed it, much less defended it. It can therefore be hard to know, especially for someone who is sympathetic toward normative pluralism, what considerations are thought to speak in monism’s favor. Though a few arguments do exist explaining why commensuration should be thought to be conceptually possible, there are fewer discussions about how these different reasons actually are to be commensurated and in what way they are thought to systematically relate to one another and what their relative weights are supposed to be. There are, in other words, few clear accounts of the monistic

epistemic reasons for action, which I mean to neither affirm nor deny. If there could be, then that would take us beyond a mere dualism and into a wider pluralism of practical reasons. 5 See especially David Copp, “Toward a Pluralist and Teleological Theory of Normativity,” Philosophical Issues 19, no. 1 (2009): 21–​37.

Introduction  5 view to argue directly against. But as I will argue, once the pluralist can motivate his or her own view, it must then be up to the monist to provide us with an account of the way in which commensuration is supposed to work, as it is the monist who claims that there exists a comparative relationship between the different types of reasons. I will, however, assess a few attempts to provide descriptions of such overarching normative standpoints. A challenge for such monistic accounts will be to show that the proposed commensuration represents the right kind, with all the properties that an overarching normative standpoint should have, such as the property of supremacy (being the kind of commensuration that normatively matters in a way that other forms of commensuration do not). This book also has one important limitation in what kinds of normative monism it assesses. The main target of the book is what may be called comparative monism. This is a form of monism that recognizes that there are several types of reasons but thinks that these can nevertheless be brought together under a more comprehensive normative standpoint and compared in terms of plain strength (usually thought of through a “weighing” function). As will become evident during the course of the discussion, this type of view has been commonly expressed in recent work in the philosophy of normativity, and that is an important reason for focusing on it. But my focus will to some extent leave out what I call source monistic types of normative monism, meaning those theories that claim there is only one source of reasons. Ethical egoism represents one sort of view like that. However, discussions of such positions are already familiar and quite prevalent in the philosophical literature, and I rely on them to reject these types of theories. In addition, I offer some general considerations for thinking there are several sources of reasons in section 2.2, as well as in most of c­ hapter 3. Another type of monistic theory that is mostly left out by the focus on comparative monism includes those theories that think there is comparability between reasons but where this relationship between reasons is uncodifiable and cannot be described in any systematic way. However, I will discuss these types of theories to some extent in the last chapter of this book. While I am skeptical about this kind of view, I acknowledge that it is a strategy that the monist could take, and it might in the end even be monism’s best strategy since a detailed and systematic account of such an overarching normative standpoint seems to have poor prospects. But a thorough examination of these types of theories is a large and demanding venture, and it also to a large extent concerns general questions that can be treated separately from many of the considerations and

6  Normative Pluralism frameworks discussed in this book.6 I think that the discussion about the prospects of normative monism and pluralism might need to move on to this issue. It would represent the next proper stage of the debate, but because of its extensive nature, I have, in the main, left it outside the scope of this book, even if I do aim to describe some challenges it would need to overcome in order to provide a successful defense of monism. As a word of caution, I would also like to mention the difficulties involved in reaching firm judgments about many of the topics discussed here. As we shall see, there are crucial points of disagreement between the monist and the pluralist where each side seems to rely on different intuitions that one need not necessarily share. It is also worth keeping in mind that the plausibility of normative pluralism seems to some extent to depend on how many and what irresolvable moral-​prudential conflicts there are. These questions also depend in part on first-​order theories about what morality and prudence both require of us. How demanding is morality, and how narrow are the concerns of prudence? I shall, as much as possible, try to be noncommittal about what the correct moral theory and prudential theory might be, since normative pluralism is at the outset supposed to be neutral on these questions and generally compatible with every moral and prudential theory. But since the answers to these questions may have some bearing on the plausibility of normative pluralism, the two discussions cannot really be kept completely separate. I can, of course, not endeavor to answer the fundamental questions of what the correct moral and prudential theories are. I shall instead, to the best of my ability, try to point out where these considerations become relevant. In the end, however, no final judgment can be given concerning pluralism before we settle on what morality and prudence require of us. With respect to this list of concerns, I wish to echo a passage from Ralph Wedgwood’s book on the nature of normativity: I very much doubt whether anyone alive today is entitled to any great degree of confidence in the correctness of any theory that attempts to answer any of the larger questions of philosophy. Since the theory that I am advocating here is a theory that attempts to answer some of these larger

6 For an example of this kind of view, see John McDowell, “Virtue and Reason,” Monist 62, no. 3 (1979): 331–​350. For an interesting treatment of the problems with McDowell’s view, see R. Jay Wallace, “Virtue, Reason, and Principle,” in R. Jay Wallace, Normativity and the Will (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 261–​262.

Introduction  7 questions, I doubt that I am entitled to much confidence in the correctness of this theory.7

The interrelatedness of this and other issues (not all of which I can cover fully) and the controversial and uncertain nature of many of our intuitions and judgments mean that we should be careful about expressing adamant conclusions either way in this debate.

1.3.  Normative Pluralism and Value Pluralism: Separate Topics Before I go on, I want to make an important distinction that helps with locating and narrowing down our topic. The topic of this book is normative pluralism, which is a theory that attributes incommensurability to the normative domain, where the normative domain is primarily concerned with reasons and facts about what you ought to do. A pluralist theory of the normative has not been much discussed in the philosophical literature. However, there has been much philosophical investigation into what has been called value pluralism, which some proponents have understood as applying systematic incommensurability to the evaluative domain.8 The two theories have some interesting similarities, but is there any connection between them? Let me first give a rough summary of normative pluralism. This theory holds that there are many distinct and incommensurable types of oughts and that there is no overarching ought that encompasses all of the different types. The lack of such an overarching ought means that there is no ought that we can identify as the plain ought concept. When we speak truly about what we ought to do, we must instead specify what kind of ought we are using if we are to fully understand the sentence used. It could mean that we morally or prudentially ought to do it or ought in some other sense to do it, but according to the normative pluralist, it could not be true that we ought to do it simpliciter. Similar things are to be said about reasons. There are no reasons that are just 7 Ralph Wedgwood, The Nature of Normativity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 12. 8 Elinor Mason, “Value Pluralism,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2018 ed.), http://​plato.stanf​​archi​ves/​spr2​018/​entr​ies/​value-​plural​ism/​, §2.1, §4.4. However, as Ruth Chang argues, the debate on value pluralism has focused too much on ontological questions, and questions about comparability are actually more fundamental. Ruth Chang, “Value Pluralism,” in International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (2012), ed. James Wright, http://​dx.doi. org/​10.1016/​B0-​08-​043​076-​7/​01062-​7.

8  Normative Pluralism plain reasons, but rather there are reasons of the moral kind and of the prudential kind. While the strength of reasons can be compared within reasons of the same type, such comparisons are not possible across types. At least some strong versions of value pluralism seem to have a parallel structure. This kind of theory holds that there are many distinct types of values and that there are at least some pairs of values for which there is no overarching value that encompasses them and by which they can be compared. We can therefore not speak of what is just plain good but only of what is good in this and that respect. An item can furthermore not be just plain better than another but merely better in some respect or other. The questions we are interested in are whether a plurality of values entails a plurality of oughts and whether a plurality of oughts entails a plurality of values. The answer I will propose is that while the latter possibility is more plausible than the former, there is no direct entailment either way. At least, logically speaking, value pluralism and normative pluralism are distinct theories, and it takes a strong substantive argument to collapse them. Furthermore, it seems likely that any relation between them will not go both ways. Let us start with the first of these questions. Suppose that there are many kinds of values, and assume for the sake of argument that these values are incommensurable. Suppose we have the two values “justice” and “pleasure” and that one option is more just and another option is more pleasurable. Since the values are incommensurable, there is no answer as to which option is just plain better. All we can say is that one is more pleasurable and one is more just. Does it follow that there are also two kinds of oughts? One may think that since the one option is better according to justice, then that’s what one ought to do according to justice, and since the other option is better according to pleasure, then that’s what one should do according to pleasure. There are two things to say to this. First, and most important, instead of saying that each value generates a separate type of ought, we could rather become ought skeptics and think that because the values cannot be commensurated, no ought is generated at all. Second, it does not follow that since there is no overarching value capable of saying what option is plain best, then there is nothing one just plain ought to do.9 For we can suppose 9 For a distinctive explanation of how there could be things we ought to prioritize even though none of them is better, see Samuel Scheffler, “Projects, Relationships, and Reasons,” in R. Jay Wallace et al. (eds.), Reason and Value: Themes from the Moral Philosophy of Joseph Raz (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 249, 257.

Introduction  9 that even though there are many values, there is one and only one overarching normative standpoint that tells one what one just plain ought to do. We might think there is a normative standpoint that says that one just plain ought to pursue justice rather than pleasure, even though the standpoint recognizes that both values are good in incommensurate ways. We need not posit any additional value beyond pleasure and justice to make sense of this ought. There might just be a deontic rule that says that in cases like this, one ought to go for the more just option rather than the more pleasurable option even though none of the options is more valuable simpliciter. Although it seems plausible to say that the rule could not exist unless it was valuable in some way, it does not seem that we need any other value than justice for the rule to realize. Moreover, unless a further argument is given, one may simply reject the idea that since each option is better with respect to its respective value, we can infer that there are reasons of that value or things one ought to do relative to that value. It is far from clear whether any such thing would follow. Perhaps only pleasure provides us with reasons, even if justice is also valuable. I think we should conclude, then, that strong value pluralism does not obviously entail normative pluralism, even though it could arguably help support it. But what about the converse? Does normative pluralism entail value pluralism? This could be thought to be plausible insofar as we think there is an entailment from normative claims to value claims, such that the two types of reasons must amount to two different values. But there is no direct link. Suppose there is a conflict between what I morally ought to do and what I prudentially ought to do. Is this consistent with supposing that there is only one value? Let us assume that there exists some kind of super-​value, and let us call it “utility.” It seems natural to say that conflicts between morality and prudence concern how to distribute whatever is of value. Prudence is concerned with distributing more value to oneself, while morality is often concerned with spreading the value to other people as well. If so, there could be only one type of value but several different principles about how to distribute it, giving rise to several different oughts.10 Thus, we could have normative pluralism combined with value monism.

10 This is the view of Sidgwick, who accepted hedonism as a theory about value but also thought there was a dualism of practical reason between an egoistic hedonist and a utilitarian hedonist normative principle. Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics.

10  Normative Pluralism The nature of the relationship between values and the normative is unclear and hotly debated, and I do not wish to take a stand in that debate. However, I want to note that there seems to be ample logical space to keep value pluralism and normative pluralism as distinct positions. Normative pluralism might even be compatible with both value pluralism and value monism. If, contrary to this, it should turn out to depend on value pluralism, we could for the purposes of our discussion simply assume value pluralism, which in any case does not on its own imply a pluralism about normativity. Normative pluralism therefore seems to deserve a separate investigation.

1.4. Procedure This book can be seen as having three parts. First, c­ hapters 2 and 3 together present normative pluralism as a coherent and well-​grounded theory. Second, ­chapters 4 and 5 address and answer the two most common objections to normative pluralism. Third, ­chapters 6 and 7 examine the relative merits of normative pluralism when compared with rival theories. Chapter 2 is the most important chapter of the book, as it attempts to describe and explain the main elements of the theory. Its main aim is to make normative pluralism understandable and to present it as consistent, coherent, and equipped with resources to deal with certain problems. Among its objectives is to argue that qualified oughts (“moral oughts” and “prudential oughts”) are, at least in the absence of an overarching ought, to be understood as genuine oughts. It is also to argue that the concept of “ought all things considered” can be made sense of without presuming commensuration and that normative pluralism can apply such a concept to a range of cases where it plausibly should apply. The chapter therefore sets the stage for the rest of the discussion in the book. Chapter 3 aims to find ways to motivate the thought that normativity is divided and for thinking that the practical domain of normativity is divided between morality and prudence rather than by some other division. The chapter proceeds by examining various attempts by philosophers to ground such a view or related views. I first discuss the view of David Copp, who couples pluralism with a teleological view of normativity. Copp gives an interesting proposal for why normativity is divided that is based on identifying various “problems of normative governance.” I then discuss Evan Tiffany’s view. Tiffany defends a promiscuous form of normative pluralism

Introduction  11 that essentially involves a “top-​down” approach to normativity and the acceptance of a proliferation of normative standpoints and oughts. Tiffany argues that Copp’s pluralism is vulnerable to collapsing into Tiffany’s promiscuous view. While I shall agree with Tiffany that Copp’s theory runs that risk because the concept of a “problem of normative governance” is poorly specified, I see no reason to accept Tiffany’s version of normative pluralism. I instead end up favoring an approach to grounding normative pluralism based on Sidgwick’s “dualism of practical reason.” I will argue that the dualism that Sidgwick describes can be plausibly understood as a proto-​version of normative pluralism. Sidgwick grounds this dualism in the separateness of persons and in the existence of two ways in which agents can conceive of themselves, which ultimately forms two fundamentally distinct normative standpoints. In trying to understand the way in which normativity is divided, the chapter also examines some reasons to conceive of the prudential standpoint as having a richer set of concerns than what many, including Sidgwick, presume it has. Chapter 4 takes up a major challenge to normative pluralism and other theories positing a widespread incommensurability of reasons. One feature that genuine oughts are often thought to have is that beliefs and judgments about them matter for rationality, in the sense that ought beliefs are subject to rational requirements that are supposed to constrain what we can intend to do if we are to avoid incoherency among our mental attitudes. I argue that although a certain requirement of practical rationality that governs beliefs about plain oughts can have no application for beliefs about qualified oughts, there is nevertheless another similar requirement of rationality that does govern qualified oughts and can therefore rationally constrain our choice of options. In addition, c­ hapter 4 tries to provide a picture of what practical reasoning looks like given pluralist beliefs about what we ought to do (which involve irresolvable normative conflicts). I place it within a conception of human agency in between two opposing conceptions described by Joseph Raz, that is, in between what he calls the “classical” and the “rationalist” conception of agency. On the view I defend, a prominent role is given to enkratic reasoning of the rationalist kind, while it is also recognized that reasons may run out and present the agent with irresolvable normative conflicts, in which case a prominent role must be assigned to the agent’s will in reaching and preserving intentions. Chapter 5 deals with the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons, which is definitely the most common type of objection to normative

12  Normative Pluralism pluralism. I argue here that the argument fails. The basic form of the argument is to show that moral and prudential reasons are commensurable because there are cases of moral-​prudential conflict where it is clear what one ought to do all things considered. I give several responses to this argument. My primary and most important response consists of showing that there could not be genuine nominal-​notable cases given independently plausible theories about prudence and that the central intuitions of the argument can be accounted for by the existence of an ought-​all-​things-​considered of a quantificational nature rather than one presupposing comparability. I then argue, secondarily, that even if one doubts that all possible cases can be prevented, it does seem to limit them to certain unusual cases which may require the agent to have some deviant motivational structure. This fact, in addition to a number of reasons to think that our judgments about such cases may not be especially trustworthy or on target, makes it doubtful that we should place any great significance on these judgments. I then argue, thirdly, that even if the pluralist were to bite the bullet and accept that the theory does have some counterintuitive consequences, the extent and significance of these consequences are reduced and may be outweighed by other types of consideration in favor of pluralism. At the end of the chapter, I also provide a way to reverse the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons. The judgment that there is something one just plain ought to do in these cases seems to have some implications concerning what options can rationally be chosen by informed agents. There are reasons, which can be seen as independently plausible, to deny the truth of this implication. If so, it follows that these cases cannot give rise to a plain ought. In ­chapter 6, I go on the offensive and present two challenges to rival normative monist theories that claim moral and prudential reasons to be comparable. First, insofar as the question of moral-​prudential commensurability is a substantive question, it is up to normative monists to provide us with a picture of how moral and prudential reasons are actually commensurated. This is the codification challenge. Second, any such type of commensuration that attempts to bring the two types of reasons together will need to be shown to have some kind of normative priority relative to rival ways of commensurating reasons (in particular, to purely moral or prudential ways). In other words, the resulting normative standpoint must be shown to be normatively supreme. This is the supremacy challenge. Chapter 6 focuses on the supremacy challenge. While it argues against the claim of other normative pluralists that a supreme standpoint is incoherent, the chapter also highlights

Introduction  13 the dim prospects for plausibly claiming that some standpoint has the property of supremacy. This holds in particular for those standpoints that we can already name and are familiar with, such as “rationality” or “morality” itself. Conceptions of rationality seem to lack the necessary determinable content or to have the wrong content to be identified as a supreme standpoint. With respect to morality, I will argue that normative monism is best served by conforming to the thesis of moral overridingness or else risk violating some important intuitions. However, I also argue that the thesis is too strong and that normative pluralism gives us a way to avoid it while also being better placed to respect a wider set of intuitions. Chapter 7 focuses on the codification challenge and examines, first, whether we can formulate any hitherto unnamed and less familiar standpoint that could do the job of commensurating moral and prudential reasons. The chapter looks at attempts by Derek Parfit, Joshua Gert, and Dale Dorsey to formulate such standpoints but finds them to be more problematic than normative pluralism. Second, the chapter considers whether the codification challenge can be avoided by positions that claim that our practical reasons are uncodifiable. I argue that it can and that this allows for normative monist positions that are potentially plausible with respect to their normative implications. On the other hand, I argue that even a slight degree of codifiability will tend to remain problematic and that full uncodifiability also does not guarantee that token moral-​prudential conflicts can be resolved. Chapter 8 summarizes my main conclusions. It also asks what a shift to normative pluralism would entail for first-​order normative theory and argues that normative monism seems to have a greater potential for revisionary consequences with respect to normative implications and for the methods used in normative philosophy. I end by suggesting (echoing several other philosophers in the field) that a correct focus for how to resolve moral-​ prudential conflicts lies not with weighing reasons but with integrating reasons through individual, cultural, and political means.

2 Structures of Normativity and the Concept of “Ought” 2.1. Introduction The aim of this chapter is threefold. First, it explores in greater detail various important elements of normative pluralism. Second, it attempts to establish normative pluralism as a coherent theory. Third, it tries to identify competing theories and explain what kind of picture of normativity each of them provides. To give a very rough sketch, normative pluralism posits that there are a number of normative sources each issuing its own (potentially conflicting) “oughts,” and these oughts are irreducible to merely being reasons for a more fundamental and unified ought. It entails that there are several senses of “ought” but no such thing as facts about what you “just plain ought” or “ought simpliciter.” The kinds of normative sources and oughts that I wish to focus on are those of morality and those of prudence, but sources and oughts of other kinds could also be imagined. One reason for focusing on these sources is that they sometimes seem to give different and conflicting verdicts about what to do. When two normative sources conflict, I shall call it a normative conflict. An important question for the philosophy of normativity is what to think about the resolvability of such conflicts. What, if anything, ought we to do in such cases? The idea of normative pluralism entails that when there is a normative conflict, there is no fact about what we just plain ought, and this gives an important sense in which conflicts are not resolvable. Instead, the conflict remains, leaving us with things we ought to do in one sense and things we ought to do in another sense. There is an essential contrast to be made here between pluralism and its rivals, namely, theories that say that these conflicts

Normative Pluralism. Mathea Slåttholm Sagdahl, Oxford University Press. © Oxford University Press 2022. DOI: 10.1093/​oso/​9780197614693.003.0002

The Concept of “Ought”  15 can always or sometimes be resolved, such that there is or may be a fact about what we just plain ought. Each of these theories implies a different “structure” of normativity with respect to how various normative sources relate to each other and what kind of normative facts they can issue. I begin by exploring the idea that there could exist several different normative sources, such as morality and prudence, each of which could generate its own normative reasons, requirements, and oughts. I will identify such normative sources with being a particular normative system or standpoint. Each normative standpoint issues its own sets of normative facts. I argue further that the sense of these facts is also modified by the respective standpoint that issues them. This means that the different standpoints are therefore not to be understood as competing theories of normativity. Instead, I will argue that the different standpoints all truly tell you what you have reason to do or ought to do in various senses. Normative pluralism will at this point be defined as a position that holds that the normative facts that are issued by the different standpoints are incommensurable, which means that they cannot be compared by some overarching normative standpoint, because no such standpoint exists. Normative monists are those who think that such a standpoint exists and that we can compare the oughts coming from these normative standpoints and determine what we ought to do all things considered or what we just plain ought to do. I will consider some possible arguments for the idea that relational oughts are not oughts at all, but I will reject these arguments because they distort the meaning of these concepts. Next comes a discussion about the concepts of “ought all things considered” and “just plain ought.” I will argue that on a natural understanding of these phrases, the two are not necessarily identical, and only the latter is the kind of ought that the pluralist wants to deny. I argue that this plain ought also needs to have the properties of being both comprehensive and supreme. It must cover all the relational oughts, as well as being “normatively more important” than the relational oughts it covers. The rest of the chapter describes various non-​pluralist positions. Some of these positions allow that there is sometimes no fact regarding what one just plain ought, and I will attempt to identify possible explanations that can account for such gaps.

16  Normative Pluralism

2.2.  Morality and Prudence as Normative Sources Central to normative pluralism is the idea of a multitude of normative sources.1 Call this source pluralism. This idea is shared by many, but not all, of its rival monistic theories.2 The concept of a “normative source” is not generally well defined in the relevant literature, and other terms or phrases can be used in its stead. The rough idea, though, seems to be that they are grounds for the separation of different sorts or groups of reasons. As Andrew Reisner explains it, “[a]‌source of normativity may be intuitively understood as that by virtue of which a reason relation holds, or a particular kind of explanation of why a fact is a reason of a particular type.”3 A good way of understanding what is meant by “normative sources” is to look at paradigmatic examples of such sources. Two immediately recognizable normative sources of reasons are morality and prudence. Morality gives me reasons not to hurt others, and prudence gives me reasons not to start smoking, for example. But it seems we can also say something more interesting about these particular sources, namely, that they both require actions. We can say that morality requires me not to hurt others, and prudence requires me not to start smoking. So morality and prudence are also sources of requirements. This is interesting because requirements appear to provide standards of correctness. If I fail to do what morality requires me to do, I am in some sense acting incorrectly. A standard of correctness is a necessary property of oughts, even if it is not identical or sufficient. A vile hate group, for example, may provide a standard for how to correctly perform a lynching, but that does not mean 1 Evan Tiffany claims that a monistic theory about sources (that there is only one normative source) “flies in the face of our ordinary justificatory practices.” Evan Tiffany, “Deflationary Normative Pluralism,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 37, supp. [vol. 33] (2007): 231–​262. 2 A monist version of source pluralism is defended by, e.g., Roger Crisp, Reasons and the Good (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 132; and John Broome (see below). Some deny it, such as Torbjörn Tännsjö, who claims morality is the only source of reasons. However, it isn’t clear to me how this claim is supposed to be justified. See Torbjörn Tännsjö, From Reasons to Norms: On the Basic Question in Ethics (Dordrecht: Springer, 2010), 75. For a similar criticism of Tännsjö, see Victor Moberger, “From Reasons to Norms: On the Basic Question in Ethics—​By Torbjörn Tännsjö,” Theoria 78, no. 1 (2012): 84–​88. Humeans think that all reasons stem from and are explained by an agent’s desires. There is a large literature on this topic, about which I have nothing new to say, but see Guy Fletcher, “Taking Prudence Seriously,” in Russ Shafer-​Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 14 (forthcoming), for why it would be counterintuitive not to admit of further normative sources. In any case, even if all reasons are explained by an agent’s desires, it is not clear that there couldn’t be a source pluralism at another level, as reasons could be of different types by stemming from different types of desires. 3 Andrew Reisner, “Normative Conflicts and the Structure of Normativity,” in Iwao Hirose and Andrew Reisner (eds.), Weighing and Reasoning: Themes from the Work of John Broome (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 197.

The Concept of “Ought”  17 I ought to or have any reason to perform such a lynching at all. Likewise, the locution “x requires y” does not necessarily signify any normative relation. For instance, sailing requires a boat, but this is not to say that you ought to or have a reason to have a boat. Nor is it saying that if you sail, you ought to or have a reason to have a boat.4 Rather, it is just a statement about necessary conditions in order for the activity of sailing to be possible. There is nothing inherently normative about this statement; it merely describes a modal relation. However, statements such as “morality requires you to respect people’s rights” seem to fall in a different category. The way in which morality requires something of you is different from the way in which sailing requires something of you. Whereas the statement that sailing requires a boat merely means that in order for you to have the property “is sailing,” it is necessary for you to have a boat, the statement that morality requires something of you means something more. The difference between these two statements is that morality seems to be a normative source issuing normative requirements for how to act in order to satisfy a standard or code set by morality and the normative reasons that constitute or support it. The requirements that a code puts you under are not necessarily identical to the modal conditions of having some corresponding property.5 For instance, in order to have the property of “moral,” you must necessarily be spatially extended. But being spatially extended is not part of the code of morality; there is no moral requirement (in the source sense) to be spatially extended. In addition to issuing normative requirements, it also seems natural to say that these sources issue oughts.6 To see why this is, we need to look at how sources such as morality and prudence function when they issue their requirements. For an easy example, take prudence. Suppose prudence requires you to quit smoking. It seems as if this fact can be explained by pointing to certain features concerning smoking and showing that these are features that favor quitting, and they do so to a greater extent than other features concerning smoking count against quitting. So, while smoking sometimes enables you to calm your nerves and to look cool, it also causes serious health risks and bad breath and is a drain on your finances. The fact 4 Nor is it natural to suppose that it entails a wide scope-​ought such as “ought (if you sail, then you have a boat).” 5 John Broome, “Requirements,” in T. Rønnow-​ Rasmussen et al. (eds.), Hommage à Wlodek: Philosophical Papers Dedicated to Wlodek Rabinowicz, 2007. https://​​hom​mage​ awlo​dek/​site/​pap​per/​Bro​omeJ​ohn.pdf , 15. 6 See also Fletcher, “Taking Prudence Seriously,” for the claim that prudence and morality share the markers of normativity.

18  Normative Pluralism that prudence requires you to quit smoking therefore seems explainable by features that, on balance, favor the action, in the same way that reasons explain oughts. The claim that sources such as prudence and morality issue oughts also seems strengthened by the fact that we sometimes use locutions such as “you morally ought to F” or “you prudentially ought to F.” The features referred to above seem to give an explanation for why you prudentially ought to quit smoking. But why do we sometimes say “prudentially ought” rather than just using “ought” with no modifying adverb? And why do we say that these reasons are “prudential reasons” rather than just reasons? To understand this, it is useful to look at how morality would treat the same question of whether or not to quit smoking. Let us assume that morality also requires you to quit smoking. However, if it does require this, the explanation for this fact would seem to be different from the explanation for the fact that prudence requires it. For one thing, there might be features favoring this action that do not play any role in explaining why you are prudentially required to stop smoking. Continuing to smoke would mean, for example, financially supporting the tobacco industry which is arguably responsible for manipulating poor people into becoming addicted to a health-​damaging, expensive luxury article. This consideration does not play any role in explaining why you are prudentially required to stop smoking.7 Conversely, it seems that at least on some theories of morality, some of the facts that played a role in establishing the prudential requirement play no role at all in explaining the moral requirement. Arguably, the fact (if it is a fact) that smoking makes you look cool does not appear relevant for whether you are morally required to stop. Furthermore, some of the features that play the same role in establishing both requirements seem to do so to different extents. The fact that smoking causes bad breath may matter morally, since bad breath causes discomfort to others. However, it seems safe to say that if it matters for determining whether you are morally required to stop smoking, it does so only marginally. This discomfort is relatively insignificant from a moral point of view. However, it seems to matter much more for whether you are prudentially required to stop smoking, since bad breath, for example, decreases your chance of finding a partner, which we can stipulate 7 I am not saying that this fact could not play a role in determining whether you are prudentially required to stop smoking. I am merely stipulating that in this case, it is not. It could, for example, play a prudential role if you are conscientious and care deeply for the poor or if you have a public image to maintain. The extent to which it plays a prudential role seems to depend on your personal psychology and theories of the code of prudence.

The Concept of “Ought”  19 to be a significant aim and interest of yours. In principle, we can also imagine features that count in opposite directions, morally and prudentially. On certain views of prudence, the fact that some action will produce schadenfreude in me counts in favor of that action, since this feeling is a form of pleasure. But from a certain moral point of view, this kind of feeling is inherently bad, and so it counts against that action. What we seem to learn from all this is that morality and prudence have different ways of determining the relevance and weight of the features that explain the requirements or oughts that they issue. Although the ways they do so will depend on our more particular theories of morality and prudence, they count different things as reasons, and they differ with respect to the strength they assign to the reasons and even what actions the reasons are reasons for. This is why the requirements, oughts, and reasons that issue from the normative sources are adverbially qualified. It is relative to prudence that the fact that smoking makes you look cool counts against quitting smoking. It is relative to morality or prudence that you are required to or ought to quit smoking. The adverbs “morally” and “prudentially” signify that the relevant normative facts hold relative to a respective normative source. This, then, is what it means that there are several different normative sources. There are several normative systems or codes with their own reasons, each of which issues its own set of relational requirements and oughts. From now on, I will say that there are different normative standpoints.

2.3.  A Non-​Relational View: Morality and Prudence as Competing Theories of Ought Some may object to this picture and say that it is a little too quick. For instead of thinking that the normative sources issue these kinds of qualified normative facts, that is, facts that are fundamentally relational, couldn’t we think that prudence and morality issue plain non-​relational normative facts? Couldn’t it be that prudence and morality issue facts about what you ought to do period, rather than facts about what you morally or prudentially ought to do? The answer to these questions is no. The reason is that prudence and morality can conflict. Since they have different ways of determining what you ought to do, different circumstances can result in different conclusions about what you ought to do. Intuitive examples would be cases where morality

20  Normative Pluralism requires you to make sacrifices that harm you. If both sources issue facts about what you ought to do period, that could result in a contradictory set of ought statements. This is not the case if they instead issue qualified or relational oughts. The set “you morally ought to F” and “you prudentially ought to not F” may involve a conflict, but if the sense of the ought is qualified, it is not a contradiction. Some people may not worry too much about this, because they accept that there are deontic conflicts.8 However, there is an argument that aims to show that such deontic conflicts cannot exist.9 The argument is that deontic conflicts cannot exist because beliefs about what you ought to do period engage your practical rationality through a rational requirement which John Broome calls “enkrasia”: rationality requires of you that if you believe you ought to F, you intend to F.10 But if enkrasia is correct, you could not be rational and believe you are facing a deontic conflict. Suppose you believe you ought to F and also believe you ought not to F. Then by enkrasia, you are not fully rational unless you intend to F and intend not to F. But separately, it is plain that you are not fully rational if you intend to F and also intend not to F. Therefore, whatever you intend or do not intend, as long as you believe you ought to F and believe you ought not to F, you are inevitably not fully rational. One can also argue that one could not even have good evidence for believing in a deontic conflict, for it must be possible to believe any pair of truths for which one has good evidence and be fully rational. But by the argument above, you are necessarily not fully rational if you believe you are facing a deontic conflict. On the other hand, the argument does not show anything similar about conflicts between qualified oughts. The rational requirement that Broome refers to only applies to non-​relational oughts, if there are any. This means that although conflicts between normative sources can exist, plain deontic conflicts cannot. In reply, one might insist that the normative sources issue plain oughts but that the standpoints from which they emerge only represent different theories of what we just plain ought to do.11 On such a view, morality, through a certain moral principle, represents one theory for determining what we just plain ought to do, while prudence, through some prudential principle, represents a competing theory for determining what we just plain ought to 8 They may also think that there is no contradiction since they might deny the inference O(~F) ⊃~O(F). 9 I owe this argument to John Broome (personal communication). 10 John Broome, Rationality through Reasoning (forthcoming), 22, with a more precise formulation of the requirement at 178. 11 If I understand him correctly, this seems to be Tännsjö’s view. Tännsjö, From Reasons to Norms.

The Concept of “Ought”  21 do. The truth of the two types of qualified ought claims could therefore be no more than prima facie. If the oughts conflict, that gives us a contradiction, but this does not show that the oughts are relative, only that only one of the oughts is true. But this view is not compatible with maintaining the normativity of each standpoint and is an unattractive view for several reasons. First, each of the standpoints seems to be a valid and reasonable way of reasoning that at least has relevance for determining what we ought to do. They seem to consist of genuine considerations that have some kind of normative import. Second, it seems that both standpoints do in fact issue true qualified oughts. We certainly have the concepts of “morally ought” and “prudentially ought,” and there are propositions about what we ought, in a qualified sense, that we usually take to be true. Third, even if one thinks there are things that one just plain ought, there are more plausible theories around than this view. I will discuss the main form of these theories in this chapter, but common to them all is that they accept that the different normative sources are able to issue relational normative facts. Since it is these theories that will be the focus of my discussion, I will not have anything more to say about the “competing theories” view.

2.4.  Normative Pluralism and Incommensurable Oughts Let us agree that there are various different normative sources each of which issues its own kind of normative facts, that is, reasons, requirements, and maybe even oughts. Now the question is how these normative standpoints relate to one another and if there is more to be said about the structure of normativity. At this point, different normative theories will paint different pictures. In some ways, normative pluralism is the simplest and weakest of these theories. It claims no more than what we have discussed so far, namely, that there are several normative sources, each issuing its own type of reasons, requirements, and oughts. In other words, normative pluralism claims that there are different normative standpoints for determining what you ought to do. From one normative standpoint, you ought to do one thing, and from another standpoint, it might be the case that you ought to do another thing. All oughts are essentially relational, qualified oughts. This last point is where normative pluralism differs from its rivals, for normative pluralism entails that there are no oughts simpliciter, nothing you just plain ought to do. Other theories disagree with this and claim that there are always or sometimes facts about what you ought simpliciter.

22  Normative Pluralism The claim that there are no facts about what you just plain ought may sound a bit startling. Surely, we might say, there are things you just plain ought to do. A common way for philosophers of normativity to understand this plain sense of ought is to identify it with what you ought to do all things considered. An important task for the rest of this chapter is to show that the term “ought all things considered” is less than happy as an account of a plain sense of ought, as there are senses in which the pluralist can also accept facts about what you “ought to do all things considered.” This should show that the claim that there are no plain oughts is less startling than it may appear. Let us first examine what rival views look like. One clear example of such a rival view is described and seemingly endorsed by Broome. While Broome accepts that there are various normative sources and that we have and use the qualified ought concepts, he prefers not to use “ought” terminology with respect to them and finds it enough to call them requirements. This is because Broome thinks there is a more central ought concept, namely, ought all things considered.12 The phrase “all things considered,” he says, emphasizes that the judgment is properly considered such that it has taken account of everything that should be taken into account. The role of normative sources such as morality and prudence is not to issue oughts but to help determine what you ought all things considered. “Ought all things considered” therefore takes morality and prudence not as independent ought makers but as parts of a more comprehensive ought maker. Here is what Broome says about the structure of normativity: There are various sources of requirements. The requirements that issue from some of these sources are normative. Separate normative requirements, issuing from different sources together determine unqualified oughts: what you ought to do, ought to believe, ought to be, and so on. Normativity has components that all come together in the central ought.13

12 Broome, Rationality through Reasoning, 26. Similarly, Wedgwood thinks that there must be a more general sense of “ought” that goes beyond the moral and the prudential, namely, “ought all things considered.” Ralph Wedgwood, The Nature of Normativity, 24. Similarly, Owen McLeod thinks that in addition to relational oughts, there is a “just plain ought” which is a non-​relational ought. Owen McLeod, “Just Plain Ought,” Journal of Ethics 5, no. 4 (2001): 269–​291. Judith Jarvis Thomson says that unlike “good” which is always relational, “ought” only has an “all things considered” sense. Judith Jarvis Thomson, Goodness and Advice (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 46. 13 Broome, Rationality through Reasoning, 29.

The Concept of “Ought”  23 Although he isn’t explicit about it, Broome’s view reduces relational oughts and requirements to plain reasons. A reason, he argues, is a thing that plays a role in explaining an ought fact. This seems to be exactly the role that moral requirements and prudential requirements would have in relation to a fact about what you ought all things considered. Since this is the plain sense of ought, and the more central one, “relational oughts” are better understood as mere reasons for this overarching ought. If qualified requirements are reasons rather than oughts, it is easy to see how they could contribute to determine what you ought, even if the requirements conflict. A general feature of reasons is that they can take part in weighing explanations of ought facts. On Broome’s picture, then, there are oughts such that both moral and prudential requirements are determining reasons for them, and the combined weight of these reasons is what determines what you ought all things considered. The demands of morality and the demands of prudence can be weighed against each other. All this assumes, however, that there is some kind of overarching standpoint that can do the job of reducing the relational oughts to reasons and weigh them. If the standpoints of morality and prudence do not issue oughts, that seems to be because oughts are instead issued by a more comprehensive and normatively superior standpoint. Normative pluralism denies this assumption. It denies that there is a further more comprehensive, superior standpoint that can take qualified oughts as reasons and weigh them against each other. According to the normative pluralist, then, moral and prudential oughts are incommensurable. It is in this sense that pluralism is a simpler theory: it denies any further existential claim that the qualified oughts are commensurable under an overarching standpoint. This further existential claim must be substantiated, it maintains, and the reasons in its favor are not convincing. The fundamental difference between normative pluralism and Broome’s view can therefore also be described as the question of whether the qualified oughts are incommensurable or whether there is an overarching normative standpoint from which they can be weighed against each other. Although the question about whether one can “weigh oughts against each other” sounds a bit odd, it is a sensible question nonetheless. It is short for whether the qualified oughts are also reducible to weighable reasons under an overarching normative standpoint.

24  Normative Pluralism

2.4.1.  Incommensurability as Noncomparability As the claim about incommensurability is what distinguishes normative pluralism from the more typical view that moral and prudential oughts can be compared and weighed against each other, I need to explain what this claim amounts to. The term “incommensurability” is used in different ways throughout the philosophical literature. For example, Ruth Chang uses it to refer to the lack of a single scale of units of value according to which items can be precisely measured.14 If two items are incommensurable in Chang’s sense, then there is no way of measuring precisely how much greater in value one of them is than the other in terms of a common scale. Understanding incommensurability as a failure of measurement clearly separates it from the concept of incomparability, which is to be understood as a failure of comparison. For even if one cannot measure precisely how much “more F” one thing is relative to another, this need not mean that one cannot compare them. We could judge that one item is “F-​er” than another without having any idea of how much “F-​er” it is. While it is useful to follow Chang in distinguishing between failures of measurement and failures of comparison, other philosophers have used the term to refer to the latter. This is also how I will use the term. However, as I shall use the term, it refers to a very specific type of failure of comparison. Chang distinguishes between two ways that a comparison might fail. First, comparisons may fail substantively, a failure that Chang calls “incomparability.” Second, comparisons may fail formally, which she calls “noncomparability.” When I say that moral and prudential oughts are incommensurable, I take that to be equivalent to saying that they are noncomparable. To see what the difference amounts to, we need to consider that according to Chang, comparability is a relativized three-​place relation.15 It says something about how x compares with y with respect to value V. If Beethoven is better than Mozart, then he is better with respect to some value, such as musical talent or creativity. This analysis means that if two items are comparable, then there must be some covering value V with respect to which the items could have some evaluative difference. For there to be a failure of 14 Ruth Chang, “Introduction,” in Ruth Chang (ed.), Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reason (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), 2. 15 Ibid., 5. She extends this view to also hold for comparing reasons. Ruth Chang, “Are Hard Choices Cases of Incomparability?,” Philosophical Issues 22, no. 1 (2012): 112–​113. A similar three-​ place analysis of the concept of goodness or betterness is given by Judith Jarvis Thomson, Normativity (Chicago: Open Court, 2008), 2.

The Concept of “Ought”  25 comparability, on the other hand, it must not be possible to order the items according to any comparative relation. That is, it must be false that x is “better than,” “worse than,” or “equal to” y, with respect to some covering value V. As I said, there are two ways in which this may be true. A substantive type of failure would occur if there is some covering value V that governs the comparison but where it is false that any of the comparative relations hold between the items with respect to that value. In such a case, according to Chang’s terminology, the two items are incomparable with respect to V. The formal type of failure occurs if, on the other hand, there is no covering value V that governs the comparison, that is, that the failure occurs because the very preconditions for a comparison—​a covering value—​are not in place. If two items fail to compare in this way, then the two items would be noncomparable. I would like to add that there furthermore seem to be two ways in which noncomparability may obtain. The first is when the comprehensive value does not, in fact, cover the items. Fried eggs and tomato soup may be comparable with respect to taste but are noncomparable with respect to musicality, since musicality does not cover these two items. There is a value domain of “musicality” that enables comparisons between certain items; it is just that these particular things are not included in that domain and so are noncomparable with respect to it. The other type of noncomparability is when there fails to be a covering value V of the presupposed kind. We might have been in the business of comparing two charitable options with respect to what would be most pleasing to God. If God exists, the two options would most surely fall under the domain of his pleasure and would therefore be comparable. But if we, on the other hand, come to find that there is good reason to believe that God does not exist, the two options would not fall under this domain, because there would be no such domain. Compare this with trying to compare two items with respect to the nonsense value “schmaste.” The term “schmaste” does not really make sense, and hence “better with respect to schmaste” does not pick out a relation in any possible world. “Pleasing to God” arguably makes sense and picks out a relation in worlds where God exists (if there are any such worlds).16 When normative monists claim that 16 To illustrate noncomparability, Chang tends to use examples of comparisons that fail to make sense (“French toast and the city of Chicago for breakfast”; “a lamp and a window for prime minister”), and she says that if a value does not cover the items, “we cannot understand what is being said.” Ruth Chang, Making Comparisons Count (Abingdon: Routledge, 2002), 85. However, she also says that a source of noncomparability can be reference failures (85), and the example of “pleasing to God,” which is a case of reference failure, seems to work as a counterexample to Chang’s claim.

26  Normative Pluralism we can get to a more central and unqualified ought by putting together and comparing the strength of the moral and prudential oughts (or reasons), then that claim presupposes some covering value that encompasses both morality and prudence and should be given some type of normative priority over the subsidiary verdicts of morality and prudence. Formulated differently, we can say that it presupposes some overarching and privileged normative standpoint. The claim of normative pluralists is that such a standpoint (or covering value) does not exist. Morality and prudence would therefore display a noncomparability of the second kind, meaning that claims that they are comparable under such a standpoint suffer from a reference failure.17 I do not wish to say that suggesting a covering value for morality and prudence necessarily fails to make sense. Various sensible values may be suggested. However, none of them seems to satisfy the requirements for being such a standpoint. I shall argue further for this throughout the book.

2.5.  Qualified Oughts as Genuine Oughts We have seen that Broome thinks that qualified oughts, such as moral and prudential oughts, are, in fact, not oughts at all but rather something weaker, namely, requirements that are reasons under an “all things considered” standpoint. In one way, he is right. If these different types of requirements are, in fact, commensurable, such that by comparing the weight of conflicting kinds of requirements there results something we “ought all things considered,” then it follows that these requirements are reduced to mere reasons determining what we just plain ought. However, the thesis of commensurability presupposed by this view may very well not be true. What are we to make of these qualified normative requirements in a world where they do not combine to determine a superior ought? The lack of any unqualified ought would still leave us with certain normative sources of requirements. But in such a world, they can no longer be reduced to mere reasons for some overarching ought, so what argument could show that they cannot correctly be coined as oughts? Broome can be read as suggesting two further arguments not to regard qualified oughts as oughts. First, he says: 17 For a more elaborate defense of this point, see Mathea Sagdahl, “The Relevance of Noncomparability for Agency,” Journal of Philosophical Research (forthcoming).

The Concept of “Ought”  27 The “oughts” in constructions such as “morally ought” and “rationally ought” cannot be detached from their adverbs. In that respect they are like “successful” in “potentially successful.”18

This passage can be read only as the claim that qualified oughts and just plain oughts have irreducibly different meanings, and on this the normative pluralist will agree. But the analogy he provides can be taken to say something more, for we might wonder whether a potential success is any kind of success at all. It is natural to say that being potentially successful is not a way of being successful. It means rather that it is not successful in any kind of way but might become so. We might think this is similar to the case of qualified oughts. If qualified oughts are like “potentially successful,” that means they are not oughts but rather something else, like mere contributors to oughts (i.e., reasons). The culprit here is the adverb “potentially,” for it does not seem to be the case that for every thing that is attached to an adverb and that cannot be detached from it, that thing is not really a sort of whatever kind of thing it would have been had it not been attached to an adverb. Take the construction “financially successful.” Unlike being “potentially successful,” being “financially successful” naturally seems to be a particular kind of way of being successful. This seems to be the case even though it does not imply being just plain successful. Someone can obviously be financially successful but not successful tout court. Thus, whether or not some qualified success is a kind of success seems to depend on the governing adverb. “Financially successful” is a kind of successfulness, whereas “potentially successful” is not. So what should we say about morally and prudentially ought? Are they like “financially successful,” or are they, as Broome suggests, like “potentially successful”? My claim is that “morally” and “prudentially” are more like “financially” than “potentially.” “Potentially” is a special kind of adverb that does not give a kind but functions very much like the adverbs “possibly” or “probably.” Again, it seems to mean “not successful in any kind of way but might become so.” “Necessarily,” “always,” or “rarely” are other adverbs with a special function but which do not give kinds. With respect to successfulness, they say that something is successful in some way or other across some set of times or possible worlds. “Morally” and “prudentially” seem to have no such special function but rather provide kinds. This seems to be so on what I take to be

18 Broome, Rationality through Reasoning, 28.

28  Normative Pluralism natural readings of the terms. That qualified oughts do not imply ought simpliciter is therefore no reason not to regard them as genuine oughts. The second argument that one could read out of Broome to show that qualified oughts are not genuine oughts is that qualified oughts could not play the same role in our practical reasoning as plain oughts do.19 In particular, Broome argues that a certain requirement of rationality could not operate on qualified oughts and that this requirement is central to what we may call “enkratic” practical reasoning. This might be seen to threaten the picture we have of our rational agency. I will respond to this worry in full detail in ­chapter 4, where I will show how normative pluralism will not lead to a picture of rational agency that is radically different from what we would otherwise have and that enkratic reasoning could be both possible and prevalent even if we only have qualified ought concepts. Finally, we should remind ourselves that another aspect of qualified oughts that seems to support the view that they are to be understood as oughts is that they function very much as oughts do. They are prescriptions on an agent that are explained by favoring considerations in what seems to be exactly the same way as oughts are explained by reasons.

2.6.  The Unqualified Ought What is this additional normative standpoint that normative monists affirm and pluralists deny? According to Broome, morality and prudence come together as parts under a more central normative standpoint from which we can commensurate them and determine what one ought “all things considered.” For the moment, we can follow Chang in treating “all things considered” as a placeholder term for the kind of ought that would do the job of commensurating the oughts that it takes as parts, such as moral and prudential oughts.20 At this point, we need not concern ourselves with the specific content of this placeholder. In order to treat a standpoint as representing this more central “all things considered” standpoint, it would have to possess two important features. I will discuss these in turn. 19 Ibid. 20 Ruth Chang, “All Things Considered,” Philosophical Perspectives 18, no. 1 (2004): 2. It should be mentioned, though, that Chang’s discussion focuses on prudence, morality, and “all things considered” as values, not on the more explicitly deontic normative concepts that we are focusing on.

The Concept of “Ought”  29

2.6.1. Comprehensiveness A basic feature of the “all things considered” standpoint is that it is a comprehensive standpoint that is able to take every consideration into account and assign it a weight, where a given consideration could either have a negative, zero, or positive weight with respect to favoring some action. I take the property of comprehensiveness to be a necessary feature of a standpoint that could provide us with unqualified oughts, but as I will explain in the next section, it is not sufficient. If a standpoint is comprehensive in this way, then that certainly seems to provide it with more centrality to our lives than a standpoint that is very narrow in its concerns. Consider, for example, Wedgwood’s claim that because morality is a “big value” (encompassing more considerations), that partly explains why he thinks moral reasons are often so weighty that they outweigh all countervailing nonmoral reasons.21 But being comprehensive is not enough for a standpoint to fit into the “all things considered” category or to have more normative weight. This is because the mere fact that a standpoint encompasses more considerations does not mean that this standpoint should be given normative priority in determining our actions. The more comprehensive standpoint could rather be just a third normative standpoint, which would just expand the pluralism of normativity. We could, for example, suggest that there is a standpoint of “meaning” that encompasses both morality and prudence, where the action favored by prudence is understood to be meaningful to some extent by virtue of its prudential nature (i.e., that it furthers the interests of myself) and, similarly, where the action favored by morality is meaningful to some extent by virtue of its moral nature (i.e., because it would be beneficial to many people, say). But it is unclear why the verdicts of the standpoint of meaning would in any way be more normatively important than the verdicts of morality or prudence, which it covers. There might even be other comprehensive standpoints competing with the standpoint of meaning. It therefore seems we would need to say something more to establish this. Furthermore, we could argue that not only morality but also prudence can be understood as comprehensive normative standpoints that take everything into account. The two standpoints could be comprehensive

21 Ralph Wedgwood, “The Weight of Moral Reasons,” in Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Vol. 3 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 35–​58.

30  Normative Pluralism in a weak or a strong sense. In a weak sense, every first-​order consideration that is relevant to a prudential assessment could also be taken into account by a moral assessment (and vice versa). So, to repeat the example earlier in this chapter, the fact that smoking causes bad breath can be taken into account in both a moral and a prudential assessment, but that same fact is given different weights (the same fact mattering in different ways and to different degrees). Unlike the rules of chess, which provide no means of assessing whether you should attend your aunt’s Christmas dinner, both prudence and morality govern all parts of our practical lives. Every possible action seems to fall under their domains, and they provide criteria for assessment that make it possible to assign a weight to any consideration (at least, considerations of a first-​order kind).22 But one might think that this leaves something out. Take the consideration that your action will hurt another person to a degree far greater than your own gain. This is usually of great moral importance because it could mean being inconsiderate to others. But insofar as it is of any prudential importance, that is not because it involves being inconsiderate to others but rather because of some other reason (e.g., that the person may become angry at you). One can therefore think that prudence does not take into account the same considerations as morality does, because it leaves out the second-​order consideration of why hurting the other person may matter. That is, it can be argued that prudence is not able to take into account moral considerations qua moral considerations. This seems to be Wedgwood’s claim when he says that morality subsumes other values. It may be concluded that prudence is therefore not comprehensive in a strong sense (and possibly vice versa for morality). Whether this conclusion is true depends on our substantive views about the nature of prudence and morality. On some views of prudence, such as hedonistic egoism, it may be true that it would not be strongly comprehensive (although I think that is not obviously so). On other views, it is not. For example, if your view of prudence is such that your moral character matters for prudentially living well, then the fact that an action would be inconsiderate would matter for the same reason that it matters for a moral assessment. It matters by virtue of being a moral consideration, and furthermore, all moral

22 Derek Baker makes the same point in “Skepticism about Ought Simpliciter,” in Russ Shafer-​ Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 13 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 237–​238.

The Concept of “Ought”  31 considerations would matter qua moral considerations given such a view of prudence. The same kind of strong comprehensiveness seems to obtain with many views of morality. For example, all views that recognize what are often called “agent-​centered prerogatives” that permit the agent in many situations to prioritize his or her own good even if more good could be produced otherwise, seem to recognize that such prudential considerations matter for moral assessments qua being prudential considerations.23 I conclude that comprehensiveness is not sufficient for establishing a standpoint as being the “all things considered” standpoint. Both prudence and morality may be considered strongly comprehensive standpoints (and other such standpoints may arguably also exist). In any case, whether or not any or both standpoints are comprehensive, it is simply unclear why such comprehensiveness should imply that a standpoint is normatively more important. Even if, for example, prudence were to be more narrow in its range of considerations than, say, morality, it is not clear why those prudential considerations must be seen as less important for the deliberating agent to whom those considerations apply. A further upshot of this conclusion is that “all things considered” is somewhat misleading as a term for expressing the unqualified ought, since qualified oughts can also “consider all things.” The normative verdicts of both morality and prudence (if they are made properly) are both possibly comprehensive, in the sense that they leave nothing out of account, the only difference being that they assign a different set of weights to the things they take into account. We could therefore use the term quite differently, as not referring to an unqualified ought. Rather, we could say such things as “all things considered, I prudentially ought to do F and I morally ought to do not F, and there is no fact as to what I ought to do simpliciter.”24 This is a use of the term that is consistent with normative pluralism. The “all things considered” qualification here only means that the oughts are based on having taken everything into account and so are not just partial judgments.

23 See Samuel Scheffler, The Rejection of Consequentialism, rev. ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), for a classic statement of such prerogatives. 24 Broome says that “there is no special sort of all-​things-​considered ought” and that “all things considered” rather refers to a judgment that has taken every relevant consideration into account. Broome, Rationality through Reasoning, 26. However, as the above argument shows, this kind of comprehensiveness in a judgment is not enough to take us beyond qualified oughts and give us a judgment about what one ought simpliciter to do.

32  Normative Pluralism

2.6.2. Supremacy In addition to positing an ought that is comprehensive, normative monists need to hold that there is a plain ought that in some sense takes priority over the qualified oughts. In order for this ought to be able to take priority, as well as being comprehensive, it would need to have what David Copp calls the property of supremacy, meaning that it is the normatively most important ought.25 It is not enough for there to be a third standpoint from which to make judgments about the relative importance of the other standpoints, for this could be done by just another qualified standpoint. This overarching standpoint must be authoritative in a way in which the relational standpoints are not. According to Copp, normative monists need to hold that there is something like “Reason-​as-​such,” which is not merely another standpoint from which to make qualified judgments about what you ought to do but which can settle what you ought to do period. If there is such a standpoint, there are explanations of ought facts grounded in what is just plain more reasonable. The question is therefore whether there exists a normative standpoint that can have this type of property. Copp argues that the idea of an overarching supreme standpoint is not only false, it is incoherent.26 I shall discuss this argument later, but I want to stress that my claims are weaker. To be sure, insofar as qualified oughts can at all be understood as different sorts of oughts, there is a shared idea of a plain ought concept, both comprehensive and supreme, that we can abstractly imagine. Instead of claiming the incoherency of the very idea of such an ought, the pluralist can argue that given the substantive nature of the standpoints of morality and prudence, there is simply no authoritative way to commensurate moral and prudential reasons.27 The pluralist will, for this reason, simply reject the claim that there exists a standpoint like what Broome describes, a standpoint from where it is possible to weigh qualified oughts against each other to determine a plain 25 David Copp, “The Ring of Gyges: Overridingness and the Unity of Reason,” in David Copp, Morality in a Natural World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 294. 26 Ibid., 303. 27 Compare McPherson, who argues that the constitutive role of the concept of ought simpliciter (or the “practical ought,” as he calls it) is that it is the most appropriate “norm to appeal to” (i.e., more appropriate than some qualified standard) in the context of trying to choose an option non-​ arbitrarily in cases such as moral-​prudential conflicts. This would make the concept coherent and would explain its authority, but he leaves the possibility open that for such conflicts, the concept could be empty. Tristram McPherson, “Authoritatively Normative Concepts,” in Russ Shafer-​Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 13 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 265, 267.

The Concept of “Ought”  33 and supreme ought. Confusingly, although I label the position I advocate as a substantive view, it is not a version of what Dale Dorsey has called “substantive dualism.”28 According to Dorsey’s usage, “substantive dualism” accepts the existence of a plain ought and an overarching normative standpoint but holds that there is never a plain requirement to choose the moral over the prudential option, or vice versa. Instead, the position I advocate is a version of what he calls “structural dualism,” where the lack of such requirements is due to the nonexistence of an overarching normative standpoint. However, Dorsey seems to equate this view with Copp’s view that this nonexistence is due to its incoherence. My view will instead be that the notion of such a standpoint and the concept of a plain ought are both coherent but empty. With all the necessary concepts in place, we can say that normative pluralism of the sort I will defend consists of the following claims: Normative pluralism: (i) There is no supreme normative standpoint that covers morality and prudence, such that (ii) the relative strength of moral and prudential reasons are noncomparable with respect to such a standpoint and such that (iii) no unqualified normative facts can be determined. Instead, (iv) there are only qualified normative facts.

While most normative monists will deny all these claims, some will think that the existence of such a standpoint is not necessary for comparability and may therefore accept (i) and (ii) and only deny (iii) and (iv). A normative skeptic may accept (i), (ii), and (iii) but deny (iv), which asserts the existence of certain normative facts. Much of the rest of this book will be concerned with whether or not there can be found a standpoint that is normatively supreme. Unsurprisingly, I shall argue that there cannot.

2.7.  The Meaning of “Ought All Things Considered” and “Just Plain Ought” Let us now take stock and see how we can understand our talk about what we ought or have reason to do. Is normative pluralism revisionary with 28 Dale Dorsey, “Two Dualisms of Practical Reason,” in Russ Shafer-​Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 8 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

34  Normative Pluralism respect to our normative discourse? Normative pluralism denies that there are things we ought to do in an unqualified sense or things we ought to do “all things considered” in Broome’s specific sense. Beyond what we morally ought to do and what we prudentially ought to do, there is no overarching sense of ought that represents what we just plain ought to do. Yet we often say that there are things we just plain ought to do or ought to do all things considered, and it seems that we can at least sometimes say so truly. For instance, we would say that we just plain ought not to drink poison or that all things considered we ought to treat our friends well. To reject these statements as false does not seem like a natural way to go, and so the pluralist will want to make sense of them. However, this sense will inevitably diverge from the way non-​pluralists understand such statements. Broome, as we have seen, identifies “ought all things considered” with ought simpliciter, but the latter kind of ought cannot exist according to the pluralist, who thinks that all oughts are essentially qualified oughts. However, I think there is a way for the pluralist to account for these common-​sense statements. I also think that it is important to emphasize that a pluralist interpretation of these concepts need not be seen as a reinterpretation from some kind of default monist understanding. It is true that statements like the ones above involve no explicit reference to any particular standpoints, and so identifying them with ought statements that are fundamentally non-​relational is certainly one way to understand them. But even though there is no explicit reference to standpoints, there is nothing to suggest that there couldn’t be an implicit one.29 Especially if there is no communicative or other kind of need to emphasize the relevant standpoints in the cases where we can truly use these concepts, we should not expect these references to be explicit. That we refer to a special kind of ought that is different from the familiar qualified oughts is therefore by no means given by our use of these statements. The statements themselves are consistent with both pluralist and non-​pluralist interpretations and should not without further argument be seen as being committed to either. Here is how the pluralist can account for these statements. Whereas non-​ pluralists would see these statements as uses of a further non-​relational 29 Finlay argues that uses of unqualified “ought” always presuppose implicit qualifiers and that our uses of unqualified oughts are elliptical for more complex sentences. Stephen Finlay, “Oughts and Ends,” Philosophical Studies 143, no. 3 (2009): 315–​340. See also Gunnar Björnsson and Stephen Finlay, “Metaethical Contextualism Defended,” Ethics 121, no. 1 (2010): 7–​36, for the pragmatic function of omitting the standards that modify the sense of ought claims.

The Concept of “Ought”  35 kind of ought, this would not be an option for pluralists. What would the pluralist understanding be instead? One option would be to view them as referring to yet another relational standpoint on an equal footing with other standpoints.30 This is possible in principle, but it does not give a natural understanding of these statements. “Ought all things considered” and “just plain ought” appear to refer to ought facts with a special kind of status and thus are not ought facts that are on an equal footing with qualified oughts, as they have a special connection with rationality. It does not, for example, seem rational for an agent to think that he or she ought prudentially to do F but all things considered to not do F and then decide to do F—​as “all things considered” judgments seem to have a kind of rational authority that mere qualified judgments do not. Non-​pluralists, as we have seen, attach the property of supremacy to these kinds of ought facts. This is, however, no option for a pluralist, since it is exactly the existence of these kinds of oughts that the pluralist wants to deny. The pluralist would be better served by taking the other option, which does not involve introducing a new kind of ought that would exist in addition to the qualified ones. The second option would instead understand these statements as expressing mere quantifications over the normal qualified standpoints. Suppose that you ought to F both from the moral and the prudential standpoints, so that you both morally and prudentially ought to F. It is not possible to detach the adverbs, the pluralist would argue, and from this infer that you ought simpliciter to F. But if these are the only relevant standpoints, we can say truly that from all normative standpoints, you ought to F (in whatever sense of “ought”). So it is therefore possible to take on a kind of general perspective without committing ourselves to the existence of some overarching standpoint that covers and makes overriding judgments on the qualified standpoints. Whenever standpoints are in agreement, we can generalize across them. This also seems to capture something of the meaning of the phrase “all things considered, you ought to F,” for it is a way of considering all relevant standpoints, and the judgments of these standpoints in turn are results of having considered all relevant features of the situation.31 Such general facts about what one ought all things considered also implies that on no relevant perspective ought one to not F.

30 Some normative pluralists favor this position. See Baker, “Skepticism”; Tiffany, “Deflationary Normative Pluralism.” These positions will be further discussed in section 3.3. 31 By relevant standpoint, I mean a genuine normative standpoint that is non-​silent with respect to the choice situation. Normative silence is defined in section 2.7.2.

36  Normative Pluralism However, it is clear that this approach is somewhat limited when it comes to determining a single option that one ought to do, for it requires the relevant standpoints to be in agreement on a single option that ought to be taken. But this is how the pluralist will expect things to be. If morality and prudence differ, there is simply no way to get beyond this conflict because the conflict is, in fact, irresolvable. One might think that this means that only rarely are there ever facts about what we ought all things considered in this generalized sense. There are two things to be said in response to this. The first is that the frequency with which the standpoints tend to agree or disagree in their verdicts will depend on the specific content of these standpoints. We need some content to the terms “morality” and “prudence” before we can say to what extent they will tend to conflict and to what extent they will harmonize. For now, they are both just blank placeholders for whatever moral theory and theory of prudence might be correct. The second thing to be said is that even with these terms as placeholder concepts, it seems likely that such agreements are not merely marginal phenomena. They are, in fact, extremely common, pertaining even in situations of conflict.32 If morality requires you to do F and prudence requires you to do G, there might be no fact as to whether you just plain ought to do F or whether you just plain ought to do G, but there might be a fact that you just plain ought not to do H, where doing H is doing any option that conflicts with doing F or G. For if you morally ought to do F, it follows that you morally ought to not do anything that is incompatible with or excludes doing F in the context of that choice situation, and the same holds for prudence with respect to any option that is incompatible with or excludes doing G. So this is one type of “all things considered” fact that always pertains whenever there are things that we ought in a qualified sense. To give an example, suppose you morally ought to donate a portion of your income to charity, while you prudentially ought to allocate that money to a careful investment. Given these facts, you both morally and prudentially ought not to waste that money on a useless luxury. This is one type of “all things considered” fact that always pertains whenever there are things that we ought in a qualified sense. Another fact like this is that even if morality and prudence disagree over whether I should do F or G, we can generalize to the fact that, all things considered, I ought to do either F or G. This exclusive disjunction would express 32 The truth of this claim depends on the supposition that we can avoid a hyperinflation of normative standpoints and an excessive number of normative oughts. The more oughts in play, the less agreement will there tend to be. This issue will be addressed in section 3.3.

The Concept of “Ought”  37 that there is no sense of ought in which it is true that I ought to do something other than F or G. These types of facts are significant, for, as I will argue in section 4.3, they can be seen as being subject to requirements of rationality that single qualified oughts are not subject to. So it seems that normative pluralists can agree that there is a sense in which there are things one ought all things considered to do. Indeed, there are two such senses. The first is as a complete and non-​partial qualified ought (as in “all things considered, you morally ought to F”) and as quantifications over qualified oughts. It also seems that when standpoints are in agreement that you ought to F, then “you just plain ought to F” is a natural thing to say. This need not involve a commitment to the existence of an ought simpliciter. Rather, the pluralist would say that emphasizing any adverbial modification(s) to the fact that you ought to F serves no purpose. If you ought to F from all standpoints, then there is no point in listing the standpoints that issue these judgments; you ought to F from all of them. Still, even though these phrases can be given interpretations consistent with both types of position, we need to decide on terminology. From now on, the phrase “just plain ought” will be used interchangeably with “ought simpliciter,” as it serves as a more colloquial kind of expression of a non-​ relational ought. But unless otherwise noted, I shall not from this point on identify “ought all things considered” with ought simpliciter. The former phrase will instead be reserved either for a complete and non-​partial qualified judgment (in which case an adverb will also be present) or for a judgment that quantifies over standpoints (in which case, when clarity demands it, I shall mark it as “ought all things considered quantificational”).

2.7.1.  Reasons and “Most Reason” Whenever I ought all things considered to F, it seems natural to say that I also have “most reason” to do F. Some philosophers tend to use the concept of ought very little and instead opt to talk about reasons, and hence mostly use the concept of having “most reason” to do something. As with the concept of “ought all things considered,” we might suspect that the notion of “most reason” involves some kind of intertype comparability of reasons. After all, the very word “most” is a comparative word. But we can, in fact, find many cases where we can truly express that we have most reason to do some option without assuming any intertype comparability of reasons.

38  Normative Pluralism The case here is parallel with the case of “ought all things considered” in that we can make sense of such statements in a quantificational way. But the case is also slightly more complicated, since it will seldom be the case that all reasons favor the same alternative. While moral and prudential requirements might often come to be in perfect agreement about what to do, this is not so for reasons. It seems to be a common fact about cases where reasons favor some option F that there are also other reasons pulling in the opposite direction. So although we have most reason for doing F, we usually also have some reason for not doing F. In such cases, we cannot quantify over all reasons and say truly that with respect to all reasons, we ought to do F. However, we can solve the problem in two ways. First, we can again quantify over normative standpoints and note that when the standpoints agree, we have most reason to F from all standpoints. Second, although there might be, for example, some prudential reasons not to treat our friends well, these reasons are typically outweighed by other prudential reasons and so are to be understood as defeated reasons. We might therefore quantify over all non-​defeated reasons and note that all non-​defeated reasons favor doing F. In these two ways, we can understand statements such as “I have most reason to treat my friends well” without assuming that different types of reasons can be compared and weighed against each other.

2.7.2.  Permissibility and Silence In this chapter, I have focused on the concept of ought and what we are normatively required—​morally, prudentially, or all things considered—​to do. But in addition to requirements, there are also permissions. We will now look at how normative pluralism handles these types of facts and how they relate to the quantificational understanding of “ought all things considered.” Suppose you are considering whether to buy a newspaper and that buying it is morally optional—​in the sense that both buying and not buying are morally permissible and neither is morally required. There might be some moral reasons for (such as civic considerations of keeping up with the public discourse) and some moral reasons against (such as not contributing to an objectionable media conglomerate). However, none of the reasons makes up a moral requirement. Suppose, however, that reading the newspaper is in your interest because it features useful information about the job market, such that you prudentially ought to buy it. If these things were true, then what

The Concept of “Ought”  39 would the normative pluralist say about what you ought all things considered to do? The pluralist would quantify over the standpoints, and in doing so, one would see that it is not the case that you ought all things considered to buy the newspaper. This is because the standpoints differ in their judgments: it is not the case that both standpoints require you to buy the newspaper. However, it would be possible to say that you are all things considered permitted to buy the newspaper. This holds insofar as ought implies permissibility, which is uncontroversial. So while there would not be a fact about what you ought all things considered to do, there is another kind of all things considered normative fact concerning permissibility. We can call these examples non-​ conflicting cases. They are not cases where the standpoints agree about what you ought and about what is optional, but they agree about permissibility. In this case, there would still be undefeated moral reasons you could choose to act on as a reasons-​responsive agent, even if those reasons would not be in your own interest. However, there is also another kind of case we need to consider, as it is arguably possible for a normative standpoint to be silent on an issue. Suppose you are engaged in a game where you could win a prize based on whether you pick left or right, and suppose you have sound evidence that picking left would win you the prize. In this case, we can suppose that you are prudentially required to pick left (insofar as getting the prize is in your interest). But let us also stipulate that there are no moral reasons against or in favor of either option. In such a case, I take it that morality is silent with respect to the choice. There are no moral reasons or any type of moral normative fact, including permissions, for a reasons-​responsive agent to be responsive to. If so, prudence is the only relevant standpoint, and the only normative fact in play is the prudential requirement. In this case, you would be all things considered quantificational required to pick left. I acknowledge that a problem for the very concept of normative silence is that for standard deontic logic, the falsity of a requirement to F implies the truth of a permissibility to F. Another problem is that it is also true that in common speech, we tend to express the lack of a prohibition on performing a certain action as a permissibility of doing this action. So both in standard deontic logic and in common speech, we sometimes make no distinction between silence and permissibility. But sometimes we do. Consider, for example, the rules of chess. Buying a newspaper, for instance, is not prohibited by the rules of chess. Yet it is only in a highly strained language that we would say that you are permitted, according to the rules of chess, to buy a

40  Normative Pluralism newspaper. What we instead find natural to say is that actions such as buying a newspaper are actions that fall outside the scope of the rules of chess. The rules of chess, then, are expressed as being silent on the matter of buying newspapers. The distinction is also of importance for normative pluralism. For if we could not make use of normative silence, then a number of very plausible “ought all things considered” claims might come out false. For example, it seems true that you ought all things considered to pick left in the example above. There are strong prudential reasons to do so, having to do with future economic prospects, and no moral reasons for or against either option. We would like to say that this choice falls outside the domain of morality and is a matter only of prudence. But if we could not make use of normative silence, such that we would have to say that there is a moral permission to pick right, then we could not generalize over them and reach the verdict that you ought all things considered in the quantificational sense to pick left—​which seems counterintuitive. Normative silence, on the other hand, allows us to generalize to the intuitive conclusion. To do this, we need to make room for normative silence despite the rules of standard deontic logic, and the chess example above also suggests that we have a need to do so. It also points to the fact that this is a general philosophical problem that is not particular to normative pluralism.

3 The Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism 3.1. Introduction Now that we are clear on the structure of normativity according to normative pluralism, we would like to know why we should believe that this structure obtains. What is the ground for thinking that normativity is plural and divided, and why is it divided in the way it is? The primary aim of this chapter is to answer these questions. The first part of the chapter—​sections 3.2 to 3.4—​examines some previous attempts at grounding a normative pluralism. We will see that these attempts end up with a large number of normative standpoints and problems with (or an unwillingness about) limiting that number. In sections 3.5 to 3.6, I provide an alternative grounding based on Sidgwick’s dualism of practical reason, where the pluralism arises from the separateness of persons. This offers a common-​sense and nontechnical grounding that seems to limit the pluralism to the competing perspectives of prudence and morality. In section 3.7, I explore how considerations of meaningfulness relate to this dualist picture of reasons. These considerations are a plausible candidate for a third type of reasons for action, but ultimately, I see them as forming part of the prudential standpoint. This has some important consequences for how prudence and morality relate to each other.

3.2.  A Teleological Grounding The most prominent defense of normative pluralism comes from David Copp, who has held a pluralistic theory of normativity for well more than a decade. Nonetheless, the topic has mostly remained in the background of his wider work on moral philosophy and metaethics. In recent years, however, Copp has been more explicit about the theory, and in one paper, he sets out Normative Pluralism. Mathea Slåttholm Sagdahl, Oxford University Press. © Oxford University Press 2022. DOI: 10.1093/​oso/​9780197614693.003.0003

42  Normative Pluralism the basic elements of a pluralist theory of normativity.1 The name Copp himself gives to the theory he is defending is “pluralist-​teleology.” This is because it is a two-​part theory. In addition to being a normative pluralist theory, it includes a teleological thesis on what grounds the pluralism. Examining Copp’s view is therefore useful because he may give us an understanding of what makes it the case that normativity is divided rather than unified. But we should keep in mind that the normative pluralism and the teleological grounding of the pluralism are actually two separate components of his theory. The purported fact that normativity is divided in the way he describes could in principle be explained by other approaches than the teleological approach he defends. This is, of course, a general point. While one might share a commitment to normative pluralism, one might disagree on what makes for the diversity within normativity and what normative standpoints to recognize. Copp’s basic normative pluralism is, in any case, of a familiar and paradigmatic kind that I have so far been busy describing. The pluralism he has in mind, he says, holds that all normative statuses are “generated” by normative systems, including kinds of goods, kinds of requirements, and so on. The pluralist holds that we can provide truth conditions for normative judgments of a given kind by specifying relevant properties of the corresponding normative system.2

It is thus clear that Copp thinks that all reasons, requirements, and oughts (and even values) are relational in the sense that their truth bears a relation to some “normative system” or other. Different systems “generate” different requirements.3 It is also clear that Copp thinks that all reasons, requirements, and oughts are fundamentally relational in the sense that they do not reduce

1 Most recently in Copp, “Toward a Pluralist and Teleological Theory,” but also in “Moral Naturalism and Three Grades of Normativity,” “The Ring of Gyges,” and ”The Normativity of Self-​ Grounded Reason,” all in David Copp, Morality in a Natural World: Selected Essays in Metaethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). For earlier remarks that fit the theme of normative pluralism, see David Copp, Morality, Normativity, and Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), ­chapter 9. 2 Copp, “Toward a Pluralist and Teleological Theory,” 22. 3 This ties in with Copp’s older and more general “standard-​based” schema for formulating truth conditions of normative judgments, where Copp has defended the idea that a normative claim is true only if it bears a proper relation to a (justified) standard. See Copp, Morality, Normativity, and Society, ­chapter 2. The fact that there are many such standards makes this view constitute a pluralist view.

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  43 to unqualified reasons, requirements, and oughts but are always reasons, requirements, and oughts of some kind or other. This is so because Copp thinks that the verdicts of the different normative systems cannot be commensurated under an overarching normative standpoint. He writes: I will be defending the position that neither morality nor self-​interest overrides the other, that there simply are verdicts and reasons of these different kinds, and that there is never an overall verdict as to which action is required simpliciter in situations where moral reasons and reasons of self-​interest conflict. Accordingly, I reject the position that, in each situation, all the reasons there are determine one overall verdict, the verdict we might call the verdict of “Reason” or “Reason-​as-​such.” In my view, there is no standpoint that can claim normative priority over all other normative standpoints and render a definitive verdict on the relative significance of moral and self-​interested reasons. That is, in cases of conflict between kinds of reasons, there is no fact as to what a person ought simpliciter to do.4

Copp here recognizes the potential for reasons of morality and reasons of self-​interest to conflict, while at the same time, he denies the very existence of a normatively superior overarching standpoint that could resolve such conflicts, and hence he claims that the various normative systems and their verdicts are incommensurable with each other. In fact, elsewhere he argues for something even stronger than merely denying the existence of an overarching standpoint, namely, that the very idea of such a standpoint is incoherent. I will discuss this claim later, but let us move on to the second component of his view. In addition to his normative pluralism, Copp’s theory includes a teleological understanding of normativity. The teleology, Copp says, is a generalization of an idea proposed by J. L. Mackie, where morality is seen as a “device” needed to solve the problem that humans face in enabling mutually beneficial cooperation under circumstances of limited resources and limited sympathies. For Copp, while morality is needed to address this “problem of sociality,” other normative systems are needed to ameliorate other problems that arise for humans because of features of the human condition. The truth conditions for normative judgments of a given kind are therefore relational to the system of norms best geared toward ameliorating the relevant 4 Copp, “The Ring of Gyges,” 285.

44  Normative Pluralism corresponding problem, and a normative standpoint of a given kind will consist of the system of norms best geared toward ameliorating the relevantly corresponding problem through subscribing to these systems (i.e., the moral standpoint would consist of a utilitarian system of norms if utilitarianism is best suited to ameliorating the problem of sociality).5 This teleological component gives Copp a way to identify why and to what extent normativity is divided. Normativity is divided because humans face a variety of “problems of normative governance,” and because we need a variety of different normative systems in order to ameliorate these problems. It is furthermore divided to the extent of the number of normative systems needed. A problem of normative governance, Copp writes, is a problem of overcoming or ameliorating a limitation in our ability to achieve what we value, where our ability to cope with the problem is affected by our decisions and choices, and where the problem is better coped with when people are governed by an appropriate system of norms that they subscribe to than would otherwise be the case.6 Copp also places a further restriction on what count as genuine problems of normative governance, namely, that the problems are generic problems.7 Copp gives no thorough explanation of what a generic problem amounts to or why it needs to be generic, but it seems to require that the problem is shared by all or most of us by virtue of being human. The Norwegians’ problem of encouraging the purchase of Norwegian products made in autumn is not a generic problem of normative governance, Copp says, and this problem can be addressed by more general norms of prudence, and so there are not “reasons of the Norwegian-​ autumnal-​product kind.” He also takes this precondition to be able to exclude specific institutional systems of norms, such as the rules of chess or gladiatorial combat, since there is no generic problem of normative governance that is addressed by the normative systems associated with such games. So neither are there any “chess reasons.” In this way, Copp aims to restrict the number of genuinely normative standpoints and meet some of the challenges discussed here in ­chapter 2. Copp does not provide an exhaustive taxonomy of what normative standpoints there are, but he does discuss a few that he thinks can provide answers to various “problems of normative governance.” As we have seen, Copp accepts that morality is needed to solve “the problem of sociality” 5 Copp, “Toward a Pluralist and Teleological Theory,” 25–​26. 6 Ibid., 27. 7 Ibid., 29.

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  45 which he describes as the problem of ensuring mutually benefiting cooperation. Second, there is the central problem of autonomy, which is the problem of governing our lives in accord with our own values, which we can do by employing self-​control and overcoming shortsighted advantages.8 There is also an epistemic problem. To achieve what we value and to meet our needs, we need correct information, Copp says.9 These are all quite familiar standpoints, but Copp includes several normative standpoints in addition to these. One of these is the standpoint of etiquette which is a solution to the problem of politeness, which consists in how to facilitate a cooperation that is pleasing and attractive to participants. This standpoint calls for us to comply with local standards of etiquette.10 In addition, Copp thinks that there might be other problems of normative governance, such as “the problem of security” met by codes of law,11 as well as a problem of expressing and understanding our emotional responses such that they enhance rather than detract from our ability to achieve what we value, which can be achieved by an aesthetic standard.12 The fact that there are many such “problems of normative governance” is thus what grounds normative pluralism, according to Copp, and explains why normativity is carved up the way it is. But although Copp provides an interesting theory as to the grounding of normative pluralism, it is not without

8 Ibid., 27. Note that Copp does not take this standpoint to be appropriately called “prudential” or to be concerned with our self-​interest, since our values may be altruistic and so not self-​interested (ibid., 36n1). However, elsewhere Copp discusses the potential for conflict between our values and our needs and that both are sources of self-​grounded reasons. If we value climbing, we might have both self-​grounded reasons to climb a dangerous mountain (based on what we value) and reasons not to do so (based on the need for safety). He argues furthermore that we can be as rationally justified in giving priority to the one as to the other in the case of conflict. See Copp, Morality, Normativity, and Society, 180–​185; Copp, “The Normativity of Self-​Grounded Reason,” 335n61. This might suggest that we are actually dealing with two different normative standpoints which may be both loosely associated with “prudence.” I do not take Copp’s view of self-​grounded reasons (however one might understand it) to be in opposition to my claim that prudence is one of the genuine normative standards since “prudence” is a placeholder term for the correct theory of prudence. It could well be that prudence actually consists of two separate standpoints based on needs and values or that it is correctly captured by Copp’s “value standard” or that it is a standpoint that unifies reasons based on needs and values. 9 Copp, “Toward a Pluralist and Teleological Theory,” 28. This seems very much to be an instrumental grounding of the epistemic standpoint. But it does not exclude the possibility that there are complementary grounds to be found, where the epistemic standard is an answer to the problem of having true beliefs because we value true beliefs for their own sake. 10 Ibid. 11 Ibid., 29; David Copp, “The Idea of a Legitimate State,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 28, no. 1 (1999): 3–​45. 12 Copp, “Toward a Pluralist and Teleological Theory,” 29; but elsewhere Copp doubts whether an aesthetic standpoint can have an appropriate normative grounding. See Copp, Morality, Normativity, and Society, 45.

46  Normative Pluralism problems. One obvious worry is whether his pluralist conclusion isn’t a logical step too far, for we might think that there is an overarching problem of normative governance that subsumes all other such problems. If there are so many problems of human governance that may conflict with one another, then it might seem that there would also be a problem of how to prioritize these problems.13 To this objection, he replies: If there is such a problem, and if there is a normative system the currency of which would best ameliorate this problem, there are things we ought to do in relation to this system. We might think that these would be the things we ought to do period. Indeed, the sum of the several problems of normative governance might be taken to constitute a giant problem. We would call it “the problem of living.” And if the normative systems that best address these several problems are aggregated, the result could be viewed as a single normative system, the “life-​system.” We might then suppose that the requirements of the life-​system establish what we ought to do period. . . . This proposal is unsatisfying. We want there to be a single standard of choice that determines what we ought absolutely to do. If the so-​called life-​system is merely an aggregation of normative systems with different rationales, it is not a single standard of choice in any interesting sense. Presumably there will be cases in which all the components of the life-​system speak with one voice, but the system will not tell us what to do when, say, morality conflicts with the requirements of self-​grounded reason. . . . The life-​system would not be a unified standard that determines what we ought to do period.14

Does Copp give a satisfying reply? To some extent, he does. He seems to be right in arguing that if the comprehensive normative system is merely an aggregation of the other systems, with no additional content of its own, then it is not a unified standard able to issue normative facts simpliciter. But one might conceive of the “life-​system” as something more than this. One could think that it contains solutions of its own on how to best, or optimally, achieve all the things that are of value. In treating the “life-​system” as merely an aggregation, Copp simply seems to disregard the possibility that the overarching 13 McPherson thinks that this is the role of what he calls “The Practical Ought.” McPherson, “Authoritatively Normative Concepts.” 14 Copp, “Toward a Pluralist and Teleological Theory,” 35. The passage is somewhat confusing because he opens it (directly before the quotation) by saying that it is consistent with pluralist teleology to suppose that there is an overarching problem of normative governance (“the problem of living”). What he denies is that there is a unified solution to this problem.

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  47 standpoint in question is not merely aggregative but contains rules for how to weigh conflicting sub-​standpoints against each other. Maybe by acting thus-​ and-​thus, one could achieve more things of value than by acting in any other way. This is at least a possibility to consider, although I am not sure what system, if any, would accomplish this. One suggestion could be that from the “life perspective,” we should develop those moral virtues that would make it the case that our self-​interest aligns with the requirements of morality, so that conflicts between these two standpoints would be minimized. By finding pleasure in acts of charity and not caring too much about my own material comfort, I could be both moral and prudent by acting charitably, and any conflict would disappear. Since this may be the best way to approach life as a whole, given that it enables us to realize all the things we tend to value rather than leaving us with the choice to realize either the one valuable thing or the other, then it might be seen to represent something we just plain ought to do on any given occasion even if we sometimes have to act against our current values. I shall leave it to Copp to sort out whether this actually expresses something we just plain ought to do or be, given his teleological view of normativity. Copp might still reply by invoking his argument that the very idea of a normative standard imbued with the property of supremacy is incoherent (which I will discuss in section 6.2.). But in any case, we should keep in mind that this teleology is a separate component of his view, and there may be other approaches that could make us come to the conclusion that normativity is not unified. As we shall see in the next section, there are further problems with Copp’s way of grounding the pluralism.

3.3.  Deflationary Normative Pluralism Another philosopher to explicitly endorse a version of normative pluralism is Evan Tiffany. He accepts two theses which together constitute normative pluralism, namely, (1) “contributory pluralism,” which says that there is a variety of sources for contributory reasons for action, and (2) “deliberative pluralism,” which adds that there is no unitary standard for determining how to weigh different types of contributory reasons against one another.15 Thus, Tiffany describes and endorses a normative pluralist theory which by now should be familiar to us. But while Copp thinks that any proposal about what

15 Tiffany, “Deflationary Normative Pluralism,” 233.

48  Normative Pluralism normative standpoints there are must be accompanied by a proposal of the grounding of those standards, Tiffany disagrees. Copp thinks that we need to show that the standpoints that we propose issue us with normative facts actually are relevantly “authoritative,” that they have a genuine bearing on how we are to act, and that violating the standard that the standpoint consists in involves a “significant failure of some kind.”16 In rejecting this view, Tiffany argues for what he refers to as deflationism about normativity, which rejects the whole distinction between “genuine” and “non-​genuine” normative standpoints, where “genuine” standpoints are supposed to have some significant normative authority not enjoyed by other standpoints.17 The extent of pluralism, according to Tiffany, is therefore limitless, as any code can serve as a “genuine” normative standpoint. The only restriction on codes that Tiffany allows is that a code must be “well formed.” A code is well formed if and only if there is some well-​defined aim, institutional framework, or standard of value relative to which considerations may be judged as standing in some normative relation to action. However, Tiffany admits that this is not sufficient to remove all “counter-​intuitive standpoints.”18 Because of a general lack of restrictions, Tiffany views his version of normative pluralism as an “ungrounded” pluralism. Through his deflationism, Tiffany avoids the problems facing Copp in grounding the pluralism, and the difficulty of these problems is thought by Tiffany to count in favor of his deflationism. But as we shall see, the deflationism comes with serious costs which make the theory unattractive. While Tiffany does not provide us with a general defense of his deflationist component, he does defend it against Copp’s “grounded” view by pointing out some problematic features of Copp’s attempt to provide such a grounding. Copp, as we have seen, grounds the normative standpoints that he defends in a teleological way, by pointing to some function the standpoint serves in ameliorating some “problem of normative governance.” So while the standpoint of “rationality” is grounded in the fact that compliance with it helps to instantiate autonomy, the standpoint of “politeness” is grounded in the fact that compliance with it helps facilitate pleasing social interaction. But 16 Copp, “The Normativity of Self-​Grounded Reason,” 342–​343. These three formulations seem to be different expressions of the same idea about what constitutes the grounding of a standard. 17 Tiffany, “Deflationary Normative Pluralism,” 251. I think the term “deflationary” is somewhat unfortunate. Although Tiffany thinks that it deflates the concept of a “genuine” normative standpoint, it also has the consequence of causing an inflation in the number and hence significance of normative standpoints. So it might just as well (paradoxically) be labeled “inflationary pluralism.” 18 Ibid., 255.

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  49 as Tiffany points out, we can compare this kind of justification with how one might try to ground a standard of “rudeness.” Tiffany imagines an antisocial person—​whom he calls Dr. House—​who justifies his actions relative to such a standard. To ground his standard, Dr. House might say that the standard of rudeness is relevantly authoritative by virtue of the fact that compliance with it helps facilitate uncomfortable and confrontational social interaction. The point is that we need to know why the facilitation of pleasing and comfortable interaction is a genuine problem of normative governance while the facilitation of unpleasant and confrontational interaction is not—​especially as people like Dr. House might value the latter kind of interaction.19 In a similar vein, one can imagine a group of anarchists who despise security and seek a normative system that solves the problem of anarchy. Tiffany even claims that it is not clear that one couldn’t find at least something to say in favor of any completely arbitrary code (provided that it is well formed). Copp could object here that the problems faced by Dr. House and the anarchists are only idiosyncratic problems and so do not qualify as proper “generic” problems. It is not the case, it may be said, that humans generally value anarchy or rude and confrontational behavior. There are at least two possible ways to respond to this objection. The first thing is that the point of anarchy and rudeness is not these things in themselves but the things that count in favor of them, namely, the freedom that anarchy involves and the fact that confrontation tends to force people to take clear standpoints where people would otherwise be vague and seek to avoid sensitive, but important, subjects. So the things that they facilitate seem to be valuable in generic terms. Similarly, the rules of etiquette or morality may be valued not in themselves but for the effects that they facilitate, since in themselves such rules restrict our agency. Second, it may also be replied on behalf of Tiffany that Copp needs to explain why genuine normative problems must be generic problems. According to Tiffany, Copp’s pluralist teleology turns out in the end to be a very unstable position that is in danger of collapsing into either deflationism or monism.20 If I understand Tiffany correctly, it is in danger of collapsing into deflationism because it is unclear how Copp’s teleology can justify some standpoints while keeping every other code from being a grounded normative standpoint, since it seems that at least something generic can be said in

19 Ibid., 258. 20 Ibid., 253.

50  Normative Pluralism favor of every well-​formed standpoint and thus endow it with a potential for a teleological grounding. It is less clear why Tiffany thinks that there is a danger of collapsing into monism, but it seems to be because Tiffany thinks that Copp’s concept of a normative ground is an incoherent middle ground.21 Regarding the possibility of grounding Dr. House’s standard of rudeness, Tiffany says that “one might try to argue that unpleasantness and confrontation aren’t really desirable, but that move does not seem open to a normative pluralist.”22

3.4.  Grounding a Reasonable Set of Normative Standpoints While Tiffany raises some challenges worth considering, his deflationism is too costly. I suspect that most of us would be unhappy with such promiscuity regarding what considerations count as genuine reasons. Some standards are simply too bad or crazy to qualify as making genuine normative claims on us. Tiffany himself admits that this deflationism will allow many counterintuitive standpoints to count as genuine sources of reasons and so would bruise our intuitions.23 Since there are no real constraints on what counts as a reason-​providing normative standpoint, any well-​formed standard that it is possible to construct, regardless of its substantive content, will count as providing us with a separate set of reasons that are incommensurable with other reasons. This will allow bad or crazy standards to provide us with reasons, which, furthermore, in being incommensurable cannot be outweighed by more “sensible” types of reasons.24 I therefore take it that we should seek to avoid this kind of deflationism and that it would be desirable to find a 21 Ibid., 255. Derek Baker, another normative pluralist, who shares and has defended many of Tiffany’s views, thinks that there is a principled problem with distinguishing between well-​formed standards with and without normative authority. In particular, well-​formed standards such as etiquette consist of a system of considerations and requirements that seem to express norms for their subjects. Why would they not be normative? Any answer purporting to be an explanation appears to rely on unclear metaphors such as “authority,” “normative force,” “normative weight,” or something of the kind. Such metaphors call for an explanation, but such explanations tend to be circular, where one metaphor is explained by one of the others (or else the explanations tend to refer to psychological concepts that change the subject). According to Baker, no good explanation can be had. Baker, “Skepticism about Ought Simpliciter.” 22 Tiffany, “Deflationary Normative Pluralism,” 258. 23 Ibid., 255. 24 For a similar and some further criticisms of Tiffany’s deflationary pluralism, see also Spencer Case, “Normative Pluralism Worthy of the Name Is False,” Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy 11, no. 1 (2016): 1–​20.

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  51 grounding for our normative standpoints that can exclude bad or crazy codes of conduct from counting as genuine normative standpoints. Tiffany tries to make his position less radical by pointing out two things. First, he says that his deflationary normative pluralism does not commit one to be nonpartisan between standpoints. As no standard is particularly authoritative with respect to another, it is up to us to take a partisan stance toward some standard, such as morality. This is a shared feature of normative pluralist positions that I think is important and that I will get back to in section 4.4, but the problem is that with a deflationary account, we have just as much reason to be partisan toward a bad or crazy standpoint as toward one that provides us with “sensible” reasons. It seems plausible to claim that it is unreasonable to be partisan toward a standpoint that is well formed but crazy (such as a standpoint merely telling you, “Whenever you see a lawn, count every blade of grass in order to generate more knowledge of lawns”), rather than a standpoint such as prudence. Second, Tiffany says that standpoints are not of equal agential significance and that some (morality, prudence, authenticity) concern existential questions that “are some of the most profound questions we face and deserve some of our deepest attention.”25 I agree that this does soften the deflationary position somewhat, as many of the bad or crazy standpoints will not be experienced as relevant to the agent’s concerns and will therefore not be adhered to. On the other hand, the profoundness of certain standards may be the very thing that makes these standards more authoritative and that seems to make it unreasonable to ignore them in favor of a blade-​of-​grass-​counting standard. Copp delivers a general proposal for the grounding of standpoints that could in many respects be described as promising but that also needs further development if it is to work. Tiffany is right in pointing out that, despite Copp’s attempt to restrict his pluralism, it is an open question whether Copp succeeds in doing so. The demarcation of a “problem of normative governance” is not at all clear insofar as it is supposed to be a restrictive notion. If it is the case that at least something can be said in favor of virtually every code, then those considerations could all be said to address some particular problem of normative governance. As mentioned, we could, for example, sometimes find it valuable to conform to a standard of rudeness in order to solve what would be the problem of impoliteness. But as Tiffany admits, this is not an in-​principle argument against the very possibility of

25 Tiffany, “Deflationary Normative Pluralism,” 225.

52  Normative Pluralism a non-​deflationary normative pluralism, and nor is it a knockdown argument against Copp’s teleological grounding. What it does is show some real problems and obscurities in Copp’s approach, but it is possible that these problems could somehow be addressed. The problem here is quite general, however. We do not want to recognize standards that are bad or crazy as having normative authority over us, especially if it would mean that basing one’s actions on the reasons generated by those standards would be just as reasons-​responsive as acting from more “respectable” standards such as morality. Any normative pluralism that limits its set of incommensurable normative standpoints to some reasonable set of standards would be more attractive than a pluralism recognizing any sort of standard as providing us with a normative standpoint, incommensurable with other standpoints. But it is important to note that this problem is shared with normative monism. A normative monist subscribing to some overarching standard (e.g., utilitarianism) would need to explain why that standard is the only reasonable standard to adhere to.

3.4.1.  Top-​Down versus Bottom-​Up Approach to Normativity Why does Tiffany initially think that grounding standpoints is not an option that is open to a normative pluralist? The reason seems to be that Tiffany is working from what we may call a “top-​down” approach to normativity. This approach takes normative reasons to flow from a normative system or standpoint consisting of a code of requirements. Tiffany endorses this approach by virtue of his deflationism, by claiming that “to say that some consideration is a reason for A to φ in C is to say that there is a normative framework which favours A’s φ-​ing in C.”26 If we assume this kind of view, then it seems that one would need to posit some kind of superior normative framework in order to say that the “reasons” emanating from one framework (such as the standpoint of rudeness) have no normative weight. To say that they are not really reasons, those “would-​be reasons” of the standpoint of rudeness must somehow be canceled out by another more authoritative standard, if one accepts the top-​down approach. But insofar as Copp is right that the idea of a supreme normative standpoint—​that is, more normatively important than

26 Ibid., 233.

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  53 others—​is incoherent, then it seems that we are left without the means to restrict our pluralism to a limited set of normative standpoints. A certain way in which I have been talking suggests that I, too, take a top-​ down approach to normativity. Throughout ­chapter 2, for instance, I have used phrases such as moral facts being “issued by” the moral standpoint and prudential facts being “issued by” the prudential standpoint. This way of speaking seems to suggest that there are certain standpoints, consisting of certain rules or principles, which then produce facts about what you ought and have reason to do according to the circumstances of the agent. The same impression can be had from Copp when he says that normative facts, such as reasons, are “generated” by normative systems. But this way of approaching normativity puts the cart before the horse. Rather than starting with principles, codes, or standpoints and taking oughts and reasons to be issued by them, we should use reasons as our basic unit of analysis.27 It is the presence of reasons that provides us with normativity, not the mere presence of codes.28 The existence of a well-​formed standard of requirements and considerations, such as etiquette, does not by itself imply the existence of any reasons, let alone reasons of a particular kind (“reasons of etiquette”). A particular code either stands in a relationship with reasons that support the requirements of the code, or it does not. If it does stand in such a relationship, then the code is normative. This approach to normativity falls under what Derek Parfit calls the reason-​implying sense of normativity, which he distinguishes from a weaker rule-​implying sense of normativity.29 According to Parfit, the mere existence of a rule does not imply the existence of any corresponding reasons, while the existence of reasons can sometimes ground rules. According to Parfit, the rules of chess or etiquette or the law are simply natural facts. In order

27 What I call the top-​down approach has many affinities with the “reasons first” position in metaethics. While I sympathize with this position, I do not want to exclude the possibility that there may be alternative views, such as “fittingness first,” that could also go along with the spirit of the top-​down approach if we could see some considerations as more fitting than others for being treated as reasons. 28 This seems related to the view of Joseph Raz when he says that “the normativity of all that is normative consists in the way it is, or provides, or is otherwise related to reasons.” Joseph Raz, “Explaining Normativity: On Rationality and the Justification of Reason,” in Joseph Raz, Engaging Reason (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 67–​89. This claim is, of course, very vague. I take Raz to mean that the normativity of something must be explained by reasons. See also Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other, (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1998), 17. A related but stronger version of this view is expressed by John Skorupski when he says that ”all normative propositions are propositions about reasons” (my emphasis). John Skorupski, The Domain of Reasons (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 77. 29 Derek Parfit, On What Matters, Vol. 2 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 308–​310.

54  Normative Pluralism to explain that some act satisfies or violates any of these rules, no explanation is needed beyond straightforward empirical facts. We need not appeal to any reasons at all. But other properties, such as that of an action being moral, require an explanation that cannot avoid normative terms.30 While I am happy for my purposes to follow Parfit’s non-​naturalism about reasons, I am not committed to it, and the distinction may be cashed out differently. In section 2.2, I argued that standards of correctness are a necessary feature of oughts, but they are not sufficient. To say that “x requires y,” such as “the law requires you to wear green socks,” may simply express a modal relation. Wearing green socks is merely a necessary condition for your attire to have the property of being “legal” and does not contain any inherent conceptual connection to reasons or a normative “counting in favor of ” relation. And it is not clearly the case that morality or the property of an act being moral does so, either. But the lack of an inherent conceptual connection is not really a problem for a bottom-​up approach if what we take to be our reasons turn out to support a code of morality as a substantive normative matter. By taking reasons to be basic, we can understand at least some normative codes as codifications of the reasons that exist. For example, when we examine our reasons, we might find that they relate in a systematic way and that they might be consistent only with certain principles of right action (e.g., the utilitarian principle or Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative). These principles would then form a particular code that would make up a certain normative standpoint. A particular code either stands in a relationship with reasons that support the requirements of the code, or it does not. If it does stand in such a relationship, then the code is something for a reasons-​responsive agent to care about. Otherwise, it is not. Metaphysically, normative standpoints “flow” from reasons and not the other way around. Talk of standpoints “issuing oughts” is in this sense unwarranted. However, we could still be speaking correctly in this way if we were speaking epistemically. Our knowledge of the code can allow us to infer what we ought to do according to that code. Suppose we know that the code of a normative standpoint consists of a utilitarian principle; then we can use this principle to infer what we ought or have reason to do in particular circumstances. In this way,

30 One could object that prudential (and perhaps also moral) facts are explained by natural facts about what makes a person happy or what satisfies people’s preferences, but morality and prudence also seem to be based on further normative facts about those things being good for them (or in their interest).

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  55 the basic rule or rules of a code can also issue many other requirements for us to know about. The deflationist could, of course, object that the appeal to the basic reasons of the bottom-​up approach to normativity solves nothing. It is just as unclear what basic reasons we have as what counts as genuine problems of normative governance. While I think that this objection is overblown, it does point to a genuine challenge. We are in need of some sort of epistemology of reasons that can tell us what reasons we actually have. But this is, of course, a general problem that is not particular to my project here. Besides, it does not seem to be a hopeless endeavor. We generally appear to have at least a partial grasp of what considerations do or do not count as reasons and what our reasons are reasons for. It does not seem that we have to take a skeptical attitude toward this. In addition, it could be objected that reasons seem to be involved in many standpoints because there are often pro et contra considerations counting in favor of some φ. However, being a reason is not a mere formal feature of some system but some substantive relation of what we truly ought to do. Consider again requirements. That the law requires you to φ may express no more than a fact about what modal conditions need to be satisfied in order for your actions to be legal. Similarly, there may simply be pro et contra conditions that determine whether an action has some property, such as being “legal.” This particularly seems to be a typical feature of social constructions. There may, for example, be pro et contra conditions for being counted as a “human,” a “woman,” or a “chair” or an action being “courteous.” Indeed, we may understand the standpoints we are talking about as being such social constructions, whether it be the law, etiquette, religious codes, or any standard I can come up with.31 To take stock, a bottom-​up approach provides an alternative model for thinking about normativity that in principle can distinguish codes that are constituted by reasons and those that are not. This can allow us to say that some bad or crazy standpoints are not genuine normative standpoints. However, it is still an open question which standpoints are constituted by reasons and which are not. Perhaps there are reasons for 31 There is a subtle complication here. There do truly seem to be genuine normative reasons to count something as an instance of a category, but those reasons seem to be reasons external to the framework set up. That is, the reasons we have for establishing some conditions as counting in favor of belonging to a category seem to be moral, prudential, and/​or epistemic reasons. This generates a set of rules or pro et contra conditions for counting something as something, but these are merely a set of formal conditions subject to be altered by moral, prudential, and/​or epistemic reasons. See section 3.4.2 on derivative normativity.

56  Normative Pluralism the blade-​of-​grass-​counting standpoint or for rudeness, or several other standards, but whether it is would be a substantive question and not guaranteed by their prescriptive or evaluative form. This model is not in itself any kind of knockdown argument against deflationism, nor does it by itself guarantee that we can avoid a proliferation of normative standpoints. However, the cost of deflationism or a too extensive set of genuine standpoints suggests that we should rather adopt a bottom-​up approach and see if we can find a way to ground some standpoints and not others. All this is not to say that this could be the only way to model the distinction between normative standpoints that are and are not truly normative. Other accounts have been made by, for example, Daniel Wodak and Stephen Finlay.32 This stresses, first of all, the point that this is a general challenge that is not particular to normative pluralism and, second, that many solutions are possible. Some of these may also be compatible with normative pluralism. Both Wodak and Finlay criticize Parfit’s “reasons-​implying” view of normativity, however, because many standpoints operate with pro tanto considerations that appear like reasons (e.g., common-​law systems), without necessarily being something we should think of as truly normative. Wodak thinks we should rather think of such standpoints (and their reasons and oughts) as being “mere formalities” that only have a fictional normativity and that we relate to them in the same way as with fictions, that is, we take them to be normative even though they really are not. This explains, for example, that there can be truths about the reasons, requirements, and oughts of these standpoints without them telling us what we really ought to, have reason to, or are required to do. As far as I can see, this view is, or could be made to be, consistent with a normative pluralist discounting of certain standpoints.33 Let us now look at how the current approach can be made to fit normative pluralism. One might worry that by talking of reasons as the basic unit of analysis in this way, without adverbially qualifying those reasons, we are in danger of losing sight of normative pluralism. Indeed, it might be asked how reasons can get their adverbial qualification at all on this approach. How 32 Daniel Wodak, “Mere Formalities: Fictional Normativity and Normative Authority,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 49, no. 6 (2019): 828–​850; Stephen Finlay, “Defining Normativity,” in D. Plunkett, S. J. Shapiro, and K. Toh (eds.), Dimensions of Normativity: New Essays on Metaethics and Jurisprudence (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 187–​220. 33 Wodak thinks that this model requires that we start with unsubscripted notions from which we derive fake versions and hence requires the concept of an ought simpliciter or reasons simpliciter (“Mere Formalities,” , 840). But this is only a claim about the concept. As I said in section 2.6.2, I take it that we need this as a coherent concept also for normative pluralism. I say more about this in section 6.2.

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  57 can reasons differ in their type if there is no set of principles (codes) that can determine what counts as a moral reason and what counts as a prudential reason? What makes for different normative standpoints is the following. There are different sets of reasons, and these sets are mutually incommensurable. It is not possible to force these sets of reasons into a single, unified picture of the way in which reasons count against or in favor of certain actions. There are sets of reasons existing side by side with other sets of reasons where different actions get recommended by each set but where there is no privileged way of making the sets converge. While the reasons within one set are comparable in strength, reasons do not compare across sets. We might identify one set as the moral standpoint and say that the reasons within this set are what we would call “moral reasons,” and another set as the prudential standpoint where we can find “prudential reasons.” These reasons then give us certain ought facts that only hold relative to the respective set of reasons, and not to another, thus giving us their adverbial qualification. If reasons have this structure, then reasons conform to the pluralist picture of normativity.34 The big question, of course, is why we should think that our reasons display this structure. Why would our reasons come in two incommensurable sets? I will soon move on to this question, but my appeal to a bottom-​up approach to normativity does not on its own get rid of a problematic quantity of normative standpoints. As Tiffany points out, there seems to be at least something to be said in favor of the standpoint of rudeness, so isn’t rudeness also a normative standpoint by virtue of being supported by some reasons? And it seems that our reasons may support the requirements of etiquette, for example, so does that mean that etiquette is a normative standpoint on par with morality and prudence, as Derek Baker and Copp seem to think?

34 If Copp wants to retain pluralism and avoid deflationism, I believe this approach is the best route to take. It could also be made compatible with, and so should cause no problems for, the teleological aspect of his theory. If a good definition could be found as to what makes for a problem of normative governance, then the teleological component could well serve as an explanation of why some codes are constituted by reasons while others are not. The fact that the code we think makes up the moral standpoint facilitates mutually benefiting cooperation may well be a reason that explains why we ought to conform to it. In addition, some kind of common goal or purpose may help explain what it is that all moral (or prudential) reasons share which makes them commensurable with one another, despite having superficially different concerns. It seems much harder, on the other hand, to find a common goal or purpose that is shared by both moral and prudential reasons. On the other hand, appealing to basic reasons may potentially cause trouble for Copp’s metaethical naturalism, but this remains to be shown.

58  Normative Pluralism

3.4.2.  Derivative and Fundamental Normativity It is relatively uncontroversial that we at least have moral and prudential reasons, even if it is unclear in what way we discover them and whether they ultimately do not reduce to just one sort of reason. We can therefore take as a starting point that we have at least reasons of these two kinds. But there remain quite a lot of codes that, in some way or other, seem to be supported by reasons, for instance, legal codes, etiquette, the rules of chess, codes of good parenting, codes of proper dental hygiene, and many social codes.35 Do they all constitute separate normative standpoints with which we in some sense ought to comply? Is there a separate type of ought fact for each of these codes? If so, we seem to have quite a lot of normative standpoints to deal with after all, which will certainly reduce the potential for “ought all things considered” facts of the quantificational kind I described in c­ hapter 2. To help answer these questions, let us introduce a distinction between codes that are fundamentally normative and codes that are only derivatively normative. Take the law as an example. We usually have many reasons to comply with the law. The question is whether there is a separate set of “legal reasons” that supports conforming to the code or whether the reasons that support the code are of an already familiar set, such as the prudential or moral set of reasons. If there is a separate set of reasons that supports conforming to the legal code, then the code is fundamentally normative, and we can talk of genuine legal reasons and legal oughts. If, on the other hand, the reasons we ought to comply with the code are of a moral or prudential kind, then the code derives its normativity from morality or prudence and is only derivatively normative (by virtue of being something you morally or prudentially ought or have reason to). In order to qualify as a separate “normative standpoint,” as I use the term, the code must be fundamentally normative. It certainly seems that we generally have both moral and prudential reasons to comply with the law. It is usually both in our own interest and in the interest of society as a whole. The law can be derivatively normative because of this. Being derivatively normative doesn’t exclude being fundamentally normative as well, however. One can have prudential reasons to comply with morality (and vice versa), and so morality can be derivatively normative in this way, without meaning that it cannot also be fundamentally 35 Derek Baker, “The Varieties of Normativity,” in T. McPherson and D. Plunkett (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics (New York: Routledge, 2018), 567–​581.

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  59 normative in its own right. For the law, the question is whether any reasons remain when all moral and prudential reasons are taken away. If there are, then the law could derive its normativity from a third fundamentally normative code, or it could itself be fundamentally normative. If no reasons remain after all fundamentally normative codes have spoken, then the law is only derivatively normative. Although I fail to see what remaining reasons there could be with respect to complying with the law, I shall not insist on either answer. The point is only that these are questions that might be raised for all codes that we think are supported by reasons, and I suspect that we will discover that most of these codes are only derivatively normative. In this way, we can reduce the list of normative standpoints to a reasonable few.36 But with respect to the law, a certain line of thought might make us think that there are, in fact, some reasons remaining that would be sufficient to make the law a separate normative standpoint. Reasons, we have seen, are what explain ought facts. The law requires many things of us, but moral and prudential reasons cannot really help us explain why these things are legally required, and it is the job of reasons to explain requirements. We need to appeal to a separate set of legal reasons to explain these types of requirements. But at this point, it is appropriate to recall again that “requires” is not an inherently normative term. Sailing requires a boat, but this expresses a modal relation and not a normative relation. In the same way, all codes specify certain modal relations that need to be satisfied for the code to be satisfied. An action can only have the property of being “legal” if certain conditions hold with respect to the action, whether those conditions are absolute or a collection of pro et contra conditions. But facts about modal conditions alone are not by themselves normative facts. For it to be normative, there must be a “counting in favor of ” relation, expressed by reasons, that can explain why you actually ought to F and not only why F is modally necessary (required) for some property to hold. We can apply these lines of thinking to etiquette and rudeness as well. There certainly are both moral and prudential reasons to conform to requirements of etiquette, which may therefore make it derivatively normative. However, once all moral and prudential reasons are taken away, do 36 How many standpoints we end up with might to some extent be sensitive to how we carve up the categories. We might have a very narrow conception of what counts as a moral consideration and so exclude legal reasons from the category of “morality,” even though on a wider conception the two reasons could fall under the same category. As long as the two subsets of reasons do not contradict each other, we could choose to speak of a legal standpoint as separate from a (narrow) moral standpoint.

60  Normative Pluralism any reasons remain? Perhaps, but I doubt it. While we recognize that there is a standard for correct action according to etiquette, our tendency to take considerations of etiquette as normative reasons (rather than mere necessary conditions for satisfying a standard) seems to be based on seeing conformity to etiquette as expressing respect for our interlocutors, as ways of avoiding offense, or as functioning well socially. Similarly with rudeness, we may have reasons to shake people out of their social turpitude and challenge the social order. But if there are such reasons, they seem to be of a familiar moral or prudential kind. Whatever moral or prudential reasons I have to be rude or conform to etiquette also appear to be comparable with certain competing reasons. My prudential reasons for being rude appear to be defeated if the personal risks of doing so outweigh the risks. My moral reasons for conforming to etiquette, such as being sensitive to other people’s feelings, may be defeated by stronger moral reasons, such as the need to speak out against some injustice. When we examine our reasons, I take it that we can say with some amount of confidence that we find no reasons of a separate kind to conform to the standards of etiquette or rudeness as well as a range of other similar standards. It therefore appears that we can limit our normative pluralism to a limited and reasonable set of normative standpoints. The hypothesis for the moment is that it is the divide between moral and prudential reasons that makes up our normative pluralism.

3.5.  Sidgwick and the Dualism of Practical Reason Turning away from Copp’s and Tiffany’s contemporary pluralist theories, I believe that a more promising approach for grounding morality and prudence as separate normative standpoints and for explaining the plural nature of normativity can be found in the work of Henry Sidgwick. At least for our purposes, Sidgwick’s famous “dualism of practical reason” can arguably be described as a form of proto-​pluralism about normativity.37 Although 37 Another British philosopher whom it might be fitting to describe as a proto-​pluralist is Thomas Reid. In a famous passage, he writes: “As there are, therefore, two regulating or leading principles in the constitution of man, a regard to what is best for us on the whole, and a regard to duty, it may be asked, which of these ought to yield if they happen to interfere? . . . [I]‌f we suppose a man . . . to believe that virtue is contrary to his happiness on the whole, this case . . . is without remedy. It will be impossible for the man to act, so as not to contradict a leading principle of his nature. He must either sacrifice his happiness to virtue, or virtue to happiness; and is reduced to this miserable dilemma, whether

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  61 Sidgwick’s writings about this pluralism are among the most unclear parts of his work and despite the great number of different interpretations of this pluralism, it seems to bear enough similarity to normative pluralism to be worth examining. In his main work, The Methods of Ethics, Sidgwick describes his objective as examining the relations between various “methods of ethics,” which is explained to mean a “rational procedure by which we determine what individual human beings ‘ought’—​or what is ‘right’ for them—​to do, or to seek to realize by voluntary action.”38 After the end of a long examination, Sidgwick is left with only two methods, providing us with a utilitarian moral principle under the name of “rational benevolence” and an egoistic prudential principle that he names “rational egoism.” While utilitarianism, as Sidgwick construes it, requires one to produce the greatest amount of happiness on the whole, taking into account all whose happiness is affected by your actions, egoism requires one to act in the manner most conducive to one’s own happiness.39 So, although both methods tell you that you ought to produce happiness, they differ in how you ought to distribute that happiness. Since they differ in their content, they can make different and conflicting demands of you. One would perhaps expect Sidgwick, in his final chapter, to provide a way to reconcile the two methods or to discard one of them, but that is not what he does. Surprisingly, despite the fact that Sidgwick says that it is the business of ethical theory to find the rational ground of subordination of (self-​)interest to duty and that it is this relation that is the interest of his book, he concludes not with any subordination but with a kind of parity.40 Sidgwick ends up saying that both principles have a self-​evident basis (and equally so), and even though rational benevolence can be taken as the ultimate standard of right conduct, the same can be said of rational egoism. In the preface to his book, he writes:

it be best to be a fool or a knave.” Quoted in William K. Frankena, “Sidgwick and the History of Ethical Dualism,” in Bart Schultz (ed.), Essays on Henry Sidgwick (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 187–​188. Reid here claims that there are at least two “leading principles” in the nature of a man, and if they were to conflict, that conflict would be irresolvable. However, Reid also believed that “as to the supposition of an opposition [there] can be no such opposition [while] the world is under a wise and benevolent [God].” Reid thought that the atheist was wrong, and hence God ensures that there can be no conflict after all between the two principles.

38 Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, 7th ed. (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1981), 1, 14. 39

Ibid., 411–​412.

40 Ibid., xviii.

62  Normative Pluralism No doubt it was, from the point of view of the universe, reasonable to prefer the greater good to the lesser, even though the lesser good was the private good of the agent. Still, it seemed to me also undeniably reasonable for the individual to prefer his own. The rationality of self-​regard seemed to me as undeniable as the rationality of self-​sacrifice. I could not give up this conviction, though neither of my masters, neither Kant nor Mill, seemed willing to admit it.41

This led Sidgwick to recognize that there was a “dualism of the practical reason.” There are two basic principles of practical normativity: a moral utilitarian principle and an egoistic prudential principle. As Frankena describes it, the two principles are both authoritative, obligatory, and rational as such, independently of each other, and equally so.42 This was as far as Sidgwick ever got. He found no way to overcome this dualism and found it to be “an irreducible result of ethical reflection.”43

3.5.1.  The Dualism as Normative Pluralism Exactly how to interpret this dualism is somewhat unclear. There is not much evidence that Sidgwick had in mind a normative pluralism of a kind that I have described, with two differing senses of ought. Indeed, Sidgwick talks about “an ultimate and fundamental contradiction in our apparent intuitions of what is Reasonable in conduct,” and unless we can somehow reconcile the two principles by making them congruent, “we seem forced to the conclusion that they were not really intuitions after all, and that the apparently intuitive operation of Practical Reason is essentially illusory.”44 This reconciliation is further described as “logically necessary to avoid a fundamental contradiction in one chief department of our thought.”45 It would seem, then, that Sidgwick is worried that his dualism will result in a logical contradiction because of a conflict between two plain oughts (ought simpliciter). This is a contradiction that would evaporate once we recognize that we are dealing with two distinct types of ought, which might be a strong reason for

41 Ibid., xx.

42 Frankena, “Sidgwick,” 194.

43 Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, 3rd ed., 401–​402. 44 Ibid., 504. 45 Ibid., 505.

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  63 thinking that Sidgwick should endorse this kind of normative pluralism insofar as he maintains that the dualism is an “irreducible result of ethical reflection.” However, insofar as Sidgwick believed that we were dealing with a logical contradiction, it might be thought to be more appropriate either to interpret him as thinking that practical reason is divided but furnishes us with dilemma-​like deontic conflicts or, less radically, to believe that Sidgwick presumed normative monism but thought that the conflict between utilitarianism and egoism was epistemically impossible to resolve.46 However, what counts against such a reading is that both utilitarianism and egoism are the objects of fundamental intuitions; that is, they are both self-​evident, and one of the conditions of self-​evident propositions is that they must be mutually consistent, which two conflicting plain oughts obviously are not.47 Another way to interpret Sidgwick is that the sense in which both moral options and prudential options are “reasonable” is that both types of options are just plain permitted. This is advocated by Sidgwick scholar David Phillips as the most plausible solution to the dualism, and he notes that there is also some textual evidence to see the dualism in this light.48 But as Phillips also notices, taking this approach to the dualism means that we need to downplay Sidgwick’s own explicit characterization of the dualism as involving a normative conflict.49 Normative pluralism, which is not considered by Phillips, is, on the other hand, able to maintain that the dualism involves irresolvable normative conflicts, which seems to be in line with Sidgwick’s own beliefs. Even though it is not clear that Sidgwick himself accepted normative pluralism in the way I have described it (or even thought about its possibility), he can nonetheless be regarded as a kind of proto-​pluralist in the sense that his view was highly conducive to pluralism. There are significant similarities between his “dualism of practical reason” and the normative pluralism I have

46 For a treatment of some interpretations of Sidgwick’s dualism that emphasize his claims about a contradiction, see Francesco Orsi, “The Dualism of Practical Reason: Some Interpretations and Responses,” Etica & Politica/​Ethics & Politics 10, no. 2 (2008): 19–​41. For another interesting treatment, see also Owen McLeod, “What Is Sidgwick’s Dualism of Practical Reason?,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 81, no. 3 (2000): 273–​290. For a more recent and thorough treatment of Sidgwick’s normative philosophy, see David Phillips, Sidgwickian Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). 47 Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, 7th ed., 341. See also Roger Crisp, The Cosmos of Duty: Henry Sidgwick’s Methods of Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 233. 48 Phillips, Sidgwickian Ethics, 151. Such interpretations reducing the sense of conflict in the dualism are also given by David Brink, “Sidgwick’s Dualism of Practical Reason,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 66 (1988): 291–​307); Roger Crisp, “The Dualism of Practical Reason,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 96 (1996): 53–​73. 49 Phillips, Sidgwickian Ethics, 139–​140.

64  Normative Pluralism described, in that both recognize (1) that morality as well as prudence are reasonable codes that furnish us with “oughts,” (2) that the “oughts” that are issued by these different codes might conflict with each other, and (3) that there is no way to resolve this conflict. Endorsing normative pluralism is, as we have seen, also a way to avoid the worry that Sidgwick’s dualism results in a logical contradiction and might in this way be seen as a natural solution and companion to the dualism. Furthermore, (4) if we are to believe Parfit’s interpretation, Sidgwick believed that the two types of reasons made up a “duality of standpoints” and that the two types of reasons that make up the standpoints are “wholly incomparable.”50 If Parfit is right, then Sidgwick’s dualism seems to be just the sort of pluralism that is our topic.

3.5.2.  The Grounding of the Dualism Now, however, what interests us is what Sidgwick thought grounded this pluralism cum dualism. Why does such a normative structure obtain, and why are there these two different standpoints that he thinks there are? Sidgwick doesn’t say much about this, and what he does say is somewhat obscure. But his thoughts are nonetheless both interesting and plausible enough to be worth examining. The dualism, he says, is an “irreducible result of ethical reflection,” and it consists in the inevitable twofold conception of a human individual as a whole in himself, and a part of a larger whole. There is something different which is reasonable for him to desire when he considers himself as an independent unit, and something again which he must recognize as reasonably to be desired, when he takes the point of view of a larger whole.51

Exactly what to make of this is unclear, but it involves the idea that there are two “points of view” that we can take as agents, where we view ourselves either as distinct from other agents or as just one part among similar parts of a “larger whole.” We can evaluate our actions from either point of view, and according to Sidgwick, both of them provide us with facts about what is reasonable. The evaluations of the latter standpoint, that of a larger whole, are

50 Parfit, On What Matters, Vol. 1, 132–​133.

51 Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, 3rd ed., 402.

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  65 what Sidgwick for the most part had been busy defending in The Methods of Ethics, represented in his case by a utilitarian principle. However, moral philosophers of all sorts have provided a great number of arguments for the reasonableness of an other-​regarding perspective, which is not always utilitarian. Moreover, there is a general and intuitive case for why it is reasonable to aim at a larger good than that which only concerns your own good, namely, that the latter is simply a much smaller good. By choosing an option that moderately benefits a million people rather than an option that moderately benefits only yourself, you will have produced an outcome that realizes much greater value. It is, from the point of view of a larger whole, a much more valuable option, which makes it a reasonable option to pursue. But while Sidgwick thinks that it is reasonable to aim at “universal happiness,” in accordance with a utilitarian moral code, he also claims that It would be contrary to Common Sense to deny that the distinction between any one individual and any other is real and fundamental, and that consequently “I” am concerned with the quality of my existence as an individual in a sense, fundamentally important, in which I am not concerned with the quality of the existence of other individuals: and this being so, I do not see how it can be proved that this distinction is not to be taken as fundamental in determining the ultimate end of rational action for an individual.52

As Parfit describes it, Sidgwick’s defense of his dualism appeals to the normative significance of personal identity. Through the depth of the distinction between different people, we confirm the separateness of persons which has been claimed to be “the fundamental fact for ethics.”53 But we can also think about the world and our agency from what Sidgwick calls “the point

52 Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, 7th ed., 498. Read literally, Sidgwick’s claims seem overstated. It seems quite ordinary and commonsensical to be concerned with the quality of existence of certain other individuals to an equal or even larger degree than the concern you show for yourself. In particular, this is true for children, family, and partners. This is part of Parfit’s objections. However, it seems to remain true that you are concerned with the quality of your existence as an individual in a sense (fundamentally important) in which you are not concerned with the quality of the existence of most other individuals. What is important here is not so much your empirical tendencies to distribute concerns but the way in which you are able to separate your interest from the interest of others. 53 Parfit, On What Matters, Vol. 1, 133. Joshua Gert also thinks that the separateness of persons is relevant as a grounding for his own position, which on many points is similar to normative pluralism. Joshua Gert, Brute Rationality (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 33. Dorsey, who defends a similar position, talks about “the normative significance of self.” Dale Dorsey, The Limits of Moral Authority (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), c­ hapter 6. Gert’s and Dorsey’s views are examined in c­ hapter 7 of this book.

66  Normative Pluralism of view of the universe,” which Parfit describes as a more detached and impartial point of view that reaches a different set of answers and that is also fundamentally reasonable. Roger Crisp also gives a similar significance to the separateness of persons. Crisp defends a “dual-​source” view of reasons, similar to the plurality of sources discussed here in section 2.2. Crisp later argues that these reasons can be compared, but at the outset, such a source pluralism seems to give rise to two different standpoints. Explicitly inspired by Sidgwick, Crisp says: The dual-​source view is grounded on two significant facts. First, the separateness of persons, the fact that each of us has a separate capacity for consciousness, and a special reason for promoting the enjoyment and minimizing the suffering arising through that capacity’s being exercised. And, second, the fact that, since others also have such capacities, the value for others of the well-​being experienced by them provides each agent with some reason for action, which can conflict with her own, thus requiring balancing.54

Like Parfit, Crisp also describes the latter point of view as impartial. It is also important to note that despite this talk of what we have reasons to do relative to these two perspectives, it is not these perspectives themselves that are fundamental but rather the facts that underlie them. Sidgwick’s view should therefore not be understood in a way that I have referred to as “top-​down.” In order to explain this, we can see how Crisp appears to defend a similar claim. Reacting to a claim by Thomas Nagel, who says that “each person has reasons stemming from the perspective of his own life,” Crisp says: “Stemming from” is not quite right, since it suggests that somehow the perspective, or the adoption of it, provides the reasons, perhaps through giving rise to certain self-​regarding desires or concerns. But Sidgwick was right that reasons are not grounded in such motivational states. The reason for the special concern I have that I avoid severe suffering, say, is that this suffering will happen to me. The personal perspective is to be understood as epistemic. From it, I can grasp the normative significance of the fact that 54 Crisp, Reasons and the Good, 141. Crisp’s description of the distinction between the standpoints is very plausible, but I am not committed to this particular description. Crisp thinks that the possibility of “balancing” can be shown by the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons, which we will return to in ­chapter 5.

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  67 I am metaphysically distinct from others, and this will then shape my desires.55

In this way, the facts and the reasons provided by them form up the personal point of view. From it, I can attend to the normative force and significance that these facts have for me as an individual and see how these facts come together such that it is reasonable for me to, for example, avoid a suffering that will happen to me. Similarly, and at the same time, it is also a fact that myself and my own good are not of a plain greater importance than other persons and their good and that greater value may sometimes be had by sacrificing my own interests.56 If the latter consideration seems too consequentialist, we can also draw in such facts as that we are part of collective and collaborative enterprises and relationships that provide us with commitments to others and that ground norms of fairness and justice or care. In seeing myself as part of a larger union, I can see that we have an interest in that we comply with such norms. The importance of such interests also makes it reasonable for us to sometimes make individual sacrifices for the common good. This distinction between my own and the common or general good that Sidgwick appeals to on the basis of the separateness of persons seems to me to be the best and most natural way to ground the pluralism of normativity and to explain why normative conflicts arise. It seems to be this distinction that drives the difficulties we have in commensurating the reasons that apply to us whenever we are faced with conflicts between our self-​interest and our moral duties. To take an example, pain seems to be something that is objectively bad and arguably gives all of us certain reasons to avoid its occurrence. The fact that a certain pain will affect and be experienced by me, in a way in which it will not affect and be experienced by others, certainly seems to affect my reasons for acting, being an agent in conditions distinct from those of other agents.57 Furthermore, the sacrifices that morality sometimes requires the individual to make might be compensated “from the point of view of the 55 Crisp, The Cosmos of Duty, 198 (Crisp’s emphasis). Nagel’s claim is from Thomas Nagel, The View from Nowhere (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 172. Crisp’s claim about the personal perspective being epistemic is puzzling, though. Is it more “epistemic” than the point of view of the universe, and if so, why? It seems that both are perspectives from which we can assess the significance of agents and actions. 56 Sidgwick argues along similar lines for the rationality of benevolence. Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, 7th ed., 382. Although Sidgwick is committed to a hedonistic theory of value, the claim above is consistent with understanding value more widely. 57 See Phillips, Sidgwickian Ethics, 129.

68  Normative Pluralism universe,” but there remains a sense, fundamentally important to the person required to make the sacrifice, in which the sacrifice is in no way compensated and in which the agent loses out.58 This is because we are at the same time both individuals with separate interests and parts of a society and a larger whole. But although Sidgwick provides us with the best way to ground a normative pluralism, it is not without problems. In particular, two notable problems come to mind. The first is that Sidgwick defended an act utilitarian theory of morality and a certain egoistic theory of prudence, and his way of grounding the pluralism seems best geared toward justifying a pluralism with this specific moral and prudential content. If so, then Sidgwick’s way of grounding the pluralism will be less open to those holding different views on the contents of morality and prudence. Parfit seems to be raising a version of this problem when he says that Sidgwick’s view “overstates the rational importance of personal identity.”59 On the one hand, he says, self-​interested reasons are not supreme from the personal point of view. Parfit claims that from the personal point of view, we may have reasons to care about future selves and other people who are closely related to us but not identical with us (such as our relatives or our descendants in “fissure” cases). On the other hand, we seem to have moral reasons that are not impartial but rather partial to those with whom we have special ties (again, such as our relatives). If this is right, then the distinction between a partial personal point of view and an impartial, detached “point of view of the universe” does not seem to adequately represent the normative reality and the reasons we are faced with. There would be no sharp distinction of this kind. Parfit’s claim here seems plausible, but I am not convinced that anyone wishing to follow Sidgwick’s way of grounding the pluralism needs to be committed to such a stark divide between partial and impartial reasons as representing the “personal standpoint” and the “point of view of the universe,” respectively. Even if we were to describe the two standpoints as a partial and an impartial standpoint, it does not follow that the first is made up wholly of reasons to be partial and the second only of reasons to be impartial. It seems possible to employ a device such as a “veil of ignorance” or an “impartial spectator” as non-​personal and recognizably moral ways of arriving at the “point of view of the universe,” which is the standpoint of seeing ourselves as a part of the larger whole.60 But 58 See Henry Sidgwick, “Some Fundamental Ethical Controversies,” Mind 14, no. 56 (1889): 483. 59 Parfit, On What Matters, Vol. 1, 136. 60 That we may use devices such as an impartial spectator in order to know what to do from the point of view of the universe does not mean that this standpoint is the standpoint of an impartial spectator. It is rather our own standpoint, when viewing our relationship to the world in a certain way

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  69 an impartial spectator or a chooser behind the veil of ignorance without a fixed identity, when deliberating about the requirements of morality, would recognize that there are reasons (from this standpoint) for individuals to be partial in certain circumstances. This spectator might recognize that human nature is such that it is counterproductive to a good society to expect people to act impartially in every circumstance. So the standpoint of the larger whole need not, it seems, require us to be wholly impartial. In the same way, Parfit rightly points out that we need not think that our personal point of view cannot be extended to cover other people to whom we are closely related. But arguably, this only seems to be the case insofar as we care about these people or if they otherwise form part of our interest.61 Together, the things that we care about, people and projects, seem at least in part to constitute what is in our self-​interest.62 We can care about humanity as a whole, or about being a moral person, and this might provide us with personal reasons to act impartially. We can therefore take a broader view of self-​interest and morality than what Parfit seems to suggest the dualist is committed to, and we will return to this point at the end of this chapter. It is quite possible to get reasons to be impartial from a personal standpoint as well as to get reasons to be partial from an impartial standpoint (or that of a “larger whole”). At the same time, we can also see how this grounding of the dualism need not be restricted to a narrow kind of egoism and the act utilitarian theory of morality that Sidgwick espouses. While I think the first problem can be overcome, the second problem is worse. The second problem is that the notion of “a larger whole” is unclear and manifold. Besides being separate individuals, we are a part of the larger whole of humanity. But we are also parts of other larger wholes, such as our families, neighborhoods, workplaces, nations, peoples, and religious communities, as well as the animal kingdom, to name but a few. Are all these entities “larger wholes” in the relevant respect? Do they all therefore provide us with a separate set of reasons and requirements? All of (see section 7.1). It is therefore also, in a way, “personal.” The “impartial spectator” is only an epistemological device that can help us figure out what to do from this standpoint. 61 We might have other reasons to care about relatives and future selves, but unless they are mediated by care or love or form part of our self-​interest, they are best thought of as moral reasons that form part of the moral standpoint. 62 We may also argue for some restrictions on what sort of things may form part of our self-​interest in virtue of caring for them, such as requiring these things to have some kind of objective worth. See Susan Wolf, Meaning in Life and Why It Matters (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010). However, there could still be prudential reasons to promote such things in virtue of the pleasure they afford us.

70  Normative Pluralism them can be said to have their own restricted sets of interests, which can certainly conflict, so by recognizing them all as separate normative standpoints, it seems we could end up with quite a lot of normative conflicts, maybe to the extent that we would want to say that we have ended up with the sort of hyperinflation of normative standpoints that we have wanted to avoid.63 The problem here is to explain why only a certain “larger whole”—​for example, that of humanity—​is what matters and not the countless other “larger wholes” of which we are also a part.64 We could rephrase the problem in terms of identities. While I have an identity as a separate individual, I also have an identity as part of humanity, but it could also be contrasted with many other identities I might have. There seems to be something special, however, about both our identity as ourselves as individuals as well as our identity as part of humanity that does not hold for all our other identities, namely, that these two identities are necessary. While we are necessarily ourselves as well as part of humanity, other identities we might have are only contingent. But it is not clear what, if any, normative import this fact is supposed to have. Why should the fact that my identity as myself is necessary be of any more importance than contingent identities such as nationality? Besides, some other identities are also necessary, for example, that I am a member of the animal kingdom. Does that therefore give us a third normative perspective? I do not mean to claim that there is nothing of normative importance to this necessity, but if there is, then it needs to be justified in a convincing manner, and it still needs to be shown that it leads to a dualism rather than a wider plurality of standpoints. Sidgwick’s distinction between these two ways of seeing ourselves seems recognizable and important and seems to be what drives the impulse behind normative pluralism and the dualism of practical reason. But it remains unexplained why it is this distinction, rather than many other distinctions we could make, that grounds the pluralism and the number of normative standpoints in existence. This is an important problem for getting a proper grasp of the moral standpoint, but it is a general problem that is common to the entire field of moral philosophy. Whether the moral standpoint should be the standpoint of humanity, rational beings, sentient beings, or even something narrower such as the 63 E. J. Lemmon thought that such identities and statuses were “sources of oughts” and that since these oughts could conflict, there might be many dilemmatic moral cases. See E. J. Lemmon, “Moral Dilemmas,” Philosophical Review 72, no. 2 (1962): 139–​158. 64 Sidgwick, in virtue of his hedonistic theory of value, thought that the relevant sense of “larger whole” is that which includes all sentient beings. See Henry Sidgwick, “The Establishment of Ethical First Principles,” Mind 4 (1879): 106–​107.

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  71 standpoint of one’s particular social or political community, remains a highly controversial topic in ethics. There does, in any case, seem to be a clear distinction between the standpoint of self-​interest and a more inclusive normative standpoint, which we tend to identify as morality. We may hope to converge upon a justified specification of that standpoint eventually.

3.6.  A Kantian Approach? Sidgwick’s dualism is set out as a conflict between utilitarian morality and a certain egoistic conception of prudence, which through a normative pluralist interpretation constitutes two potentially conflicting normative standpoints. Both standpoints involve a type of maximizing rationale, where utility ought to be maximized. Potential conflicts occur because the two standpoints differ in how they require that utility to be distributed. While prudence requires me to maximize utility for myself, morality requires me to maximize the total sum of every person’s happiness. This dualism seems to be a natural result when subscribing to a utilitarian moral theory. For although it might seem reasonable to act in accordance with utilitarianism and make sacrifices to produce a greater total sum of value and contribute to the larger whole, one might also ask whether avoiding sacrifices and working for one’s own happiness isn’t also a reasonable thing to do, given the distinction between oneself and other individuals felt from the personal point of view. Normative pluralism of the type we have been concerned with involves such a distinction between morality and prudence, but we have initially thought of morality and prudence merely as placeholders for any true moral and prudential code. If the conflict depends on a utilitarian theory of morality to be plausible, then that would, of course, reduce its appeal. While utilitarianism is a moral theory with a fair share of support, it is also very controversial and widely regarded to have counterintuitive implications. But fortunately for normative pluralism, the theory does not seem to depend on utilitarian moral theory to seem plausible. The separateness of persons is a general thesis that applies whatever moral theory one accepts, and as long as a given moral theory can incur costs or sacrifices on the agent to whom the moral requirements are addressed, then one may always find a reasonable perspective from which one ought not to comply with those requirements. In an interesting article on Kantian rationalism, David Brink uses this thesis to argue that a dualism seems naturally to emerge from the Kantian

72  Normative Pluralism tradition as well.65 The approach that Brink describes also has the benefit of explaining why the conflict is a conflict between the individual as a whole in himself or herself versus all rational beings, as a larger whole, rather than one of many other larger wholes of which we can be part. It should be noted that a very similar position to Brink’s is also developed by Alison Hills, who thinks Kant’s grounding of the moral standpoint can also be used to ground a Kantian form of egoism. However, rather than exploring how this could lead to a dualism of practical reason, she views the two as rival theories about practical reason.66 Kant has been criticized for inferring that because moral requirements are categorical and therefore inescapable, moral requirements also have normative authority.67 Our aims or desires are not the grounds of our moral obligations, Kant thinks, and therefore we cannot escape our moral obligations by, for example, not desiring to fulfill them. The problem with using this claim to assign authority to moral obligations is that the same also holds for a number of other codes, such as etiquette or legal requirements, and these codes do not necessarily possess genuine normative authority. Rules of etiquette would still require you to use the appropriate fork for the salad, even if you do not care about this rule or have aims that necessitate conforming to the rules of etiquette. But Brink defends Kant because he thinks that the particular way in which moral requirements are inescapable allows Kant to assign them normative authority. However, Brink also argues that the same route by which morality is assigned normative authority will also assign authority to certain prudential norms, which seems to lead to a Kantian variant of Sidgwick’s dualism of practical reason. Brink’s interpretation of Kant is briefly as follows. Unlike, for example, duties of etiquette, moral duties apply to us simply by virtue of being rational agents. The categorical imperative of morality asks us to consider what we can will insofar as we are rational beings. What a rational being would want for its own sake is rational agency, having the capacity to deliberate about what is best to do and to regulate actions. Insofar as one is a rational agent, 65 David Brink, “Kantian Rationalism: Inescapability, Authority, and Supremacy,” in Garret Cullity and Berys Gaut (eds.), Ethics and Practical Reason (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 255–​292. Brink’s interpretation may or may not be representative of Kant, but it is at least recognizable as a broadly Kantian approach to morality. 66 Alison Hills, The Beloved Self (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), ­chapter 3. Like many others, she quickly dismisses the pluralist option due to the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons, which I will discuss further in c­ hapter 5. 67 See Philippa Foot, “Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives,” Philosophical Review 81, no. 3 (1972): 309.

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  73 one must want one’s choices and actions to be regulated by one’s rational capacities. But because all agents are alike insofar as they are rational agents, what is deemed valuable, what is to be promoted, is rational agency as such, not one’s particular rational agency. Brink believes that this gives us further moral content by requiring us to treat all rational agents as ends in themselves.68 Brink concludes that because moral requirements apply to one by virtue of being a rational agent in this way, they must be supposed to give one reasons for action, and because they are inescapable in this way, they give one categorical reasons. But although this way of assigning normative authority to moral requirements does not work for assigning normative authority to requirements of etiquette and many other categorical codes, Brink nonetheless argues that it does not work solely for morality and that this leads to a version of the dualism of practical reason. In doing this, Brink appeals to the separateness of persons and says that one is essentially not just a rational agent but a particular rational agent, numerically distinct from other agents. He goes on: Given that there are a plurality of purely rational agents, there must be requirements concerned with my own agency that apply to me just in so far as I am a particular rational agent, independently of my contingent interests and desires, just as Kant believes there are requirements of impartial concern that apply to me simply in so far as I am a rational agent. We might call the former requirements of categorical prudence. This is not simply the claim that I have reason to be concerned about my own rational agency, as well as that of others. For this kind of self-​concern would already be included in an impartial concern for all rational agents, as in F2 [the Formula of Humanity]. Rather, the idea is that I ought to have concern for my own rational agency that is grounded in my being a particular rational agent and not simply one rational agent among others. Categorical prudence is no more included in categorical impartiality than the claims of ethical egoism are included within the claims of utilitarianism. . . . [I]‌t seems I ought to possess reasons for action in virtue of facts about my own agency as well as in virtue of rational agency as such. But then I will have reason to promote my own rational agency, as well as to promote agency impartially.69 68 Brink also thinks that moral content can be derived through something like a Rawlsian procedure involving rational deliberators behind a veil of ignorance. Brink, “Kantian Rationalism,” 278–​279. 69 Ibid., 289.

74  Normative Pluralism According to Brink, the line of argument that is supposed to show that morality provides us with normatively authoritative other-​ regarding requirements can be used to show that categorical prudence provides us with normatively authoritative self-​regarding prudence. And as the argument is parallel, he claims to be unable to see how Kant could argue that the reasons of categorical prudence are inferior to those of morality (or vice versa). In this way, Brink thinks that Kant ends up with a version of a dualism of practical reason.70 That Brink’s result is actually a form of dualism or pluralism rather than something else may not at first be obvious. But Brink is clear that the reasons to promote my own rational agency are reasons that issue prudential requirements. Furthermore, they are reasons that become apparent when viewing oneself in a certain perspective (as a particular rational agent), forming a separate standpoint. It therefore seems to require an overarching normative standpoint if the two types of reasons are to be seen as commensurable. But Brink provides no reason to think that there is such a standpoint. An alternative to the pluralist interpretation of the dualism would again (as with Sidgwick) be that the two types of requirements are both plain oughts, such that when they conflict, they form a deontic dilemma. However, it is deeply unattractive to admit of such dilemmas where correct normative reasoning results in contradictions. A pluralist interpretation that avoids contradictions through distinguishing between different types of requirements would therefore be a better one. We can see that Brink’s Kantian approach to the dualism closely resembles that of Sidgwick. What grounds the dualism is again the separateness of persons and our ability to see ourselves as individual wholes as well as parts of a larger whole. The content of Sidgwick’s two standpoints is different from the content of Brink’s Kantian standpoints (Sidgwick conceived them as hedonistic and consequentialist, while the Kantian standpoints are concerned with rational agency and are deontological), but the two sets of standpoints remain similar in that both contain an other-​regarding and a self-​regarding standpoint that could be classified as a moral and a prudential standpoint, respectively. The 70 However, Brink admits that it is unclear whether the conflict that results from the two normative standpoints represents a conflict within morality or a conflict between morality and something extra-​moral (ibid., 290). This, he says, depends on whether moral requirements are expressions of rational agents as such or whether moral demands are to be equated with categorical imperatives. It seems possible to read Kant in both ways, Brink claims. For our purposes, though, it seems fair to represent the demands of categorical prudence as something external to morality. Commonsensically, the moral nature of a normative requirement appears to depend on more than mere formal features, such as categoricity. It should also have the right content, something that self-​regarding requirements that conflict with other-​regarding requirements are not prone to have.

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  75 usefulness of Brink’s grounding of normative pluralism obviously depends on the plausibility of the Kantian approach on which it relies. If one is not convinced by these kinds of Kantian arguments, then neither will this way of grounding normative pluralism be terribly convincing. But it does provide an interesting alternative to Sidgwick’s consequentialist approach, and together the two approaches show how two major traditions in philosophical ethics may be thought to lead to a form of normative pluralism. In addition, Brink’s Kantian approach has a number of advantages (insofar as one does not reject the Kantian rationales). First, while Sidgwick’s dualism has a more intuitionist basis in that the two standpoints that make up the dualism are supposed to be either self-​evident or based on a “self-​evident element,” Brink’s Kantian approach is more carefully based on assessable arguments from which it is easier to see that a normative pluralism results (or does not result). Second, the approach suggests an explanation of why it is these two wholes that matter, rather than all the other wholes of which we can be a part. The answer is that the perspective of these two wholes is concerned with rational agency in a way that the perspectives of other standpoints are not. The requirements that are issued by morality and by prudence are issued to me by virtue of being a rational agent, and the two standpoints represent two ways of seeing myself as a rational agent. The requirements of etiquette, by contrast, apply to me perhaps by virtue of my membership of a social group. While I cannot escape the latter types of requirements by changing my aims or desires, they do not apply to me by virtue of such a fundamental fact as my identity as a rational agent. Rational agency can furthermore be seen as more easily connectable to normativity than can other types of identities, since rational agency is supposed to be a prerequisite for practical reasoning, responsibility, and reason-​responsiveness which seem to be essential for normativity.71 Lastly, Brink’s Kantian approach provides a challenge to normative monism that remains even if we are inclined to reject the Kantian arguments. The dualism occurs, according to Brink, because 71 It is not entirely clear whether Brink’s Kantian sort of pluralism takes what I have called a bottom-​up approach to justification, but I should be clear that it is not the sort of top-​down approach we have seen in Tiffany’s pluralism, where the mere fact that a prescriptive standard applies to you grounds a respective normative requirement for you. The relationship between Kantian approaches to justification and the contemporary literature on reasons is complicated and up for debate, and I cannot hope to do full justice to that topic here. However, it appears to me that it could be consistent with a bottom-​up approach where standards and principles are codifications of more basic normative facts about what we have reason to do. For example, Hills defends what she calls “Kantian value realism,” where our rational nature is independently valuable, providing us with reasons not to undermine it. This is what grounds our normative requirements. Hills, The Beloved Self, 56.

76  Normative Pluralism the same argument that is supposed to justify morality’s normative authority can be used to justify prudence’s normative authority. We can generalize this into a challenge. For any attempt to justify morality’s normative authority, we can ask whether the same approach can be used to justify the normative authority of a nonmoral, prudential standpoint (or vice versa). Since morality is usually seen as somehow other-​regarding in its requirements, one can suspect that the separateness of persons can be invoked to run a parallel argument in favor of prudential, self-​regarding requirements. Although it would be a far too extensive task to review every attempt to justify the normative authority of morality here, the examples of Sidgwick’s utilitarianism and Brink’s Kantianism appear to show that this is possible for what can be said to be the two most important strands in modern moral philosophy.

3.7.  The Dualism of Practical Reason and Reasons of Meaningfulness Sidgwick’s dualism assumes that the conflict that gives rise to the dualism is the conflict between morality and prudence. A similar Kantian version of this view can also be defended. The version of normative pluralism that this book is concerned with has also construed the pluralism as a pluralism that arises because of two distinct, incommensurable normative standpoints, namely, morality and prudence. But is this the right way to formulate the conflict? And could there be other relevant normative standpoints beyond these? Someone who has doubted that “morality” and “prudence” offer the right way to categorize the central conflict is R. Jay Wallace.72 Wallace’s own characterization of the central conflict is in turn a response to Joseph Raz’s arguments that there is no interesting conflict to be had between morality and prudence, as both types of reasons produces value for the agent.73 I will not delve into Raz’s arguments here, as I will instead focus on Wallace’s claim that there is another sort of conflict between reasons of different types. Raz denies that there is an interesting conflict to be had between what is good for an agent and good more generally. The traditional way to understand what is good for an agent, according to Wallace, is in terms of 72 R. Jay Wallace, “The Rightness of Acts, Goodness of Lives,” in R. Jay Wallace, Normativity and the Will (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 300–​321. 73 See Joseph Raz, “On the Moral Point of View” and ” “The Central Conflict: Morality and Self-​ Interest,” both in Joseph Raz, Engaging Reason (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  77 prudence. Prudence, in turn, refers to what is in the agent’s self-​interest or conducive to the agent’s own welfare. The two latter terms are understood “in familiar, but elusive ways, as a matter of health, material comfort, psychic satisfaction, and so on.”74 A prudential standpoint that is concerned exclusively with well-​being in this narrow sense is not one that defines a serious class of reasons, according to Wallace, and so neither is it an interesting contrast to morality.75 The reason is, roughly, that prudence in a narrow sense is not of great importance to us as agents. What this means and why this is the case can best be seen by looking at Wallace’s alternative category, which he calls the standpoint of eudaimonistic reflection. This standpoint concerns itself with “making the agent’s life meaningful or worthwhile from the agent’s own point of view.”76 What is “good for” an agent can furthermore be defined in these terms. An action is good for an agent and recommendable by the standpoint of eudaimonistic reflection, then, only if it contributes to making the agent’s life meaningful or worth living as a result of engaging in this action. This seems to amount to a normative standpoint that is broader and richer than the standpoint of prudence—​if prudence is to be understood in narrow terms. Typical prudential concerns such as health and material comfort are only valuable insofar as they contribute to the agent living a meaningful life that the agent would find choiceworthy. Moreover, an excessive focus on narrow concerns can be an obstacle to the choiceworthiness of the agent’s life. Consider, for example, a person who spends all of his or her time only by working hard and being meticulous about his or her own health but where these activities do not really connect with what that person finds valuable. We would say that, because they do not connect with the person’s values, the way that he or she engages with these activities is not good for the person, and we would think that the person is not living a good life. It is possible, as well as common, for an agent to be committed to projects and relationships, and we are sometimes willing to make (sometimes great) sacrifices in terms of health, material comfort, and ease of mind in order to further those projects and relationships with the justification that the latter provide our lives with meaning. The projects that we involve ourselves in can take many forms: professional, familial, scientific, aesthetic, or even moral. Making sacrifices on these grounds seems eminently reasonable, at least insofar as

74 Wallace, “The Rightness of Acts,” 307. 75 Ibid., 312. 76 Ibid., 308.

78  Normative Pluralism they can succeed or impart a sense of meaning in the process of pursuing them. The narrow prudential concerns seem empty in comparison, at best only seeming valuable as enablers of such projects and relationships. This eudaimonistic standpoint can also be compared with Sidgwick’s view of the personal standpoint as consisting of a hedonistic version of rational egoism. The former is a richer standpoint than the latter, as it allows for more types of good than pleasure. There seem to be good grounds, then, for viewing what Wallace calls the eudaimonistic standpoint as a more fundamental and important normative standpoint than prudence understood in narrow prudential terms. Should we abandon the category of prudence as contributing to the grounding of a normative pluralism? Maybe. First of all, the answer partly depends on whether prudence needs to be exclusively concerned with such narrow concerns or whether it can’t properly be said to be concerned with what is “good for the agent,” however that phrase is elaborated. Second, a prudential criticism of some projects may seem warranted on certain occasions. Certain projects might sometimes be seen as coming with too many sacrifices for an agent, such that we would say that it wouldn’t truly be good for that agent to pursue those projects. Embarking on an all-​consuming quest to prove some scientific theory might not be seen as good for the agent, even if that is all the agent cares about, if the pursuit would lead to overwhelming frustration and a lack of attention to needs. In addition, people sometimes change their values over the course of their lives, and great sacrifices grounded in one’s early values might lose their meaning later in life. There might therefore be some reason to be concerned with preserving narrow prudential values even if great meaning can be had by sacrificing them.77 In addition, hedonistic enjoyment arguably has some value even if it is not connected to a project of the agent. Another one who has discussed the relative importance of meaningfulness over narrow prudential concerns is Susan Wolf. According to Wolf, there is a standard view that reasons tend to be categorized into two kinds: egoistic reasons of self-​interest and impartial reasons of morality.78 However, Wolf thinks that in addition to these two types of reasons, there is a third kind that 77 Wallace’s eudaimonistic standpoint also seems to coincide, at least to a large extent, with Copp’s “value standard.” Copp is also open to the idea, similar to what I discuss above, that this standard should be modified to accommodate “needs” as a legitimate concern in addition to values. Copp, “The Normativity of Self-​Grounded Reason,” 335n61. 78 Susan Wolf, “Meaningfulness: A Third Dimension of the Good Life,” Foundations of Science 21, no. 2 (2016): 253.

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  79 also plays a large part in our actual practical reasoning, namely, reasons of meaningfulness. Through a range of persuasive examples, Wolf argues that we often find it worth sacrificing our happiness or our moral commitments in order to attain meaning. What is special about reasons of meaningfulness is that they are at the same time concerned with the agent’s subjective fulfillment and concerned with promoting or achieving objectively valuable ends that have their source of value outside the agent. Meaning could, for example, be had by caring for other people or contributing to science, which are both objectively valuable activities. This way of conceiving meaningfulness may have important implications for the extent of normative pluralism because it could provide us with a plausible candidate for a third normative standpoint providing us with practical reasons more directly connected to other important values (such as aesthetic value or the value of knowledge) and are reasons that are irreducible to moral or prudential reasons. Wolf herself tends to describe them as such, and what is more, she also connects these reasons to a way of seeing ourselves that lies in between the Sidgwickian standpoints of the personal point of view and the point of view of the universe. Considerations of meaningfulness stem from seeing “one’s [own] life as valuable in a way that can be recognized as valuable from a point of view other than one’s own.”79 It thus involves seeing myself and my actions from an external point of view in a way that can ground feelings or judgments of pride and objective self-​worth. This sounds similar to the “point of view of the universe,” and Wolf herself likens it to Nagel’s “view from nowhere.”80 However, even if they both involve looking at one’s situation from an external point of view, the focuses of the two perspectives are rather different. Wolf also describes reasons of meaningfulness as “reasons of love.” Unlike narrowly self-​interested reasons, reasons of meaningfulness have the promotion of valuable things outside the agent as their aim, but that aim is highly particular. It is concerned with promoting the particular object of love that can provide fulfillment to the agent—​whatever valuable thing it may be—​and not with all valuable things or beings. The contrast is starkest if we, like Sidgwick, think of the moral standpoint and the point of view of the universe as a completely impartial perspective. Love, on the other hand, is far from impartial but devoted to some particular object. From the perspective of love, the distribution of value is neither impartial nor determined by

79 Wolf, Meaning in Life and, 27.

80 See Nagel, The View from Nowhere.

80  Normative Pluralism considerations of fairness, justice, or equality. Promoting the object of love may involve harming other things of value. Pursuing some scientific or artistic achievement may, for example, come into conflict with upholding other commitments or duties to other persons, or it may keep you from engaging in more benevolent actions (arguably, the worst crimes in history have been done from reasons of love). Wolf thinks that reasons of meaning are different from moral reasons as they may come into conflict with duties. Her views on the relationship between meaningfulness and reasons of self-​interest are more complicated. Wolf thinks that self-​interest is often equated with happiness, and she argues rightly that meaningfulness is distinct from happiness.81 Promoting an object of value that one loves may come at considerable costs to one’s happiness. It may well be physically and emotionally strenuous, sometimes dangerous, or uncertain or may otherwise come with sacrifices. Yet she also thinks that having a life that is meaningful is a human need, that living a meaningless life is bad for that agent, that a good life must be meaningful, and that meaningfulness therefore is part of self-​interest. On the other hand, she also thinks that once one takes meaningfulness to be part of self-​interest, the latter concept becomes much harder to apply.82 First, it admits of a greater indeterminacy as to what is most in one’s self-​interest as there is no clear standard for how to balance meaningfulness with happiness, and second, she believes we have to accept a kind of reason for action that is grounded in the intrinsic value of things external to one instead of being grounded by what is best for one. Is this, then, a third type of reason, distinct from moral and prudential reasons? To think so is not entirely implausible. Meaning may be understood as coming from a standpoint where the separateness between oneself and particular other beings or objects has been broken down but which is nonetheless not the point of view of the universe, that is, an impartial point of view (or one based on giving everyone his or her due or fair consideration). This is, then, not an implausible candidate for extending the pluralism beyond the moral-​prudential dualism we have been concerned with.83 Yet 81 Wolf, “Meaningfulness,” 254. 82 Susan Wolf, “Happiness and Meaning: Two Aspects of the Good Life,” Social Philosophy and Policy 14, no. 1 (1997): 223–​225. 83 Harry Frankfurt has also argued that love is a source of normative requirements in addition to those of morality and prudence. See “Autonomy, Necessity, and Love,” in Harry Frankfurt, Necessity, Volition, and Love (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 130. This could also be a plausible candidate for a source that could potentially extend the pluralism, but love could also well be part of meaningfulness, which I discuss here. Wolf seems to understand them as such; see Meaning in Life, 4–​6.

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  81 there are also good grounds for resisting such an extension. First, while the universe may contain all sorts of value, that value doesn’t provide meaning to me unless it is something that can bring me fulfillment, according to Wolf ’s account. My reason to engage with that value therefore seems conditional upon it being good for me.84 No reason of meaningfulness can be had without it, and the reason therefore seems grounded in what is good for me. Second, and more important, meaningfulness is my good. It is I who benefits from it and who loses out if I am impeded from attaining meaning in my life. In trying to make a new scientific discovery, I lose out of that meaning if someone else beats me to it, and the meaning had by my competitor does not, from my own perspective, compensate for the loss of my own. The separateness of persons stills seems to be in effect and makes meaning part of my good.85 But what both Wallace’s and Wolf ’s conceptions of meaningfulness seem to show us is that our conception of prudence—​or whatever name we want to give the category that concerns itself with what is good for the agent—​ needs to have richer concerns than the narrow ones that Wallace describes. While normative pluralism is in principle open to any theory of prudence (or other category) whose requirements can conflict with those of morality, there are good grounds to accept such considerations as being a part of it. As we shall see in c­ hapter 5, including these wider concerns is also helpful in responding to an important objection against normative pluralism. I shall continue to talk about prudence in general terms, but behind this category will be a tentative acceptance that this standpoint—​in being concerned with what is good for the agent—​needs to be enriched with considerations of meaningfulness.86 Before we leave this subject, let us review how the concerns of the eudaimonistic considerations have an impact on the potential for conflict between morality and prudence. There are now two features that will reduce 84 Note, however, that some writers on meaningfulness deny this requirement of subjective fulfillment. See, e.g., Ben Bramble, “Consequentialism about Meaning in Life,” Utilitas 27 (2015): 445–​459. 85 Notice that this point holds even if we want to reject Wolf ’s requirement of subjective fulfillment. 86 The eudaimonistic standpoint, at least as described by Wallace, is open to a particular and not implausible criticism, namely, that it is too subjectivistic. The standpoint is concerned with making the agent’s life meaningful or worthwhile from the agent’s point of view. But there could potentially be options that make my life more meaningful and worthwhile even if I cannot see it from my own point of view. The clearest examples are those that manage to transform my values. Perhaps I am lazy and disvalue exercise such that it would not be choiceworthy from my point of view, but suppose that were I to begin exercising, I might experience that I now come to value it and that it contributes to making my life better. And even if I don’t come to realize its value, it would be possible to claim that it is valuable for me by contributing to making my life better.

82  Normative Pluralism conflict. First, morality, arguably, generally permits one to pursue one’s projects.87 Second, one may be committed to projects of a moral nature and find meaning in moral ends. But one’s projects may generally still be of a nature that they could come into conflict with moral requirements, and moral requirements do not necessarily coincide with what the agent values. One possible example that has become famous in philosophical literature is that of Paul Gauguin, who left his wife and children (to whom he had responsibilities) in order to pursue an artistic life in Tahiti.88 Moreover, according to Wallace, a salient type of moral consideration is one whose aim is to facilitate or enable the collective pursuit of other ends that are valuable. Requirements of justice are of this kind, and they typically act as parameters that restrict the pursuit of personal projects. But, as Wallace argues, these are not the kinds of considerations that normally give texture and substance to our own lives (or to the lives of others). They apply to us generically and become relevant to us only episodically and so do not seem to be expressive of anything distinctive about the agent’s own personality, character, or outlook on life.89 But while arguing for the normative significance of the eudaimonistic standpoint, Wallace also acknowledges the significance of the moral standpoint, which he characterizes in Sidgwickian terms as “the point of view of the universe.”90 He nonetheless takes the eudaimonistic standpoint to challenge the normative importance of the moral standpoint and the claim to “priority” he believes it is often said to have. One option, he says, is that the two standpoints may come with two different kinds of importance. Whereas actions supported by the eudaimonistic standpoint may be important with respect to the goodness of the agent’s own life, other actions may be important by facilitating the general pursuit by humans of valuable ends. But the two kinds of importance need not always have the same significance

87 This is not true on every moral theory. Utilitarianism, for instance, seems to leave little room for the agent to pursue his or her own projects. Wallace, op. cit., 318–​319. Samuel Scheffler, on the other hand, argues that once we have entered into relationships, they are not only morally permissible to engage with but become a source of moral requirements. Scheffler, “Projects, Relationships, and Reasons,” 260. Scheffler also makes the point that “eudaimonistic reflection” is a better category for characterizing the conflict with morality that matters than self-​interest. Samuel Scheffler, “Potential Congruence,” in Paul Bloomfield (ed.), Morality and Self-​Interest (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 132–​133. 88 While Williams’s description of Gauguin is not an accurate description of the actual Paul Gauguin, we can nonetheless imagine someone like this who does forgo moral obligations for that kind of life. Bernard Williams, “Moral Luck,” in Bernard Williams, Moral Luck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 22–​23. 89 Wallace, “The Rightness of Acts,” 306–​307. 90 Ibid., 312.

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  83 for the agent who has to deliberate about what to do. Here the personal nature of eudaimonistic concerns may mean that these considerations would often have far more impact on the agent than the often less personal moral concerns. But Wallace goes on: In saying this, I do not mean to deny that we have reason to comply with moral requirements, or to care about the ends that such compliance subserves. But how much should we care about doing what is good or important in these ways? . . . [T]‌here may be no clear answer to this question at the end of the day. On the one hand, when we reflect on the objective importance of facilitating values for human agents, it seems that moral requirements ought to be given very high deliberative priority, fundamentally structuring the most basic life pursuits of the agents to whom they apply. . . . On the other hand, when we compare moral values with the personal values at the heart of projects and relationships, it appears puzzling that the former should attain the highest deliberative priority. It does not seem to be good for the agent to comply with moral requirements, in the way it clearly can be to comply with the demands that stem from personal values.91

Wallace then compares this result with Sidgwick’s dualism: We might borrow Sidgwick’s image of a dualism of practical reason to express this skeptical aporia. When we attend to the values that define the moral point of view (to the extent that there is such a thing), it seems plausible to suppose that moral requirements should have the status of highest-​ level ends, fundamentally structuring our deliberations and actions. From the standpoint of eudaimonistic reflection, however, it seems doubtful that moral requirements should have this kind of deliberative priority; compliance with them does not appear to be good for the agent, or important to the agent, in the way that is characteristic of the projects and relationships that are of paramount deliberative significance.92

The conflict that Wallace describes therefore naturally lends itself to a dualism or pluralism. The only way we can overcome such conflicts is if we can find a

91 Ibid., 314. 92 Ibid.

84  Normative Pluralism way to pursue our personal projects and relationships within the constraints set by morality. The appropriate metaphor here, according to Wallace, is not that of weighing moral and eudaimonistic reasons on a balance but that of integration.93 The task of philosophy is to show how and when conflicts can be avoided, by, for example, showing us how a commitment to moral ends can make a contribution to the value of the agent’s own life. But the most fundamental way of dealing with the problem is in the end not philosophical but social and psychological. Moral issues tend to be social, collective issues that are concerned with facilitating good lives for every person. We therefore tend to have a collective interest in upholding morality and in finding ways to bring it about that the agents that make up society become motivated to act in compliance with it and to care about its ends.

3.8.  Summary and Conclusion In this chapter, we have investigated several proposals as to how, if at all, normative pluralism can be grounded. To find a grounding for the pluralism serves the function of explaining why normativity is divided and why it is divided in the way it is. By providing such an account, we may also hope to have found a further philosophical motivation to accept pluralism. One such proposal was Copp’s teleological grounding, which takes multiple normative standpoints to be different “devices” in solving various “problems of normative governance” that we face as humans. Copp’s proposal has the advantage of providing a general account that is supposed to have the result of carving up normativity in a way that seems reasonable and the advantage of avoiding a hyperinflation of normative standpoints. However, we also seen that Copp’s account is somewhat underdeveloped and suffers from a problem of demarcating genuine “problems of normative governance” from non-​normative codes and of explaining why the various problems cannot be subsumed under an overarching problem which we can call “the problem of living.” This demarcation problem is emphasized by fellow pluralists Tiffany and Baker, who reject the very idea of finding any distinction between genuine and non-​genuine normative standpoints. I argued, however, that this “groundless pluralism” comes with an even worse problem in that it too 93 R. Jay Wallace, “Reason and Responsibility,” in R. Jay Wallace, Normativity and the Will (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 134.

Grounding and Extent of Normative Pluralism  85 liberally embraces a hyperinflation of normative standpoints, with serious counterintuitive normative consequences as a result. We found a better way of grounding the pluralism by looking at Sidgwick’s thoughts about what he called the dualism of practical reason. Sidgwick grounds a fundamental division between the moral and the prudential standpoint in a twofold conception of the human individual as an end in himself or herself and as a part of a larger whole, which results from the separateness of persons. These two conceptions constitute two different normative standpoints from which different things are seen as reasonable. This dualism between our two ways of conceiving ourselves seems to be a natural explanation to appeal to regarding why and how normativity is divided and can come in both Kantian and utilitarian forms. Like Copp’s teleological grounding, Sidgwick’s grounding also suffers from a demarcation problem in explaining which of the larger wholes of which we can be a part is to count as a genuine normative standpoint. However, this is a completely general problem in moral philosophy about who or what things have moral status and how far our moral duties extend. In the last part of the chapter, we saw that there are reasons to doubt that prudence, narrowly construed, is the correct category with which to frame normative pluralism. It seems that we need instead to operate with a richer conception of “prudence” that also incorporates reasons of meaningfulness. We have also seen how this richer notion of being good for an agent naturally leads toward a normative pluralism and can even help to ground it. There is something about the concerns of an enriched prudence that gives substance and texture to our individual lives and makes the options favored by prudence choiceworthy options, at the same time as they may conflict with important moral concerns, such as those of justice and fairness.

4 Incommensurability, Rationality, and Choice 4.1. Introduction Some philosophers think that any view that admits of a widespread and systematic incommensurability of reasons, such as normative pluralism, cannot offer an acceptable view of agency and practical reasoning. One reason for this that opponents of normative pluralism point to is that in order to provide an adequate theory of agency, we need to account for the central role of enkratic reasoning—​the type of practical reasoning where an agent reasons to an intention to F from a belief that the agent “ought all things considered” or has “most reason” to F—​and it is claimed that a view like pluralism cannot account for this.1 This chapter therefore deals with the question of how to conceive of agency given a pluralist understanding of normativity. It argues that the claims above are mistaken. Normative pluralism does not require a view of agency that is radically different from the view you would get by rejecting incommensurability, and it can account for central features of practical reasoning, such as enkratic reasoning. I will start by addressing this worry about enkratic reasoning and asking whether there are any rational constraints on the choice of someone who believes that there is an incommensurable conflict between moral and prudential reasons such that they believe there is nothing they just plain ought to do. I argue that there is such a constraint, that it consists in a modified form of John Broome’s enkratic requirement that governs qualified oughts rather than plain oughts, and that this constitutes a requirement of rationality that can be justified on the same grounds on which Broome’s original formulation can be justified. I will show that this modified requirement 1 See, e.g., Broome, Rationality through Reasoning, 24–​26; Chang, Making Comparisons Count, 43, 171; Wedgwood, The Nature of Normativity, 24–​25.

Normative Pluralism. Mathea Slåttholm Sagdahl, Oxford University Press. © Oxford University Press 2022. DOI: 10.1093/​oso/​9780197614693.003.0004

Incommensurability, Rationality, and Choice  87 allows normative pluralism to give a central place to enkratic reasoning in human agency. But although enkratic reasoning is both possible and central in a pluralist picture of agency, and although rationality will put some constraints on what agents can intend, it will not be able to completely determine choice among incommensurable options. The second question is therefore how to envision choice among incommensurable options. In order to answer this question, several writers have thought that a theory such as pluralism will lead to a very different understanding of agency from a view that thinks reasons are commensurable. I shall argue that this claim is mistaken. Nevertheless, to explain choice among incommensurable options, I draw on a model of choice found in what Joseph Raz calls the “classical conception of human agency,” which emphasizes the role of the will in human action. The classical conception sees paradigmatic human action as a choice between rationally eligible options, and I will try to show how the modified enkratic requirement can help determine what options count as being “rationally eligible”—​something that Raz himself does not explain clearly. I find further support for this model of choice by coupling it with Richard Holton’s idea of the will as an executive capacity; this idea, I argue, is needed not only to explain choice between incommensurable options but also to explain choice under other conditions that can also occur for someone who does not accept normative pluralism. I will also argue that the model of choice found in the classical conception of human agency has the additional benefit of being able to answer Donald Regan’s objection that the choice between incommensurable options must be unintelligible to the agent, as well as answering a similar objection by Ruth Chang. After examining how agents can engage in choosing and practical reasoning, I then consider how intentions can persist given belief in incommensurability. To explain this, I draw on a rational requirement defended by Broome that one is not to drop an intention without reconsidering, and I appeal again to the role of the agent’s will, which according to Holton can explain how an agent can form and uphold a commitment to a choice. I shall conclude the chapter by briefly comparing the two conceptions of agency that Raz offers and I will argue that both enkratic reasoning and the will must be seen as important elements of agency. I take this to mean that Raz’s distinction between two conceptions of agency, as belonging to the acceptance and rejection of incommensurability, is a false dichotomy. The

88  Normative Pluralism question of incommensurability of reasons should not be thought to have a significant bearing on how we conceive of human agency.

4.2.  Normative Monism and Practical Rationality How to envision practical rationality is one of the central debates in philosophy. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to discuss this topic fully enough to take into account and do justice to every kind of view, since the main concern of this book is not to defend a theory of practical rationality. Instead, I will discuss a very particular view of practical rationality that I find appealing but that can also be seen to present a challenge to normative pluralism. The challenge arises because it offers an easy explanation of how practical rationality can work for agents who believe there is something they just plain ought to do, while at the same time leaving it unclear how practical rationality can be possible for agents holding normative pluralistic beliefs. In other words, if this view of practical rationality is plausible, it challenges the pluralist to explain whether and how practical rationality is possible within the framework of this theory. The view I want to discuss is that of Broome. Broome is interested in explaining how the belief that you ought to do something can cause you to intend to do that thing. His general strategy is to argue that rationality requires you to intend to do what you believe you ought to do and that you can bring yourself to satisfy this requirement through reasoning.2 An important requirement of rationality in Broome’s account is therefore the following, which he calls enkrasia but which I shall call the enkratic requirement: The enkratic requirement: Rationality requires of you that if you believe you ought to F, you intend to F.3

This is a rough formulation of the requirement, but we will not be concerned with the relevant nuances here, so the above formulation will do for our purposes. The enkratic requirement represents a requirement of rationality that is truly practical, since it governs the practical state of intention. It 2 Broome, Rationality through Reasoning, 3. 3 Ibid., 23. For reasons that need not concern us, Broome expresses the requirement through the ungrammatical construction “ought that you F” and “intend that you F.” My rewording of the requirement should not be harmful for our purposes.

Incommensurability, Rationality, and Choice  89 assumes a rational connection between what you believe and what you intend, such that if you fail to exhibit this connection, you are not fully rational. The requirement is furthermore of great significance in Broome’s own account of rationality and reasoning. He describes it as “a central feature of our rationality because it constitutes one of the main bridges between theoretical rationality and practical rationality.”4 We should note two important features of the enkratic requirement. The first is that the requirement has a “wide scope.” This means that the requirement governs the whole conditional and not just the consequent of a conditional.5 As such, the requirement only tells you to have a proper relationship between your belief and your intention, to intend what you believe you ought. If you believe you ought to F, the requirement can be satisfied in two ways: by coming to intend to F or by dropping the belief that you ought to F. This wideness of scope is a result of Broome’s general view about the nature of rationality. What rationality requires of you, according to Broome, is proper order in your mind.6 It requires your mental states to be properly related to each other, in the sense of exhibiting coherence. The enkratic requirement is supposed to represent such a requirement of rationality. It requires you to have a specified relationship of coherence between your ought beliefs and your intentions. This means that an agent who violates the enkratic requirement is holding an incoherent set of attitudes. The second important thing to note about the enkratic requirement is that the ought that figures in the requirement is the monistic unqualified ought.7 The enkratic requirement only applies to you if you believe that you just plain ought to F, not if you believe you adverbially ought (e.g., “morally ought,” “prudentially ought”) to F. Broome does not give an argument for this restriction; all he does is point out that a qualified ought does not imply a plain ought and so does not fall under the requirement. Nevertheless, it is easy to see why Broome is right in making this restriction. If the enkratic requirement applied to any ought, then rationality would require you to hold contradictory intentions whenever you believed that qualified oughts were in conflict. Suppose that you believe you morally ought to intend to F and 4 Ibid. 5 So, e.g., it does not say that if you believe you ought to F, then you are rationally required to F. Rather, it rationally requires of you: (to intend to F if you believe you ought to F). 6 Ibid., 152. 7 Ibid., 26. Broome here talks about “ought all things considered,” but as I explained in section 2.6, we can also adopt this term for normative pluralism. Broome is anyway clear about referring to an unqualified ought.

90  Normative Pluralism that you prudentially ought to not F. If the enkratic requirement applied to both these ought beliefs, then you could not rationally hold both these ought beliefs without intending both to F and not to F. But this would amount to an inconsistent set of intentions, which is obviously at odds with the idea that rationality is concerned with coherence among one’s mental states. Given these ought beliefs, one would end up holding incoherent attitudes either way. Either there would be a mismatch between your qualified ought beliefs and your intentions, or you would have contradictory intentions. In other words, given these beliefs, you could not possibly be fully rational as, necessarily, you would violate a requirement of rationality. This is an unfortunate consequence if rational requirements aim at ordered mental states, but it arises only if we allow the enkratic requirement to apply to qualified oughts. By restricting it to plain oughts, we get no such result. It furthermore seems that it is the properties of the plain ought concept that work to justify the enkratic requirement. Doubts about the applicability of the enkratic requirement naturally arise whenever we suspect that there are other oughts or strong reasons that conflict with the contents of the ought. Even if we believe that we ought to F, we might think that we ought in some other sense to not F or that there are still important reasons one could act upon that favor not F-​ing. But the plain ought is not just any other ought. As I argued in section 2.5, because it bears the properties of comprehensiveness and supremacy, it reduces any qualified oughts to reasons that will already have been taken into account by the plain ought. By relegating qualified oughts to mere reasons, the plain ought is ensured to always be the sole ought that applies to an agent. F-​ing therefore becomes the only option that is required by a proper ought. And while there might still exist reasons for the agent that count in favor of not F-​ing, these reasons are also taken into account by the plain ought and are determined to be outweighed by stronger reasons. They are defeated reasons. Therefore, an agent who truly believes that he or she just plain ought to F, believes as part of that belief that there are no opposing oughts and that all other opposing reasons are defeated. That agent would believe that he or she ought to F and that not F-​ing cannot be justified. The agent who holds these kinds of beliefs and nevertheless does not intend to F does not seem to have an entirely coherent set of attitudes. With the enkratic requirement in place, we get a clear and straightforward picture of how practical reasoning could work that also fits nicely with comparative normative monism. A monist of this sort would think that practical

Incommensurability, Rationality, and Choice  91 reasoning generally proceeds as follows. First, we engage in theoretical normative reasoning by comparing the plain strength of moral and prudential reasons, and we determine what we just plain ought to do. We then go on to form an intention to do what we now believe we just plain ought to do. The monist may also say that even if this fails as an actual description of how we generally reason practically (since we might, e.g., be irrational in many instances), it nonetheless provides a clear picture of how practical reasoning is possible in the sense of how we can reason our way from theoretical attitudes (such as beliefs) to practical attitudes (such as intentions). However, with pluralist beliefs about normativity, this picture breaks down. If we believe that normative pluralism is true, we cannot make comparisons of the plain strength of moral and prudential reasons, and so neither can we rationally form any warranted belief about what one ought to do all things considered. Without any such belief, we cannot apply the enkratic requirement and in this way move to an intention. The challenge from the normative monist therefore becomes the question of how the pluralist can explain that practical reasoning is possible. In other words, how can the pluralist, without resorting to plain oughts, ever reason from normative beliefs to intentions?

4.3.  Normative Pluralism and Practical Rationality The enkratic requirement is of no help to someone who holds pluralist beliefs. It can give no rational guidance to anyone who only believes that he or she ought, in a qualified sense, to F. A normative monist could therefore make the argument that this leaves the pluralist in a position where, if pluralism is true, there would be no way to reason one’s way to an intention without starting from false normative beliefs. This would be embarrassing for the pluralist, it might be said, when normative monism ensures that people may engage in genuine and warranted practical reasoning from true normative beliefs. Shouldn’t we expect any respectable theory of normativity to do the same? The argument poses a genuine challenge to normative pluralism, but it presupposes that there are no other requirements of rationality that could take one from normative beliefs to intentions and that govern normative beliefs of a sort that is relevant to pluralism. If there is none, then pluralism might be in trouble; I will claim, however, that another rational requirement can be found that can do the same sort of job as the enkratic requirement.

92  Normative Pluralism First, let me say a word about the justification of proposed requirements of rationality. Broome does not provide a means of identifying requirements of rationality and mostly appeals to intuitions when justifying his own requirements.8 But it helps to think about what rationality is supposed to be about. On Broome’s account, rationality concerns itself with ensuring consistency and coherency between mental states, so any requirement of rationality would have to concern itself with the same. This means that an agent who violates a proposed requirement of rationality should be seen as less than fully coherent. The requirement that I will propose must therefore satisfy our intuitions about mental coherency. That said, I do not expect this requirement to be particularly controversial. It is basically a weaker form of the enkratic requirement and relies on a similar set of intuitions. The weak enkratic requirement: Rationality requires of you that if you believe you ought all things consideredquantificational to F, then you intend to F.

Broome’s original enkratic requirement is a requirement that, in his own words, governs “ought all things considered” beliefs. The ought in the original enkratic requirement refers to that kind of ought and not to qualified oughts. But by “ought all things considered,” Broome is referring to the “central overall ought” which is unqualified and which takes qualified oughts as its parts, in other words, the monistic ought simpliciter. However, in ­chapter 3, we saw that it is possible to distinguish different senses of “ought all things considered” that are more amenable to the pluralist cause and that it should not necessarily be identified with ought simpliciter. The superscript in the weak enkratic requirement is meant to make clear that the “ought all things considered” in question is the quantificational understanding of ought all things considered discussed in section 2.7. The only difference, then, between Broome’s original enkratic requirement and the weak enkratic requirement is that they govern different kinds of “ought all things considered” beliefs. Otherwise, they are identical. Given the quantificational understanding of ought all things considered, the weak enkratic requirement requires the following: if you believe that you ought to F from every relevant normative standpoint, then you intend to F.9 8 Ibid., 157. While Broome does not have a general approach to rationality, he does mention some necessary conditions for a requirement of rationality, such as necessity and supervenience on the mind. The requirement I am proposing has no problem with these conditions. 9 Not being “silent” as a criterion for relevancy was discussed in section 2.7.2.

Incommensurability, Rationality, and Choice  93 By “relevant,” I mean a genuinely normative standpoint that is not silent on the question of whether to F. Or, in other words, if you believe that all the non-​silent qualified oughts require you to F, then you intend to F. Now, why would rationality require such a thing? The answer is for more or less the same reasons that justify the original enkratic requirement. Similar to what would be the case with the original requirement: if you believe you ought to F from every relevant normative standpoint, this constitutes the belief that once all normative reasons have been taken into account, then F-​ing is normatively required of you, and it is the only thing that is normatively required of you. There is no normative conflict. All reasons that favor not F-​ing are defeated reasons. There would, it seems, be something odd about an agent who had this kind of belief but who nonetheless did not intend to F, and I take it that we would be disposed to judge that agent less than fully coherent. The requirement is weaker than Broome’s original enkratic requirement, at least in a certain sense, because it doesn’t require the further belief that there is also an overarching ought that takes into account the qualified oughts and that requires you to F. The requirement applies if you have made a universal quantification over your qualified ought beliefs; its application does not require you to have made a further, substantial normative inference that there is also an overarching kind of ought that commensurates the qualified oughts and hence requires you to F. Of course, if you believe that there are such oughts, then you would most likely be subject to both enkratic requirements if you believe that you ought all things considered (in the quantificational sense) to F. If you believe that the plain, overarching ought takes the qualified oughts as parts, then it would be strange not to believe that the overarching ought would require you to F if all its parts required you to F. Nothing of what I have said is meant as any kind of objection to Broome’s original enkratic requirement. Quite the opposite: both requirements seem justified as genuine requirements of rationality for more or less the same reasons. They can coexist, have different conditions of application, and they do not conflict with each other.10 Is there, then, any argument to be made against the weak enkratic requirement? We have seen that the requirement is justified on more or less the same considerations as 10 Although I have treated the original and the weak enkratic requirements as constituting two different requirements of rationality governing two different normative beliefs, an alternative is to think that there is only one enkratic requirement which is neutral with respect to how it represents an “ought all things considered” belief. On that construal, my proposal instead specifies another way in which that neutral requirement could apply. I don’t think anything of importance hangs on how these requirements are to be individuated.

94  Normative Pluralism the stronger enkratic requirement and that it seems a genuine enough requirement for these reasons. However, a normative monist can ask to what extent the weak enkratic requirement really solves the pluralist’s problem. The monist could argue that it isn’t enough for there simply to be a requirement of rationality that could apply to us and bring us from qualified normative beliefs to practical intentions. What needs to be shown, it might be said, is that the requirement would actually apply to us in an appropriate number of instances, such that it can be of practical use to real agents. The requirement must be able, just as the stronger enkratic requirement can do for the monist, to play the role of the main bridge that connects theoretical with practical rationality. Now, the monist may think that this cannot be the case for the pluralist because the requirement can have application only insofar as our qualified ought beliefs agree about whether to F. But if normative conflicts between qualified oughts are somewhat prevalent, and if our normative beliefs are more or less correct, then the weak enkratic requirement will be of no help in reasoning to practical intentions. Whether this challenge presents a proper objection to the pluralist that needs to be answered is not quite clear. Whether the requirement has application to real agents is partly an empirical question and is hard to answer. But I would argue that we should expect the weak enkratic requirement to have extensive application, even if we think that conflicts between the moral and prudential standpoints are commonplace. If the standpoints conflict about whether to F or not to F, then it is true that rationality can give no guidance as far as F-​ing is concerned. An agent would be equally rational in intending to F as in intending not to F. However, as I argued in section 2.7, disagreement about whether or not to F tends to involve significant background agreement about other options. If I morally ought to F and prudentially ought to G (which is not compatible with F), then if these are all the relevant normative standpoints, I ought all things considered (in the quantificational sense) to either intend to F or intend to G and not intend anything that is in that choice situation incompatible with F-​ing and G-​ing. Thus, given these beliefs, I would, on the weak enkratic requirement, be rationally warranted in believing that I ought all things consideredquantificational not to φ, where to do φ is anything excluded by F or G. The weak enkratic requirement would then find application, such that intending to φ would violate the weak enkratic requirement. So the weak enkratic requirement can find application even in cases where an agent holds conflicting qualified ought beliefs, and this application seems to be quite general. Although

Incommensurability, Rationality, and Choice  95 it cannot give any guidance in the choice between what to intend among the incommensurable options themselves, it can guide one away from all the other options whose reasons have been defeated within both relevant normative standpoints. For example, in the choice between donating money to charity (which we can stipulate to be morally required) and spending it on a good investment (which we can stipulate to be prudentially required), we ought from both standpoints not to waste it on smoking unhealthy cigarettes. In this way, an agent’s normative beliefs would extensively and generally restrict what intentions that agent could have without being irrational. This makes the weak enkratic requirement perform an important job in our practical reasoning. There is, however, an important challenge regarding compromises to the view I have proposed. Suppose I have an extra one thousand dollars, and suppose that morally I ought to give all of it to Oxfam and prudentially I ought to invest it. So all things considered, I ought to either give all of it to Oxfam or invest all of it. Either option will therefore be rational with respect to the weak enkratic requirement. However, given that I have reasons to do both, it seems that I also would be rational to split the money, investing five hundred and donating five hundred. But this seems to be precluded by the weak enkratic requirement, since neither morally nor prudentially ought I to do so. So on a quantificational analysis, that option isn’t rationally permissible. This seems a bit unintuitive. If it is rationally permissible to give all of it to myself or all of it to Oxfam, why is it not rationally permissible to split it? This seems like an inescapable conclusion, but there are several things to say about it. First, this is a challenge for normative monism as well. At least, it isn’t clear how the monist could say that it is permitted, all things considered, to split the money, given that the moral reasons for donating five hundred dollars are, as the author notes, all defeated by other moral reasons, and the prudential reasons for keeping five hundred dollars are all defeated by other prudential reasons. While monism might have some resources to deal with this problem, it isn’t clear what kind of principle could achieve this. Any such principle could also be problematic, especially in a generalized form. A general principle such as “in any conflict between morality and prudence, it is just plain permissible to choose the middle ground” would easily have counterintuitive implications. Suppose (for the sake of argument) that prudence requires you to kill ten people (or do any other morally prohibited act to them), and suppose that the prudential benefit is proportional to the number of people you kill. The middle ground between killing ten people and killing none

96  Normative Pluralism is five, and so on the principle above, it would be just plain permissible to kill five and receive half the benefit. This does not seem like an attractive account of what an overarching standpoint would allow for.11 Second, however, there is a difference between saying that something is rational, in the sense of being required or permitted by the type of structural requirements of rationality that we have been concerned with here, and saying that it is just plain permitted.12 Even if we don’t want to say that compromises are not just plain permitted, they may yet appear rational to us, at least to a certain extent. Their rational appeal is due to a difference between cases that track reasons and those that don’t. The difference is that the option of donating five hundred dollars and investing five hundred dollars does, in fact, track the prescriptions of the moral and prudential standpoint at least to some extent, while wasting the money on something pointless does not. So the compromise option certainly seems more rational than wasting the money and may even appear rationally permissible for tracking both types of reasons. It is also true that with respect to the moral standpoint, you ought to “donate at least five hundred dollars,” and with respect to the prudential standpoint, you ought to “invest at least five hundred dollars,” and that morally, you ought not to “invest one thousand dollars,” and you prudentially ought not to “donate one thousand dollars.” So given that it tracks reasons and requirements to some extent, there might be some room for normative pluralism to say that this is not so irrational as “wasting one thousand dollars.” This may call for a modified and more sophisticated version of the weak enkratic requirement, or we might want to talk about degrees of rationality. I will not pursue this further here, but it appears to me that this is something that can be done within the bounds of normative pluralism and concerns a special problem. The third and last point to note is that how we react to this example may be influenced by the substantive normative beliefs we may already have about these options. For my own part, I would be disposed to think that in most circumstances, donating the money is morally valuable but only supererogatory. If so, it is morally permissible to donate less than one thousand dollars, and the option of donating only five hundred would not be defeated by moral reasons. 11 See more on the unattractiveness of just plain permitting morally prohibited acts in section 6.4. 12 See more on this point in section 6.3. There is a sense (the “substantive” sense) in which we may want to identify the overarching normative standpoint with rationality, but this chapter has been treating what is often called “structural rationality,” with which the identification of being the overarching normative standpoint is hard to make.

Incommensurability, Rationality, and Choice  97

4.4.  Rationality and Incommensurable Options The weak enkratic requirement ensures that even with widespread incommensurability between options, we are still able to use practical reasoning to form intentions about what to do. But what are we to say about the choice between the incommensurable options themselves? If I believe that I morally ought to F and that I prudentially ought to not F, then (1) how can I move from these beliefs to a practical intention to either F or not F, and (2) am I rationally required to intend to F or not to F given these beliefs? The weak enkratic requirement can be of no help in these questions, as it only applies when one believes that qualified oughts are in agreement. Let us start with the second question. That question, as I have formulated it, seems to presuppose that rationality has an answer as to what to intend given these normative beliefs. A person asking this question might even suppose that it is rationality’s “job” to determine what to intend and that there is something wrong either with our conception of rationality or with our conception of normativity if it fails to determine an answer. As I see it, these assumptions are wrong. We should not expect rationality to be able to determine for us what to intend under all circumstances. In fact, rationality’s ability to deliver a unique intention that we must form if we are to be rational may be quite limited. In an essay concerning incommensurability and agency, Raz distinguishes between two conceptions of human agency, which he calls the rationalist and the classical: In broad outline, the rationalist holds that paradigmatic human action is action taken because of all the options open to the agent, it was, in the agent’s view supported by the strongest reason. The classical conception holds that paradigmatic human action is one taken because of all the options the agent considers rationally eligible, he chooses to perform it. . . . The . . . differences come down to a contrast between the rationalist view that generally rational choices and rational actions are determined by one’s reasons or one’s belief in reasons and are explained by them, as against the classical conception that regards typical choices and actions as determined by a will that is informed and constrained by reason but plays an autonomous role in action.13 13 Joseph Raz, “Incommensurability and Agency,” in Ruth Chang (ed.), Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reason (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), 111.

98  Normative Pluralism Whereas the classical conception recognizes the existence of widespread incommensurability among reasons, the rationalist conception, according to Raz, regards incommensurability at best as a rare anomaly. When we suppose that there is no incommensurability among reasons, then it will be possible to form a plain “ought all things considered” belief of the monist kind. With such ought beliefs, the strong enkratic requirement applies to us and determines a unique option that needs to be intended if we are to keep our beliefs and remain rational. This amounts to a way to think about practical reasoning that is paradigmatically monistic. If, on the other hand, we recognize a widespread incommensurability of reasons, things are different. Since neither the strong nor the weak enkratic requirement can be of any help in the choice between what we believe to be incommensurable options, it seems that the ability of rational requirements to determine what to intend is no longer present. Instead, we are left with a situation in which the agent has to make a choice in a way that involves the will.14 The role that rationality plays here is not in determining a unique option to intend but rather to constrain the choice of the agent by narrowing down the choice to options that are considered to be rationally eligible. This is exactly the job that the weak enkratic requirement is able to do by requiring us not to intend those options whose reasons we believe to have been defeated with respect to all relevant normative standpoints. The options that we ought, in a qualified sense, to do are options that remain rationally eligible to intend, since none of the enkratic requirements would make us irrational or incoherent if we were to intend them. Although Raz does not explain the notion of rational eligibility, I take something like this to be his meaning: options are rationally eligible if their reasons can be thought to remain undefeated. And if the reasons behind several options are incommensurable, then there can be more than one rationally eligible option that the agent needs to choose between. Raz thinks that this is how intentions generally are formed by agents and that it represents the paradigmatic human action. Whether this is so seems to be partly an empirical question, but I shall argue for the need to moderate 14 Relatedly, Björnsson and Finlay argue that when there is a normative disagreement between someone using oughts qualified by different standards (such as someone using a moral ought in order to express disagreement with someone using a prudential ought), the fundamental interest of the speakers is in what intention is formed and not in what unqualified ought proposition is true. The conflict between the speakers is one of attitude rather than belief, and the conversational role of the qualified oughts (and presumably of the reasons cited in their favor) is to get one’s will through and make the other conform. Björnsson and Finlay, “Metaethical Contextualism Defended,” 27, 31–​32.

Incommensurability, Rationality, and Choice  99 this claim at the end of the chapter. However, I am at least inclined to agree with Raz that this kind of process does not seem to be a rare anomaly. It is a pattern of practical reasoning that seems highly recognizable as real and familiar instances of practical reasoning. What is the “will” that features so centrally in the classical conception? Raz describes it simply as “the ability to choose and perform intentional actions.” It is not the same as wants or desires. We can will ourselves to perform an action that we do not want or desire to do. One may, for example, choose to do what one considers to be one’s duty, even though it would be costly and one desires to do otherwise. Some may think that the will is a mysterious concept and that this kind of agent-​determined choice is not philosophically illuminating. However, I think it should be clear that it is an unavoidable concept that plays an obvious role in many situations. It is not exclusive to choosing between incommensurable options. We also need it to account for the choice between equally good options that are supported by equally strong reasons or the choice between options where the agent finds that he or she is epistemically unable to assess which option is best. The two latter examples are situations that may also arise for the comparative normative monist and where it seems that even the monist will have to invoke the notion of the will.15 In the choice between two options that are believed to be supported by equally strong reasons, rationality is of no further help in determining which option is to be intended. The agent must simply choose what to intend by an act of will.16 The centrality of the will for human agency has also been defended by Holton, who argues that an executive capacity such as the will is needed in order to make choices in the absence of a judgment of what is best.17 Included here are cases of perceived incommensurability or incomparability as well as cases of equality, indeterminacy, and uncertainty about what is best or what one has most reason to do. Consider the case of choosing what to order from a menu at a restaurant. Sometimes one of the items on the menu may present itself as clearly the best choice for you. But other times, especially when you can have confidence that the chef can make any of the dishes delicious, you are faced with the choice of several wonderful but distinct taste experiences where it is far from clear which one would provide you with the 15 A similar point is made in Baker, “Skepticism About Ought Simpliciter,” 247. 16 This emphasis on the will is what seems to have led Chang to label Raz’s view as quasi-​ existentialist. See Chang, “Introduction,” 257n20. 17 Richard Holton, Willing, Wanting, Waiting (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), x.

100  Normative Pluralism best meal. While there might exist procedures to compare the alternatives and get to a reasonable judgment about which dish would be the best choice (such as interviewing customers who have tried all the relevant dishes), such procedures are often too demanding, and by the time the waiter arrives at your table, you simply need to cut through the deliberation and decide on one of the options.18 Cases like this are quite common, as coming to a judgment about what one has most reason to do is a form of maximizing. And maximizing, being a difficult and cognitively expensive business, often loses out to other forms of decision-​making, or attempts to maximize might fail to deliver a conclusion.19 So, for all these cases, we need the will. The will is, according to Holton, a distinct faculty or skill that the agent actively employs. It has a range of uses, from cutting through and making decisions, in resisting temptations, and in upholding intentions and commitments. He furthermore thinks that there is good empirical evidence for the claim that the will exists and that willpower is actually employed by agents.20 But even though the process of arriving at an intention when confronted with incommensurable oughts involves having simply to make a choice in the same way as when one is confronted with equally good options, there is an important difference between the two kinds of choice.21 This difference is the difference in attitude that is appropriate to the choice. Whereas the choice between equally good options can be a matter of indifference, the same is not the case for incommensurable options. It matters which of

18 In a similar vein, consider also how in many choices (including important life choices), there are more fundamental difficulties in knowing what would be the best choice. According to L. A. Paul, when we are faced with the alternative of completely novel experiences, we are sometimes not in an epistemic position to know what the experience will be like, how it will change us as agents, and what value to assign it. L. A. Paul, Transformative Experience (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). In such cases, there seems to be no easy comparative way of knowing whether it would be best to undergo the experience or not. 19 Holton, op.cit., 60. 20 Ibid., 125–​130. Much of this evidence comes from research into the phenomenon of “ego depletion,” where willpower, or an agent’s capacity for self-​control, is often compared with a muscle in that its capacity is depleted through use but can also be built up by frequently exercising it. As such, willpower is seen as a limited resource that an agent spends when making choices, resisting temptations, and upholding intentions. See, e.g., Mark Muraven and Roy Baumeister, “Self-​Regulation and Depletion of Limited Resources: Does Self-​Control Resemble a Muscle?,” Psychological Bulletin 126 (2000): 247–​259. 21 Chang thinks that it is a problem if the difference between equality and incomparability is not “practically marked in some way”. Chang, “Are Hard Choices Cases of Incomparability?,” Philosophical Issues, 22, no. 1 (2012): 106–​126, 122. I am not sure in what way she thinks it is a problem, but the features I point to can, in any case, be understood as reflecting that difference.

Incommensurability, Rationality, and Choice  101 two incommensurable options you choose to realize; it matters whether you intend to do the moral thing or the prudential thing. An attitude of indifference does not seem appropriate relative to any of the relevant normative standpoints in the face of a normative conflict. This is something that can affect an agent’s approach to decision-​making. It means that certain approaches to decision-​making, such as rolling dice or deciding on a whim, may arguably be seen as inappropriate from one or both normative standpoints and may be something that the agent ought all things considered (quantificationally) not to engage in. Rolling dice, for example, may be considered disrespectful from the moral point of view and unlikely to give the best result from the prudential point of view. Whether this is the case for any particular approach to decision-​making is a substantive issue of what morality and prudence demand, and I shall not pursue those questions further here. Whatever one may think about which decision-​making procedures are appropriate for agents to employ in choice situations, there are certainly a great many decision-​making procedures that are possible for agents to employ. Examples are listening and conforming to social pressure, doing what one most desires in the present, avoiding difficulty, or sticking to some principle that one endorses. All of these examples are ways to arrive at an intention by some procedure that de facto commensurates the options in the agent’s mind. What these procedures consist in is the use of some decision value or principle that can yield a determinate comparative result concerning the options when the weighing of normative reasons fails. However, our psychological ability to commensurate in this way, by using some choice value or principle, should not be confused with the real commensurability of normative reasons, that is, as determining their unqualified normative weight.22 Perhaps one of these ways could represent the commensuration of an overarching normative standpoint that can normatively commensurate moral-​ prudential conflicts, but that remains to be argued for. Instead, I propose that we should rather view these decision-​making procedures as various human ways of coping with incommensurability. Exercising our wills to arrive at a choice involves effort on the part of the agents, and our willpower, as Holton and others argue, may be depleted. These decision procedures23 represent

22 See also Baker, op. cit., 243, 247.

23 Holton, Willing, Wanting, Waiting, 129–​133.

102  Normative Pluralism ways to help agents arrive at decisions when choices are hard to make because one cannot come to any conclusion about what one ought all things considered to do. In some cases, agents may prefer to rely on such procedures rather than suffering the effort involved in exercising one’s will. The classical conception of human agency is, according to Raz, supported by ordinary human experience. We find an option that is supported by reasons and not excluded by them and that appeals to us in some way, and we choose to pursue it. Common types of human action are not taken because of a belief that they are things we ought all things considered to do. I would also suggest that the classical conception presents a more familiar phenomenology of practical reasoning in its depiction of the fundamental hardness of choice. Although we may be able to cope in our daily lives with the help of various psychological techniques and by weeding out many options that are excluded by reasons, many choices tend to be hard to make even after due reflection; even psychological commensuration is difficult once we are taken out of our comfort zone and confronted with substantial normative conflicts. We generally lack the ability to find any normative “solutions” to these conflicts. Instead, we are just faced with the need to take a stand and make up our minds. Chang argues that incomparability does not explain hardness of choice. In order to defend her view, Chang rejects Raz’s classical conception of human agency because it does not respect what she calls two “deep and intuitive principles of practical reason.”24 Chang is not all too clear, though, about the content of these two principles or why they should be considered deeply intuitive. But even if they are, I don’t think the two principles would be particularly troublesome. The first principle is that unlike, for example, in the law, “justified choice is not a matter of default.” Chang thinks that Raz bases his account on a false analogy with the law where options are always legal unless a legal rule says otherwise. But unlike the law, which only has application and makes judgments in certain contexts, “practical reason” has jurisdiction over every intentional action and can never be “silent.” It is a bit hard to know what to make of this objection. It seems true that unlike with the law, where legal reasoning is restricted to a certain domain where the state can exercise coercive power, we can rationally deliberate about any intentional action. But there also seem to be some such actions that we can deliberate about but find no reasons in favor of or against. Suppose I find myself in a self-​conscious

24 Chang, “Are Hard Choices,” 114, 123.

Incommensurability, Rationality, and Choice  103 mood and start deliberating about whether I should cock my head to the left or the right when I speak. As there seem to be no reasons either way, it does not appear that we need to point to any positive consideration in order to say that both are rationally eligible. It is unclear if this would amount to being rational “by default.” In any case, the answer to Chang’s first objection, from the pluralist point of view, is that options do not tend to be made justified as a matter of default. Typically, we will find there are reasons for and against the options we are considering, and the rational eligibility of the options depend on our reasoning about those reasons. The eligibility of an option comes about by our beliefs about favoring relations pertaining to the option and not just by checking that there are not any rules against them. It also seems that any kind of option can be considered and reasoned about in this way.25 The second principle that Chang appeals to is that there should be “a correspondence or ‘isomorphism’ between . . . facts about how the reasons for and against choosing an alternative relate, and . . . facts about the appropriate practical response in that choice situation.”26 That is, facts about the appropriateness of an action should correspond to facts about the strength of reasons. We can certainly doubt that such an abstract principle should be considered “deeply intuitive.” However, pluralism respects this principle. Unlike cases of strict “incomparability” (see section 2.4.1), the alternatives supported by morality and prudence are based on comparative relations between moral or prudential reasons, and the appropriate response in a choice situation will be based on these reasons. The hardness of choice comes with there being several such appropriate choices.

4.5.  Choice and Intelligibility Regan argues against the possibility of incommensurability and incomparability of reasons on the ground that it serves to make an agent’s choices unintelligible. With regard to the choice between two incomparable goods, Regan writes: 25 Prudential reasoning seems to apply to every intentional action. The same is true for many conceptions of morality, such as consequentialist conceptions, but not clearly for all because we might think that morality is more domain-​specific and is “silent” in some contexts. 26 Ibid., 115. Chang also includes facts about how alternatives evaluatively relate. I do not deny this, but as we saw in section 1.3, how evaluative facts relate to reasons and oughts is controversial.

104  Normative Pluralism if the agent finds herself pursuing one of the goods, she will have no way of making what happened fully intelligible to herself as her choice. Choice is based on reasons. Choice between two specific goods must be based on reason to prefer one of the goods to the other. Where there is no adequate reason for preference, there can be no real choice. A decision to go one way rather than the other will be something that happened to the agent rather than something she did.27

Similarly, Chang thinks that incomparability bars us from exercising rational agency.28 Rather than being instances of choosing or picking, she describes the selection of one option over another in a case of incomparability as an instance of “plumping.”29 Unlike choosing or picking, plumping is nonintentional action done for no reason. Based on the discussion above, we should be able to see how we can answer these challenges. Decision between incommensurable options is not an event that just happens to the agent. Rather, it is reached by an active effort of will controlled by the agent himself or herself. It is thus something that the agent does.30 This is a different picture from the one Regan envisions when he understands choice between incommensurables as being determined by passive desires (which an agent may not be in control over).31 Furthermore, a choice between incommensurables is, as I have argued, a choice based on reasons. There are undefeated reasons to prefer either alternative, and a choice to pursue one of them will (ideally) be a choice based on the reason to prefer that alternative. With respect to the classical conception of agency, in making a choice between two incommensurable options, the agent sees that choice as being made eligible by reasons and so, unlike many of the other options present to the agent, not excluded by reasons. It is because the agent sees reasons as being what they are that the agent makes the choice and can 27 Donald Regan, “Value, Comparability, and Choice,” in Ruth Chang (ed.), Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reason (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), 144. 28 Chang, “Are Hard Choices,” 117. In Chang’s defense, it should be said that she thinks the classical conception of human agency addresses this worry. But as we have seen, she also rejects this conception of human agency for other reasons. 29 For the distinction between choosing and picking, see Edna Ullmann-​Margalit and Sidney Morgenbesser, “Picking and Choosing,” Social Research 44, no. 4 (1977): 757–​785. With respect to the technical definitions given by the authors, choice between incomparables or incommensurables cannot fall under either category, since the categories are simply defined as choice under more reason or preference to select one option and choice under equal reason or preference to select either option, respectively. 30 For choice as an act, see Holton, Willing, Wanting, Waiting, 54. 31 Regan, “Value, Comparability, and Choice,” 138.

Incommensurability, Rationality, and Choice  105 see the choice as rationally justified, even if the agent does not see the option as required. Ultimately, this means that the two conceptions share the same ideal of rational agency, namely, an agent being reason-​responsive. Choosing between incommensurables should therefore be understood as an active and genuine form of choice, made for reasons, that can be fully intelligible to the agent making it.

4.6.  Incommensurable Options and Stable Intentions Once we have made our choice, why should we stick to it? What keeps us from just changing our minds? After all, if we truly believe that the choices we face are incommensurable, then our choice to intend one of them does not signify that we believe the other choice has been normatively defeated. It remains an undefeated option that it would be just as rational to intend and that we are still normatively required in some sense to choose. Until the chosen action has been completed, the incommensurable alternative option will remain a viable possibility for the agent. These considerations lead to the problem of how we can have stable intentions.32 The problem is not unique to choices between incommensurable options. It is a problem that also arises for choices that are equally good. A classic illustration of the problem is Buridan’s ass, which is faced with a choice between two equally good stacks of hay but cannot make any rational decision to choose one over the other because it isn’t able to eliminate one of the options as the unique reasonable option to choose. Unable to choose, the ass dies of hunger. Although the original case deals with the ability to choose, it is clear that the problem would persist for the ass even if it happened to be able to make a choice. Since the other option has not been defeated, it seems that it could always just change its mind. The problem also illustrates the danger of not being able to reach a stable choice. While it is deliberating, it starves. This is a general feature of choice situations—​hesitation can in many cases lead 32 The problem can perhaps be avoided if we think that intentions can be reasons such that the fact that we have made a choice would give us a further reason to stick to that intention. However, I do not think this can be successfully argued for. For objections against such a view, see John Broome, “Are Intentions Reasons and How Should We Cope with Incommensurable Values?,” in Christopher Morris and Arthur Ripstein (eds.), Practical Rationality and Preference: Essays for David Gauthier (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 98–​120. In the current pluralist context, it must also be added that the further reasons would have to be of the right type if they are to be able to defeat the reasons behind the option that the agent has not intended.

106  Normative Pluralism to a suboptimal outcome for the agent. This seems to call for some ability in agents to be resolute in their choices and intentions. The problem actually seems worse for an overly rationalist conception of human agency where choices are understood to be made because they are considered by the agent to be the best. If agents make choices by finding the best option, then how can agents come to make a choice and stick to it in cases where no option is considered by the agent better than the other? This, as we have seen, includes not just cases of perceived incommensurability but also cases of indifference and uncertainty. The classical conception of human agency can simply explain the ability to make a choice and stick to it by appealing to an exercise of will on part of the agent. First, the classical conception can more easily explain how the agent comes to make a choice and form an intention in the first place. Second, an agent’s will seems to play an important role not only in deciding what to do but also in upholding those decisions in the face of temptations or reasons to act otherwise. An agent may form resolutions to stand firm against contrary inclinations or beliefs and uphold those resolutions through willpower. Resolutions, according to Holton, are second-​order intentions that consist in both an intention to engage in a certain action and a further intention not to reconsider and redeliberate.33 A resolution can be successful when the agent is able to monitor what he or she is mentally doing and able to willfully resist reconsidering his or her intention.34 But having stable intentions may still present a practical problem even if we do admit the importance of the will for agents. For even if we can persist with our intentions through an act of will, we can also change our intentions through an act of will. While the latter ability may be useful in certain cases, it could also lead to undesirable suboptimal outcomes for the agent. Is there anything else other than our wills on which we can call to remedy this problem? Can rationality and practical reasoning help in any way? While I think rationality is of limited help here, it is certainly not silent on the matter. First of all, rationality can require you to do something, rather than being indecisive and dithering.35 The weak enkratic requirement can 33 Holton, Willing, Wanting, Waiting, 11. 34 Ibid., 135. Empirical evidence for the importance of willpower in this context comes from studies showing that agents with depleted willpower are much less likely to persist in upholding their resolutions. See ibid., 125–​129, for an interpretation of these studies. 35 Broome claims that “[i]‌n cases of equal goodness and incommensurateness, rationality certainly demands that one makes a choice,” but he does not explain why this would be so. Broome, “Are Intentions Reasons?,” 116.

Incommensurability, Rationality, and Choice  107 explain why this is so. For even if there is disagreement between two normative standpoints as to what to do, both standpoints require some action of you and not inaction. This generalization amounts to an agreement among the relevant normative standpoints such that we can apply the weak enkratic requirement and get the result that you ought all things considered to form an intention to act. This is not a very substantial requirement as far as forming specific intentions goes, but what it does do is provide a way to assess inaction through indecisiveness as irrational, and it gives the agent a way to reason his or her way to the conclusion that he or she should go for one of the incommensurable options rather than doing nothing. If nothing else, this kind of reasoning can be a useful psychological prompt for the agent. In addition, rationality does not seem silent when it comes to the issue of maintaining intentions. Broome argues for a requirement of rationality that he calls “persistence of intention.” The requirement is one of the few “diachronic” requirements of rationality that Broome accepts, meaning that it is a requirement that demands something of the agent over time and which the agent cannot satisfy at a single moment in time. “Persistence of intention” roughly states that an agent who intends to F at t1 must also intend to F at t2 unless the agent reconsiders whether to F at t2.36 According to Broome, when intentions break down and you do not do what you have decided to do, it often means that you are not entirely rational. But as we can see, we are not dealing with a very strong requirement. It allows for the rationality of reconsidering and ending up changing one’s mind about what to do. However, the requirement places the mental event of reconsidering as a restriction upon changing one’s mind. One cannot change one’s mind wantonly. Instead, one must give second thought to the subject of whether to F or not. Broome does not say much more about what reconsidering can consist in. In one place, he says that “repudiating an intention” must be done deliberately, that you must at least think about it for a moment, and that it requires you to distance yourself from the intention.37 One seemingly natural example is re-​evaluating the reasons for and against F-​ing. An agent can come to reverse his intention to F if he finds after a second evaluation 36 Broome, Rationality through Reasoning, 185–​186. Broome also allows for other “canceling events” besides reconsidering, but these are not so interesting for our purposes. He mentions fulfillment of the intention, coming to realize that the agent cannot fulfill it, or the death of the agent as examples of such events. 37 Broome, “Are Intentions Reasons?,” 108.

108  Normative Pluralism that reasons do not favor F-​ing after all. One can nevertheless imagine other ways of reconsidering besides re-​evaluating reasons inasmuch as agents do not always seem to make decisions based on the strength of reasons. An agent might, for example, reconsider what he or she wants to do or what is expected of him or her. When one believes incommensurable reasons are involved, re-​evaluating the reasons may not result in much unless one drops the belief that they are incommensurable. It may seem that reconsidering whether to F serves no purpose and cannot be of further help in coming to a new conclusion about what to do. There are two things to be said in response to this. The first is that reconsidering what to do is a mental event that we sometimes simply just find ourselves involved in. The use of doing so is therefore often beside the point. Once we find ourselves reconsidering two incommensurable options, we seem to be rationally warranted in changing our minds about what to do. The second thing to be said is that if there are more decision procedures than simply weighing reasons, then we might come to a different conclusion when reapplying a certain decision procedure. For example, our desire to do F might have changed between t1 and t2. So it seems that we can come to a new conclusion about what to do even when we believe that we are confronted with incommensurable options. Indeed, one outcome of an event of reconsidering may be that the positive aspects of one option become more salient to our minds, resulting in a different decision or simply that we decide differently through an act of will. “Persistence of intention” only places weak restrictions on our intentions, and rationality can therefore only provide a fragile solution to keeping our intentions stable in the face of incommensurable alternatives. Rationality ultimately allows for a change of mind, and it is possible to change one’s mind when faced with incommensurable alternatives even when doing so at a particular time leads to a suboptimal outcome compared to what it could have done if one had made the same choice at an earlier time. Suppose that I have formed an intention to move to Tahiti after concluding that this is what I prudentially ought to do, leading me to go ahead and invest in tickets and accommodations there. However, the fact that I morally ought to stay and uphold my familial obligations gives me reason to reconsider and to rationally change my intention. In principle, I could change my intention many times, leaving me financially worse off at every step. However, this possibility doesn’t mean I am irrational in changing my mind. As Broome notes, the fact

Incommensurability, Rationality, and Choice  109 that the decision-​making is spread out over time makes a genuine difference to the situation. If circumstances were such that the process from intention to action or outcome was instantaneous, then rationality could possibly have prevented a suboptimal outcome, but normal agency is such that we often have time to reflect over our intentions, and when we reach a new practical conclusion based on our further deliberations, then it seems that rationality must require us to form intentions that are in line with our new conclusion. Sometimes this leads to a less good outcome than we might otherwise have achieved. As Broome says: “It is an unfortunate fact about changing your mind that you often have to do the best of a bad job.”38 But it need not be irrational to be irresolute. Even if reconsideration and irresoluteness can be rational, this does not mean that we should expect that this will be the normal state of things. It is true that reconsidering whether to F in effect involves a suspension of a resolution to F. But the fact that we can do so—​either by an act of will or by just finding ourselves reconsidering—​and that we may be rationally warranted in doing so does not mean that we will actually do so. Willing is an act that is under our control and whether to change our intentions by an act of will is therefore also under our control. And by being committed to F, we can, by an effort of will, keep ourselves from reconsidering through happenstance. We may sometimes fail to do so, but the will provides the means to be successful. Finally, even without a commitment, we should not expect ourselves to be reconsidering all the time. While a commitment may be more effective, a simple intention to F also naturally tends to come with a certain degree of stability, as empirical evidence suggests that forming an intention or the implementational mindset that comes with forming an intention makes one more likely to focus on the advantages of realizing F than the disadvantages and makes one less receptive to new information.39 Once an agent has moved from the deliberative to the implementational stage of a choice, then, the agent is generally more likely to see his or her decision through.

38 Ibid., 113. 39 Holton, Willing, Wanting, Waiting, 2, 5–​7. It should be noted that the effect of this is strongest when the intention has a content that is more specific rather than more general. Holton primarily relies on research by Gollowitzer. See, e.g., Peter Gollowitzer, “Goal Achievement: The Role of Intentions,” European Review of Social Psychology 4 (1993): 141–​185.

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4.7.  Human Agency with and without Incommensurability Based on the previous discussions, we can now come back to Raz’s distinction between two competing conceptions of human agency. Raz argues that whether or not we accept a widespread incommensurability of reasons makes a crucial difference in how we conceive of human agency (as do Regan and Chang). According to Raz, on views that reject incommensurability, we get a “rationalist view” that thinks of paradigmatic human action as “actions taken because of all the options open to the agent, it was, in the agent’s view supported by the strongest reason.” On a view that accepts widespread incommensurability, we get a “classical view” that regards paradigmatic actions as “determined by a will that is informed and constrained by reason but plays an autonomous role in action.” We can now say that neither view expresses a good way to think about agency. In fact, whether or not we accept a widespread incommensurability of reasons makes little difference as to how we should conceive of agency and practical reasoning. First, both those who affirm and those who deny incommensurability of reasons need to give an important role to the will. Many common types of human action are not taken because of a belief that they are things we ought, all things considered, to do. It seems we must award a central place to the will in our conception of agency, because the will seems to be what explains all of the various phenomena where we cannot come to a judgment that there is a unique option that we have most reason or ought all things considered to do. Whether or not we accept a widespread incommensurability of reasons does not ultimately matter to whether we should award an important role to the will in our conception of agency. Second, both supporters and opponents of incommensurability can and should give a central place to enkratic reasoning.40 We have seen that even with widespread, systematic incommensurability of reasons, the weak enkratic requirement seems to have frequent application and that the conflict between two incommensurable options seems to occur amid a background of massive agreement between different normative standpoints about what

40 An exception seems to be deflationary versions of pluralisms, as we cannot expect any convergence between the infinite number of normative standpoints. This seems to count against such deflationary accounts.

Incommensurability, Rationality, and Choice  111 to do and not to do. This means that enkratic reasoning is possible with respect to most of our choices. Finally, both views accept the same fundamental view of agency, namely, as responsiveness to perceived reasons. Whether or not reasons require options or merely make options eligible, agents and their actions are, in any case, constrained and guided by reasons. With respect to the classical conception of agency, in making a choice between two incommensurable options, the agent sees that choice as being made eligible by reasons, and so, unlike many of the other options present to the agent, it is not excluded by reasons. It is because the agent sees reasons as being what they are that the agent makes his or her choice and can see that choice as rationally justified, even if the agent does not see the option as required. It seems that in the end, all plausible theories of rationality must be a mixed bag with respect to giving roles both to the will and to enkratic reasoning. The dichotomy between the “rationalist” and “classical” conceptions of agency must therefore be seen as exaggerated. While the classical conception is right in thinking that an important range of human actions should be viewed as willed choice between several eligible options, it is too strong to claim that this is the “paradigmatic human action,” as enkratic choice is at least as important to our agency. Rather than focusing on what is paradigmatic, we can instead disagree about the extent to which options rely on what model of choice. By admitting of a widespread incommensurability of reasons, the model of choice that is given a central role by the classical conception, namely, choice by the will, is likely to apply more often than if there is not a widespread incommensurability of reasons. However, since this model of choice must be acknowledged as an important type of choice in any case, this difference of extent does not amount to a deeper difference about the nature of agency.

4.8. Summary We have seen that while monism through the enkratic requirement can rely on a neat picture of how agents can move from normative beliefs to intentions, this picture will not do once we recognize widespread incommensurability. Nonetheless, the same rationale that justifies the enkratic requirement can also justify a modified version of it, namely, the weak enkratic requirement. The weak enkratic requirement enables the normative pluralist

112  Normative Pluralism to explain how agents can frequently move, through reasoning, from normative beliefs to intentions, even if those normative beliefs involve a belief in incommensurability. While the monist picture may be neat, it fails to explain cases of choice in which an agent lacks a belief about what he or she just plain ought to do. This includes more types of cases than just cases of perceived incommensurability, and they are cases that seem to occur frequently. To deal with all of these cases, I have argued that we should instead rely on the model of choice found in what Raz calls the “classical conception of human agency,” which emphasizes the role of will in determining choice. I followed Holton in understanding the will as something that an agent actively employs and controls. The view I have defended is that we actively employ our will in order to cut through deliberation and choose which reasons to act upon. This view also helps us understand how the choice between incommensurable options can be intelligible to the agent who makes them, rather than just being events that happen to that agent. We then considered how intentions, once formed, could persist if the options that were the object of choice were believed to have been incommensurable. To this question, we saw that the will would also play a central role in enabling the formation of and upholding commitments. We also saw that rationality can help us form an intention to act and keep us from dropping our intention without reconsideration. Once we have an intention, we will also typically achieve some level of stability, and by employing our wills, we can form and uphold a commitment to keep that intention. I have drawn some implications for how we should conceive of human agency, given incommensurability. While the model of choice found in Raz’s classical conception of agency is important for explaining choice between incommensurable options, as well as other important forms of choice, I have found in addition that choice based on enkratic reasoning (i.e., what we believe we have most reason to do) also plays a crucial role in human agency. This means that any plausible conception agency and practical reasoning must give an important role to both elements. Accepting a widespread and systematic incommensurability of reasons therefore need not involve a view of agency and practical reasoning that is fundamentally different from what you would get by rejecting that incommensurability.

5 The Argument from Nominal-​Notable Comparisons 5.1. Introduction In this chapter, I discuss a type of argument that attempts to show that there must be moral-​prudential comparability. It is also the argument that is often taken to constitute the strongest objection to normative pluralism.1 Consider the following case, as described by Dale Dorsey: Norm: Norm’s television is hooked up such that at all times it is turned on, very painful electric shocks are sent through 100 randomly selected persons. Norm knows this, but doesn’t much care. (One might even imagine that Norm is a misanthrope, and enjoys causing these electric shocks.) However, Norm also enjoys the television program Arrested Development, and gets a lot of pleasure watching daily reruns at 6:30 in the evening.2

In the case of Norm, the suffering that would be caused by watching the show appears to provide very strong moral reasons against watching the show, while the pleasure Norm would get seems to provide some reason for watching from the prudential perspective. However, we tend to have a clear judgment that despite the presence of a competing prudential reason, Norm ought all things considered not to watch the show. This judgment is taken to imply that moral and prudential reasons must be comparable, as the judgment seems to presuppose that the strong moral reasons outweigh the relatively weak prudential reasons. There are many instances of the above type of argument, where an option supported by very strong reasons of one 1 By virtue of being an attempt of a reductio of normative pluralism, it argues in favor of monism without needing to provide a comprehensive alternative account of the relationship between moral and prudential reasons. It therefore also has the advantage of avoiding the codifiability challenge to monism, which will be discussed in the following chapters. 2 Dorsey, “Two Dualisms,” 119; Dorsey, The Limits, 24.

Normative Pluralism. Mathea Slåttholm Sagdahl, Oxford University Press. © Oxford University Press 2022. DOI: 10.1093/​oso/​9780197614693.003.0005

114  Normative Pluralism kind is compared with an option supported by very weak reasons of another kind. According to the argument, our judgments concerning these cases are such that the strong reasons outweigh or trump the weak reasons, even if the two reasons differ in kind. The case of Norm is structurally similar to the more well-​known case of the drowning child, where we tend to judge that we ought all things considered to save a drowning child despite the slight prudential cost of getting our shoes wet and muddy.3 My aim here is to show that the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons fails to show the need for intertype comparability of reasons or the need for an overarching type of ought. I conclude that it is therefore not the decisive argument against normative pluralism that it has often been considered to be. On the contrary, we will see that there are many plausible replies available to the normative pluralist. There are, in other words, several reasons to doubt the successfulness of the argument as an objection to normative pluralism.

5.2.  The Structure of the Argument The first prominent use of the argument, by Ruth Chang, is directed against the existence of value incomparability between moral and prudential value.4 She mentions that it often does not seem as if there is any overarching value (or “covering value,” in Chang’s terminology) in terms of which moral merit and prudential merit can be compared. But Chang argues that there actually is such an overarching value and that this can be shown by what she calls “nominal-​notable comparisons.” Nominal-​notable comparisons are cases where we compare options that are valuable in different respects but where one option is valuable in the first respect only to a slight or marginal degree, whereas the other option is valuable in the second respect to a notable degree. In these cases, Chang thinks it is plausible to believe that the “notable” value outweighs the “nominal” value and hence that there must be an overarching value that takes these two kinds of values as parts and from which we can make overall judgments about overall value. With respect to moral and prudential value, she asks us to consider the following case: 3 Peter Singer, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 1, no. 3 (1972): 229–​243. 4 Chang, “Introduction,” 32. The argument is also used in, e.g., Regan, “Value, Comparability, and Choice,” 135; Parfit, On What Matters, Vol. 2, 132; Crisp, Reasons and the Good, 132; Hills, The Beloved Self, 31. All reject normative pluralism on the basis of this type of argument.

Argument from Nominal-Notable Comparisons  115 You can either save yourself a small inconvenience, or you can save a remote stranger severe physical and emotional trauma. Suppose that one act bears only nominal prudential . . . value, while the other bears notable moral value. . . . We can say more than that the one act is better morally and the other is better prudentially. We can also say that, with respect to both prudential and moral value, the latter act is better: given both values, saving the stranger is better overall. . . . There must therefore be a covering value in terms of which comparisons of moral and prudential merits proceed, one that has both moral and prudential values as components.5

The argument is basically an appeal to a certain sort of case, namely, a case where we already know or find it highly intuitive that one option is more valuable overall than the other. Because these judgments presuppose an overarching value, there must be such a value if the judgments are true. Although Chang formulates the argument in terms of values, it is easy to adapt to normative pluralism and claims about reasons. It appears that in some cases of conflict between normative standpoints, the reasons issued by one of the standpoints are so weak and marginal that they are clearly outweighed by the much stronger reasons issued by the other standpoint. Even if you have a prudential reason not to get your shoes wet, this reason pales in comparison with the moral reason you have to jump into the pond to save a drowning child. So it will be claimed that all things considered, you ought to save the child. If this is the case, there must be some overarching standpoint to which the moral and prudential reasons are subject and which can possibly issue plain oughts in other less obvious cases as well. The argument from nominal-​notable comparisons crucially relies on judgments about cases. Notice, however, that the way in which these cases are often set up can make us doubt whether they are able to target normative pluralism in an adequate manner, because the judgments to which they appeal are not necessarily inconsistent with normative pluralism. In the example of the drowning child, we are confronted with an option supported by a substantial moral reason to save the child and another option supported by a prudential reason to not save the child that is no more than nominal. But the conflicts that pluralism takes as irresolvable are conflicts not between reasons but between the overall verdicts of the different normative standpoints. From the fact that you have two conflicting reasons, it by no means follows that you are under two conflicting 5 Chang, “Introduction,” 32.

116  Normative Pluralism requirements or conflicting verdicts about permissibility. The argument from nominal-​notable comparisons relies on the intuition or judgment that there is something one ought all things considered to do in these cases. But this is not necessarily something the normative pluralist needs to deny. The quantificational understanding of “ought all things considered” allows the existence of such facts if all relevant normative standpoints are in agreement about what one ought to do. It is therefore not enough for someone advocating nominal-​notable cases that there could be two options where one is supported by a notable reason of one kind and the other is supported by only a nominal reason of the other kind, as reasons are only things that count in favor (pro tanto) of an action. For the argument to be effective, one must also show that this nominal reason is sufficient to ground a normative requirement or permission to do what the reason counts in favor of doing. Unless this is done, one might think that even though there is a nominal prudential reason to not save the child, it could still be the case that other prudential reasons outweigh this nominal reason. As we shall see, this is one important line of response for the normative pluralist. A construal of the argument that properly targets normative pluralism must therefore consist of the genuine possibility of a case with the following elements: (1) A type 1 requirement to F supported by a notable type 1 reason. (2) A type 2 requirement or permission to not F which is supported by no more than a nominal type 2 reason. (3) A clear intuition, considered judgment, or knowledge that one ought all things considered to F in the case at hand.

5.3.  The Possibility of Nominal-​Notable Conflicts I will argue that it is not clear that conflicts of the aforementioned kind can exist at all. The two normative types we are operating with are morality and prudence. What is not clear is whether there could actually be prudential or moral requirements or permissions based solely on a nominal reason when there is also a conflicting requirement of the other kind based on notable reasons. The doubt is therefore about the conjunction of (1) and (2). Typical examples of nominal-​notable comparisons in the literature involve a conflict between a moral requirement supported by notable moral reasons and a prudential requirement supported by merely nominal prudential reasons (we

Argument from Nominal-Notable Comparisons  117 shall consider a converse type of example in section 5.8.), but such examples do not tend to be presented as objections to normative pluralism). Let us go back to the example of Norm. In this case, Dorsey thinks that the following conclusions seem plausible: (1') Norm is morally required not to watch Arrested Development. (2') Norm is prudentially required to watch Arrested Development. (3') Watching Arrested Development is, for Norm, all things considered unjustified. Dorsey then claims that if we accept (1') to (3'), which correspond to (1) to (3) above, then normative pluralism fails, at least prima facie. The reasons behind the prudential requirement are outweighed by the reasons behind the moral requirement, he seems to think. Dorsey seems to be right in claiming that if a situation with a normative structure like (1') to (2') could obtain, then normative pluralism has counterintuitive consequences, because we also tend to have the intuition that (3'). Dorsey also claims that the case could be reconstructed such that “on virtually any plausible theory of prudential value, Norm could obtain a very minor (though optimal) prudential benefit by committing a very grave moral sin.”6 But while there might be a benefit, one can certainly argue that a plausible prudential theory would not require you to pursue only a nominal prudential benefit given a notable moral cost. In fact, one might even plausibly make the case that it would require you not to pursue that benefit. To make this argument, one needs to rely on a more sophisticated theory of prudence than what Dorsey seems to rely on in his rejection of normative pluralism. The theory would have to predict that extremely immoral behavior for the sake of a very minor benefit is not in one’s long-​term interest. There is already a long tradition in moral philosophy for arguing that morality has its basis in self-​interest and hence that self-​interest requires moral behavior,7 but the prudential theory that we need in order to rebut the possibility of nominal-​notable conflicts is much less demanding than this, since we only need the result that prudence requires you to avoid extremely immoral behavior in conditions where there is not very much to gain from it. We only need a prudential theory that requires us to be minimally moral. Let us first look at some general reasons for why it would 6 Dorsey, op. cit. 7 See, e.g., David Gauthier, Morals by Agreement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986).

118  Normative Pluralism be at least somewhat imprudent to flout moral requirements. These are prudential reasons that could be outweighed by other prudential reasons if the benefit is high enough but that also generally count in favor of behaving in accordance with morality and are generally capable of defeating reasons that are only nominal. First of all, and most obviously, we often risk external social sanctions when violating moral demands. Second, by violating morality, we can sometimes suffer from shame, guilt, or similar “internal sanctions” consisting of undesirable emotional states or negative self-​assessments that can reduce our self-​respect. Third, besides these negative sanctions, many people experience a certain degree of pleasure in doing the right thing and in contributing to the welfare of others. This could result both from a brute sense of sympathy with others and from having personal projects that incorporate the welfare of others. However, it will be objected (as it often has been against those who have tried to justify morality in terms of self-​interest) that the existence of these sanctions, feelings, and projects are wholly contingent and hence that the existence of prudential reasons to be moral is also contingent. Although they might exist generally and in the majority of cases, it is still possible that there are some cases where there are no prudential reasons of this kind to be moral. For thought experiments such as Norm, we can simply stipulate that Norm is so callous that he suffers no guilt or pain from letting others suffer and similarly that he enjoys no pleasure or satisfaction from saving others from said pain. For reasons I will soon explain, I think this reply is mistaken given certain theories of prudence, but let us first notice that if it is admitted that we generally have prudential reasons to be moral, then it seems that normative pluralism generally does not give counterintuitive results in cases of nominal-​notable comparisons, because there generally would exist prudential reasons that would outweigh the nominal prudential reason conflicting with the notable reasons, so that it would be the case that one ought all things considered to do what morality requires.8 That a philosophical theory can have some counterintuitive results is unfortunate for a theory, but it is by no means a knockdown argument, especially if the theory accords with our intuitions in general. It is, for instance, widely agreed that act utilitarianism, which is sometimes understood as a monistic theory about what one just plain ought to do, admits of a number of counterintuitive consequences (potentially to a much higher degree than 8 Or if one doesn’t, that would be because there would exist notable prudential reasons for not being moral.

Argument from Nominal-Notable Comparisons  119 normative pluralism), but many view the theory not as refuted for that reason but merely as a part of a larger debate in which other considerations also need to be taken into account.9 It is also uncertain whether any other theory can conserve a greater number of intuitions concerning cases without being ad hoc, especially since there are few, if any, comprehensive attempts at providing a theoretical framework on how to commensurate moral and prudential reasons. But even with these reminders in place, it is still plausible to argue that there are further considerations that ensure that one can never be prudentially required to violate notable moral requirements merely for the sake of a nominal prudential reason. The explanation of this is, roughly, that what kind of psychology you have and what personal projects you are committed to are also matters of prudence. It is not the case, according to this line of argument, that prudence merely takes your psychology and your projects as given and then simply gives instrumental advice on how to attain pleasure given your psychology or achieve your projects given what they are. As a first step toward understanding this view of prudence, we should keep in mind that prudence is supposed to take the whole life of a person into account, to evaluate a life and recommend actions based on what is best for the agent timelessly considered.10 The thought is, then, that a life lived in extreme callousness does not result in or constitute a good life for any agent. Happiness or a good life, it will be said, requires possession of at least a minimum of moral virtues or that one avoids the worst of moral vices. One can point to several reasons for prudence to require you to develop moral virtues, or at least avoid the worst moral vices, such as the extreme callousness shown, for instance, by Norm and which seems to be a necessary trait for anyone who agrees to violate a notable moral requirement merely for the sake of a nominal prudential reason. If callousness or a similar trait is necessary for someone to make this kind of choice, then a prudential theory that requires one to avoid those traits suffices to avoid all the extreme counterintuitive consequences that the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons is supposed to show. From ancient eudaimonistic theories to David Hume, it 9 This might be because of disagreement about the role of case-​based intuitions, because one might think that rival theories are even more counterintuitive with respect to case-​based intuitions, or because one might think that the disadvantage of a few counterintuitive results concerning cases are outweighed by the theory’s theoretical virtues or by intuitions concerning the theoretical considerations themselves. See Peter Singer, “Ethics and Intuitions,” Journal of Ethics 9 (2005): 351, about what he calls “rational intuitions” that are not intuitions about cases. 10 See, e.g., Philip Bricker, “Prudence,” Journal of Philosophy 77, no. 7 (1980): 381–​401. Bricker thinks, however, that prudence must be about fulfilling what the agent desires.

120  Normative Pluralism has been argued that becoming morally virtuous is simply a person’s best bet for living a good or fulfilling life.11 Hume claims that if you are raising a child, you would want that child to possess the moral virtues, for in possessing them, the child is most likely to lead a happy life, because having the virtues makes us valued members of our communities and reduces our chance of social ostracism and punishment. This means that an agent who has not cultivated the moral virtues may have been lucky and lived a good life, but given the poor bet, his or her way of life has been imprudent. Another reason that has often been appealed to in order to explain why the moral vices stand in the way of a good life is that they preclude one from achieving a certain class of goods.12 In particular, it has been argued that those exhibiting traits or vices such as callousness or those who lack the moral virtues are unable to form true and faithful interpersonal relationships, such as true friendship and love. These relationships, it is argued, require a certain level of empathy and sympathy with other people and seeing people as valuable in non-​instrumental ways. The callous person lacks these sentiments and so is unable to form true relationships. In addition, such a person is unable to show his or her true self to the world but must act in secret and so cannot live sincerely. In addition, one might even need to engage in self-​deception in order to mask one’s bad character to oneself.13 Living sincerely without hiding and pretense might be seen as a good in itself, but it might also be connected with inner states. Plato famously appealed to the “psychic harmony” enjoyed by the morally virtuous person, which is unavailable to the vicious person. A related point is that the virtuous person is better able to enjoy the satisfaction and pleasure that comes from knowing that one is doing well to others and acting virtuously, which the callous person does not. Lastly, one can appeal to what seems like the pettiness and impoverishment of a life without moral motivation. In the words of Stephen Finlay, “a purely self-​interested life is . . . a life of small 11 At least, this is the interpretation of Hume given by Joel J. Kupperman, “Classical and Sour Forms of Virtue,” in Paul Bloomfield (ed.), Morality and Self-​Interest (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 272–​286. Kupperman also appeals to Paul Ekman’s research on “micro-​expressions” to argue against the strategy of being only “apparently” virtuous like Hume’s sensible knave, since people tend to pick up on such attitudes. 12 The following list is taken in large part from Paul Bloomfield, “Why It’s Bad to Be Bad,” in Paul Bloomfield (ed.), Morality and Self-​Interest (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 261. 13 It is here reasonable to object that one may not care about whether one’s character is good in a moral way, but it might be replied that this would be an expression of another character trait that is unlikely to lead to a good life. The theme of self-​deception is also pressed by Bloomfield in “Why It’s Bad to Be Bad.” Bloomfield connects the self-​deception with self-​respect and claims that it is impossible for a self-​deceiving agent to have self-​respect, since the agent has a false idea of his or her self, and couples that with the claim that self-​respect is necessary for a good life.

Argument from Nominal-Notable Comparisons  121 and diminishing rewards in comparison to the rewards of a life of interest in broader and more enduring matters (pure self-​interest has no ‘legacy’). Our objective self-​interest itself therefore counsels us not to live an overly (subjectively) self-​interested life.”14 With respect to Dorsey’s example, in preferring to watch a rerun of Arrested Development rather than not harming a hundred people, Norm’s life seems petty and impoverished and not the sort of meaningful life that we envision the good life to be. The above reasons seem to be considerations counting in favor of acting morally that I think many of us can recognize and appreciate. A conception of prudence that incorporates such considerations seem quite plausible. In addition, we should also note the existence of theories of prudence in which Norm may not even have any reason at all to act immorally. For example, in some interpretations of Stoic thinking, while (at least some forms of) pleasure can be recognized as a good, we do not ever have any reasons to pursue such pleasure, as that would be contrary to the quest for inner tranquility. To take another example, John Lemos contrasts two different conceptions of prudence, namely, a relative and an absolute conception of prudence. Where the relative variant of prudence looks at what it would be in an agent’s interest to do given the sort of person he or she is and the character traits he or she has now, the absolute variant of prudence argues that someone who is fully prudent in the relative sense may already have fallen short of the demands of prudence, since an absolute prudence looks at “what it is in an agent’s interest to do if he had begun his life in a manner consistent with the rational pursuit of self-​interest.”15 He then asks the question of which perspective is more important in assessing the extent to which the agent conforms to reasons and the extent to which the agent lives the best or most fulfilling life. Lemos thinks that a proper prudential assessment of a person’s life consists of an assessment according to the 14 Stephen Finlay, “Too Much Morality?,” in Paul Bloomfield (ed.), Morality and Self-​Interest (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 138n7. It is interesting to note that Finlay still thinks that “acting as we morally ought is only seldom in our own interest.” This putative common occurrence of moral-​prudential conflicts is a result of Finlay’s very strict conception of morality. However, it is significant that even with such a strict conception, he seems to give reason to think that there is no genuine conflict when the comparison is of the nominal-​notable type. 15 John Lemos, “Morality, Self-​Interest, and Two Kinds of Prudential Practical Rationality,” Philosophia 34, no. 1 (2006): 85–​93. Lemos’s wording here is somewhat unfortunate, since the demands of the person who “began his life” in accordance with an absolute prudence may not seem relevant for the person who has already committed errors. For the absolute variant of prudence to be interesting, we must suppose that previous errors in life are no obstacle to starting to conform to the absolute variant of prudence. In terms of virtues, we must suppose that although an agent has so far not lived a virtuous life, that fact is not a hindrance for the agent to start living a virtuous life. This assumption seems plausible enough, in particular as virtues are often thought to be learned through trial and error.

122  Normative Pluralism absolute criteria and gives an analogy with athletics. We don’t give someone a prize for performing well relative to poor training. Instead, we recognize people for their accomplishments relative to the ideals of good athleticism, not relative to their preparation. Some of these claims may seem somewhat strong, especially when we keep in mind that many of them have been put forth by moral philosophers with the aim of showing that morality has a self-​ interested basis. It certainly seems that we can doubt that they are able to secure a perfect coextension between moral and prudential requirements. The prudential reasons that are appealed to, and that count in favor of acting morally, exist because immoral behavior seems to risk a certain set of significant goods becoming unavailable to the agent. But the agent who considers acting immorally could object that despite risking these goods, it is made up for by the hope of acquiring another set of goods, such as various material or other goods, which will considerably enhance the agent’s quality of life. The reasons pointed to above are just ordinary prudential reasons that have the potential of being outweighed by other prudential reasons. But although this possibility should worry those who aim to provide a self-​interested grounding for morality, it should not worry the normative pluralist. The pluralist is only concerned with showing that nominal prudential reasons are insufficient to ground a prudential requirement that conflicts with a moral requirement supported by notable moral reasons. Once we are dealing with considerable prudential reasons, the situation changes, and we are no longer faced with a nominal-​notable comparison, since what is supposed to ground the nominal requirement is nothing but a slight reason. This is the very limited claim of the normative pluralist, and by virtue of being weaker than those made by moral philosophers seeking a perfect coextension between the two types of requirements, it is much easier to defend.16 We are, after all, only seeking a partial and very minimal overlap of requirements. In fact, there is a very significant tension between the two aims, since a perfect coextension could be taken to mean that normative pluralism would collapse, as it would seem unclear that we would end up with more than one normative standpoint. The normative pluralist seeks a certain amount of agreement between the moral and prudential standpoints, to a degree that is sufficient to explain the intuitions we have concerning nominal-​notable comparisons but also to leave room for moral-​prudential conflicts in some situations where 16 For reasons to doubt a perfect coextension between morality and self-​interest, see Scheffler, “Potential Congruence,” 116–​118.

Argument from Nominal-Notable Comparisons  123 significant reasons are present on both sides. The prudential reasons I have pointed to that count in favor of acting morally seem to be up to that task. They are significant enough to outweigh nominal prudential reasons, but they do not seem able to prevent all conflicts with morality, since they are not the only prudential reasons of significance.

5.4.  The Dialectical Situation Does this reply on behalf of normative pluralism represent an adequate way of meeting the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons? That, of course, depends on the plausibility of a more sophisticated theory of prudence, one that can appeal to the reasons pointed to above as significant reasons that are always present to outweigh prudential reasons that are merely nominal. More generally, it depends on what theories of prudence and morality we are willing to accept. On the face of it, examples like Norm seem to rely on a simple hedonistic theory of prudence that takes prudence to consist in maximizing pleasure relative to the agent’s actual desires in the present. Other theories of prudence are concerned with achieving “good lives” in a way that encompasses more goods than just pleasure, and they may not even be maximizing in the same way that the simple hedonistic theory seems to be. The question of whether genuine nominal-​notable conflicts could exist is therefore somewhat hard to assess. We are asking whether there could exist such-​and-​such prudential requirements that could conflict with such-​and-​ such moral requirements, but as long as “prudence” and “morality” are only placeholders for whatever theories of prudence and morality are correct, the answer is bound to be indeterminate. Neither pluralism nor monism is committed to any specific theories of morality or prudence. Individual pluralists can therefore differ with each other with respect to what they think constitutes the correct theories of the relevant normative standpoints (and similarly for monists). In order to determine the answer to the possibility of genuine nominal-​notable conflicts, the parties to the debate have to settle on the content of “morality” and “prudence.” Given perennial disagreement about these matters in philosophy, this is no easy task. Still, the sophisticated theory of prudence that I have appealed to in order to reject the possibility of genuine nominal-​notable conflicts seems plausible enough and is something to which the monist will have to respond. The monist seems to have the option of denying the relevancy, strength, or scope of the purported prudential

124  Normative Pluralism considerations that I have appealed to, and thus defending a rival theory of prudence and then trying to show by example that genuine nominal-​notable conflicts are possible after all. If the monist tries to reject the relevance of these considerations to prudence, he or she is, in effect, advancing a very different version of prudence, and we need to settle what theory of prudence is actually correct. This becomes a discussion that goes far beyond the debate about normative pluralism, and it should be said that I think it will be hard to do since these considerations seem so intuitively relevant to what makes for a good life. Denying the strength of the considerations seems to be a nonstarter. If they are relevant at all, they must have at least a nominal strength. Besides it being implausible to regard these reasons as being of little significance, even a nominal strength would give them the ability to compete with the nominal reasons that figure in the examples. The last option is to deny the scope of these reasons and argue that they do not apply in all possible cases of nominal-​notable comparisons. The monist could, in other words, insist that there exist examples that have not been considered and where the reasons I have pointed to (or similar prudential reasons of notable strength) are not present to outweigh the nominal prudential reason. Whatever option is taken, insofar as sophisticated theories of prudence are on the table, it will be up to the monist to deny the relevancy of these considerations or to provide a convincing example of a nominal-​notable comparison where these considerations could not be present. I believe that the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons can be successfully rebutted by appealing to such sophisticated theories of prudence that are also independently plausible. However, you might prefer a different theory of prudence, in which case we may not be able to eliminate the possibility of the relevant cases. The remainder of this chapter will concern itself with what replies can be made to the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons if nominal-​notable conflicts of the moral-​prudential kind actually are possible.

5.5.  Ways to Debunk the Central Intuition of the Argument The argument from nominal-​notable comparisons relies on a central premise that despite the presence of a moral-​prudential conflict, there is something one ought all things considered to do. One response to this, as I have argued, is to say that the moral-​prudential conflict is merely illusory because of a

Argument from Nominal-Notable Comparisons  125 simplistic view of prudence or of morality. That being so, the purported fact that there is something one ought all things considered to do can be explained by the quantificational sense of “ought all things considered.” But if you do not accept such theories of prudence, another way of responding is to argue that the intuition that there is something one ought all things considered to do, in the overarching normative sense, is not a reliable sort of intuition. The objections of this sort that I will discuss below may seem slightly speculative and may therefore by themselves not be sufficient to truly rebut the argument. But they do point to empirical possibilities that can give rise to general concerns over the trustworthiness of the central intuition behind the argument. These possibilities are worth taking seriously when arguing on the basis of an intuition. If some version of the sophisticated theory of prudence is correct, then moral-​prudential conflicts of the nominal-​notable kind are unusual, maybe even downright exceptional. It is a reasonable claim that conflicts of this kind can only arise for agents with an exceptional motivational structure who (1) do not have the same interest in the concerns of ordinary human beings, such as an interest in love, respect, and genuine relationships; (2) do not suffer from guilt; (3) do not have an interest in cultivating moral virtues; and (4) are in an exceptional circumstance where the risk of damaging sanctions is absolutely minimal. It could very well be the case that because of the unfamiliar nature of these conflicts, we are unable to properly imagine or assess them.17 There are three things that I believe could work to distort our intuitive judgments about such cases: (i) Own values. Most of us do not share the values of the agent who purportedly could give rise to and be faced with a nominal-​notable conflict. We care about people at least to some extent, and we have at least a certain empathy and tendency to feel guilt. A person who is devoid of these values may seem quite alien, and we may have a hard time putting ourselves in that agent’s place and consistently imagining lacking such values. If we are unable to stop our own values from contaminating our picture of the agent and his or her circumstances, then these values may easily lead to the nominal prudential reason becoming outweighed by prudential considerations relating 17 In a somewhat similar vein, Jakob Elster argues against the reliability of intuitions about cases with “outlandish” features. Although he focuses on moral judgments and cases involving agents who are more outwardly “freakish,” one of the problems he mentions is our ability to properly imagine certain agents’ psychological makeup. Jakob Elster, “How Outlandish Can Imaginary Cases Be?,” Journal of Applied Philosophy 28, no. 3 (2011): 251–​252. See also Parfit’s criticism against Nozick’s imagined “Utility Monster.” Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 389.

126  Normative Pluralism to those values. If so, this may explain why we have the judgment that the agent ought all things considered to act morally, as this would follow from a quantitative understanding of “ought all things considered.” In other words, our intuitive judgment that the agent ought all things considered to act morally may feel right because we ourselves would have most reason to act in this way given our own values and because we may be unable to eliminate our own values when imagining the choice situation. The judgment might furthermore be explained as really being a judgment about what one ought all things considered understood quantitatively and not as a judgment about the monistic sense of that term. (ii) General prudential reasons: In much the same way, we might be unable to stop general prudential considerations from influencing our judgments, even though they are not present in the choice situation at hand. It may, for instance, be easy to stipulate that there is absolutely no risk of being “caught in the act,” but it is much harder to actually imagine it. Since even a tiny risk might be enough to prudentially outweigh a nominal reason, our imagination of such a risk might be enough to make the act favored by the nominal reason seem ill advised. In the same way as with (i), this may furthermore be understood as an intuition about the quantitative rather than the monistic sense of “ought all things considered.” That such general reasons can influence our intuitive judgments even when those reasons are stipulated not to be present is, arguably, suggested by certain studies in experimental philosophy.18 (iii) Moral outrage: The commitment we ourselves may have to moral values and rules might also be thought to influence our intuitive reactions to nominal-​notable cases. The extreme egoism and disregard for morality that are shown by an agent who acts from the nominal prudential reason in a moral-​prudential nominal-​notable conflict may cause, and warrant, a high level of moral outrage. The feeling that one just plain ought not to act in this way, rather than being a genuine judgment about monistic oughts, could be an expression of deep moral condemnation. The outrage we feel, which could

18 Haidt and others find that a hypothetical case of consensual incest between a brother and a sister which is described such that the harms often associated with incest are not present still tends to be awarded a low acceptability rating among test subjects. When asked to cite their reasons for not judging it acceptable, subjects in many instances cite the general reasons that are not present in the relevant case. See Jonathan Haidt, Fredrik Björklund, and Scott Murphy, “Moral Dumbfounding: When Intuition Finds No Reason” (unpublished manuscript); Jonathan Haidt, “The Emotional Dog and Its Rational Tail: A Social Intuitionist Approach to Moral Judgment,” Psychological Review 108, no. 4 (2001): 814–​834. However, Haidt thinks that these reasons are post hoc rationalizations.

Argument from Nominal-Notable Comparisons  127 even be justified, might also obscure the point of view of the other agent such that we are unable to see the reasonableness of his or her way of acting. None of the mechanisms (i), (ii), or (iii) excludes the others. Rather, all of them could operate at the same time and together reinforce a feeling that there is something the agent just plain ought to do.

5.6.  Biting the Bullet Given the possibilities described above, the central intuition behind the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons may or may not be the kind of judgment that the argument needs, namely, judgments about the monistic ought. Without further investigation, we have no good way of knowing whether these judgments are theoretically nuanced enough to be of the right kind or whether they are distorted by moral outrage or other mechanisms. If they are judgments of the wrong kind, or distorted judgments, then the intuition is unreliable. If the intuition can be relied upon (and there are genuine moral-​prudential nominal-​notable conflicts), then it would seem to give some support to normative monism. The question is how much. If we find ourselves having monistic intuitions about these sorts of cases, we need to consider how much weight to give these intuitions. The normative pluralist can simply choose to bite the bullet and accept that such intuitions are commonplace but that they are a cost that is outweighed by other attractive aspects of pluralism or by other unattractive aspects of monism. Insofar as a philosophical theory can have certain counterintuitive aspects and still be the most plausible theory of its kind, the pluralist need not be too worried. In moral philosophy, the two most widespread moral theories, utilitarianism and deontology, are both arguably plagued by counterintuitive consequences. Proponents of these theories may bite the bullet and accept the counterintuitiveness of the theory’s consequences with respect to certain cases but still claim that the theory is the most plausible theory overall, for example, by virtue of its being the most intuitive with respect to most cases or by virtue of its having the most plausible theoretical foundation. The same line of argument can be pursued by the normative pluralist. Consider, for instance, the special nature of nominal-​notable moral-​prudential conflicts. If a sophisticated theory of prudence is correct, then it would likely take a very special kind of agent under very special circumstances for such conflicts to obtain. For normal agents under normal circumstances, there would obtain a

128  Normative Pluralism quantificational “ought all things considered” that would be in line with the notable moral reason. At the same time, normative pluralism can claim to be able to give a more plausible result with respect to ordinary moral-​prudential conflicts when both options are supported by notable reasons. The more notable the two opposing sets of reasons of a normative conflict are, the more likely it seems that the conflict could be irresolvable. And the normative conflicts that will be faced by normal agents will arguably tend to be of a kind where both sides of the conflict are supported by notable reasons. With respect to what are arguably the typical normative conflicts, namely, those of a notable-​notable nature, normative monism seems to be worse off. Faced with these kinds of conflicts, there is no obvious solution, nor do we seem to have much clue about how to resolve them through weighing reasons. And we can still pose the following challenge to the monist. In order to assess whether there is an overarching normative standpoint, it would be helpful if the monist could tell us something about how conflicts are to be resolved: what is it that one just plain ought to do, how is one to weigh the conflicting reasons, and why is this the uniquely correct way of assigning weights? There may not be good answers to these questions available. Pluralism’s failure to correspond to a limited range of intuitions can seem a small cost to pay when compared with monism’s lack of an adequate theoretical framework for answering questions like those above and the apparent unlikelihood that monism can find this kind of framework. The argument from nominal-​ notable comparisons may give us some hope that such a framework may be found—​ if our intuitions are correct—​but it does not show them to be correct and only provides evidence based on a limited range of cases. Other theoretical problems with normative monism may also be brought to attention when considering what weight to give said intuitions. As we shall see in c­ hapter 8, the risk of monism becoming committed to the thesis of moral overridingness is one such feature. Another feature is that it is still unclear whether the overarching ought and a plain ought are really needed. It doesn’t seem that cases like Norm’s give us any further insight into what it is that we need the overarching ought to explain—​except, allegedly, certain intuitions about certain cases. Norm, in acting or choosing the way he does, is obviously liable to very strong moral criticism, maybe even of the severest kind, but that is, of course, perfectly explainable simply by the existence of the normative standpoint we call morality, which is part of the pluralistic view of normativity. Is Norm liable to any further criticism that it is beyond the realm of normative pluralism to explain? There doesn’t seem to be much in the story of Norm to

Argument from Nominal-Notable Comparisons  129 suggest that he is or what that would be. Norm’s action is obviously the action of a very bad moral person, and that also seems to be essence of the story. It is these considerations, along with what seems to be a reasonable and strong desire to criticize Norm in the most severe way, that may lead us to think that the intuition we have is rather to be understood as an expression of a strong moral criticism instead of being true evidence of the existence of an overarching normative standpoint. We should also remind ourselves that, as was reflected in c­ hapter 3, normative pluralism is motivated not so much by intuitions regarding cases but more by judgments on a more abstract and general level.19 On Sidgwick’s view, the dualism or pluralism arises because Norm’s interests and what is good for Norm are separate from the interests of those he affects by actions. Although they are part of a larger whole, which makes a moral approach to action reasonable, they are also separate wholes with separate interests, making a prudential approach to action (pursuing their own separate interests) reasonable for each of them. As we shall see in the section 5.7, there are also judgments about the wholesale rational status of agents in certain situations that may motivate pluralism. When we consider such intuitions in a larger context than individual cases, these intuitions may come to appear more problematic because we may then have a conflicting set of intuitions. Consider again the case of the drowning child and the discussion around it. Singer thinks that we ought to rescue the child because we should think that we should save a life whenever the cost to ourselves is very little in comparison. It is easy to share this intuition, but as Singer’s famous argument shows, this seemingly innocuous thought seems to have radical implications regarding donations.20 But this implication may seem too radical for some, and we might think that this conflicts with other intuitions we have concerning the permissibility of not donating. Because of these various aspects of monism and pluralism, we may judge that the intuition in monism’s favor may be outweighed by other considerations. Furthermore, and this is important, once we allow for the chance that the intuition in question may be debunkable, or not obviously trustworthy, the cost of relying on that intuition may be even greater. We also need to bear in mind that the gain of endorsing the intuition may be quite limited. If a

19 This might also be how many utilitarianists take utilitarianism to be justified, insofar as utilitarianism seems to have little hope of accounting for all our important intuitive judgments. See Singer, “Ethics and Intuitions.” 20 Singer, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality.”

130  Normative Pluralism sophisticated theory of prudence is right, the intuition in question only obtains for certain cases that are very much out of the ordinary and where we seem to be dealing with a very special kind of agent. If we find it very important to come to a certain conclusion regarding these cases, and if normative pluralism cannot reach the same conclusions, we may want to opt for comparative monism, but if we instead focus on the more familiar notable-​ notable cases or the general Sidgwickian intuitions, then comparative monism seems to have few resources, and normative pluralism seems to be at least as good a theory to deal with them.

5.7.  A Test of Commensurability and an Argument against Monism The monist is right in putting a certain emphasis on cases of nominal-​notable comparisons. If there is commensurability between moral and prudential reasons anywhere, it must be in these cases. The monist views them as a test of whether or not commensurability applies between moral and prudential reasons and finds that we have intuitions supporting commensurability with respect to these cases. My response has been to explain that there should be considerable doubt about whether such cases could actually exist given a correct understanding of morality and prudence. I have furthermore argued that if they could exist, then several reasons can be found to doubt the reliability of the central intuition that the monist appeals to, and I have argued that even if these intuitions cannot be immediately dismissed as unreliable, we would be wrong in placing all our bets on a single intuition, as there are also other kinds of considerations when assessing whether moral-​prudential commensurability exists. But if we want to view cases of nominal-​notable comparisons as a test of commensurability, there are further issues regarding these cases to consider. Accepting that an overarching ought obtains in these cases has some further implications, and it might be that our intuitions regarding these implications do not fall so squarely into the camp of monism. These implications concern the special connection that beliefs about overarching oughts have with rationality through the enkratic requirement and with what sorts of mistakes are involved when violating an overarching ought. There is an argument that shows that if monism of the sort implied by the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons is correct, then an informed agent could not intend to do the immoral thing in these

Argument from Nominal-Notable Comparisons  131 cases while remaining rational.21 Take again the example of Norm, and call the morally required option of preventing pain to one hundred innocents φ. Given monism, if Norm knows all that is relevant (including the normative facts) and if he is perfectly rational, then he knows that he just plain ought to φ. A fully informed Norm would then be irrational in failing to φ, by virtue of exhibiting a form of akrasia. Given that the facts are set up this way, that conclusion should not be seen as problematic. But the question for us is whether the facts actually are that way, such that Norm would either have to be irrational or uninformed in choosing to prioritize his own interests. On normative pluralism, we reach a different conclusion. In failing to φ, Norm is not doing what he morally ought and is morally blameworthy or criticizable for that reason, but he need not be irrational or uninformed. There may not be anything wrong with Norm’s rationality or epistemic access, only with his character. How does this bear on the issue of whether we should accept normative monism or pluralism? What we have here is a description of certain consequences of accepting monism and pluralism. The extent to which we are willing to accept the consequences of monism can be seen as a test of our willingness to accept monism, and correspondingly for pluralism and its consequences. Some might see the monist result as a happy result. It might, for instance, seem to play well into the Kantian project that tries to base requirements of morality on the requirements of rationality. But others will find the result implausible. Joshua Gert writes this as a response to a case that seems close to a nominal-​notable comparison: some Kantians might also claim that if one chooses to spend a hundred dollars on a bottle of good wine instead of donating that amount to Oxfam, then one would also be violating the categorical imperative and (therefore) acting irrationally. Admittedly, there are very strong reasons to forgo the wine and send the money off to Afghanistan or Honduras. But despite agreement with this, virtually no nonphilosopher would claim that buying the wine showed the slightest problem in practical mental functioning, even in a fully informed agent.22

21 Some sorts of monism, such as monistic egoism or what I call “weak monism,” avoid this argument, but these types of monism are not consistent with the standard argument from nominal-​ notable comparisons, where moral considerations are thought to trump the prudential ones. I should also note that by “rational” here, I mean rational in a “structural” sense, as described in section 6.3.3. 22 Gert, Brute Rationality, 26 (my emphasis).

132  Normative Pluralism While the prudential cost figuring in Gert’s example is more significant than the proper cases of nominal-​notable comparisons such as that with Norm, Gert’s position is, in fact, more general. On a general basis, Gert does not think that even a fully informed agent would be irrational in choosing a small pleasure over saving other people from death and pain.23 I think that one of the main motivations behind normative pluralism is the desire to avoid the result that in true cases of conflict, agents must necessarily either be misinformed or irrational in pursuing their own interests rather than the interests of others. This consideration favors pluralism over any monist view that would have such a result, such as those views that seem to underlie the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons. The pluralist would like to say, and we might find it intuitive, that even with full information, the fact that an agent is fully rational is no guarantee that this agent will choose to act morally24—​neither generally nor with respect to nominal-​notable cases (if they exist). Such an agent who forgoes saving other people from death and pain in order to pursue his or her own interests may be described as evil, vicious, or callous but not necessarily as misinformed or irrational.25 The fault of the agent lies in his or her character, not in his or her rationality (or with his or her information). Instead, in saying that the failure of the immoral agent is a failure of that person’s character, what has gone wrong for the agent is the person’s will to do good to others. This person simply chooses in a way that is morally criticizable, but that does not mean that he or she is making an epistemic error. One can, in short, be a sensible knave, in Hume’s terms.26 The intuition at work here contradicts the results of the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons. Because of the enkratic requirement of rationality, an informed agent would necessarily be less than fully rational if he or she chose to pursue his or her own interests in a nominal-​notable conflict of the types we have discussed. The conflicting intuition on which the pluralist relies is that this kind of choice would not necessarily reduce an

23 Ibid. 24 Compare again Gert, ibid., 165. 25 See also ibid., 23: “Callous or selfish it may be, but it is not irrational.” This is not to say that an agent who chooses an immoral option cannot thereby in any instance be irrational or involve an epistemic error. If the agent believes that the immoral option corresponds to the imprudent option, then he or she would be violating the weak enkratic requirement of rationality by intending to do the immoral option. And if there were such a correspondence, then the agent would be making an epistemic error if he or she did not believe so. 26 David Hume, Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Sec. 9, Pt. 2, Project Gutenberg, 2010, https://​www.gutenb​​files/​4320/​4320-​h/​4320-​h.htm#2H_​PAR​T92.

Argument from Nominal-Notable Comparisons  133 agent’s rationality. This intuition seems to be shared by philosophers such as Gert, who also claims that it is prevalent among non-​philosophers, but some may disagree with it—​especially when faced with extreme examples such as nominal-​notable comparisons. Parfit writes that he thinks that although many would agree with the intuition at stake here, he himself does not.27 Many would probably think that the reasons in favor of the prudential option are so slight and the reasons in favor of the moral option are so important that only the moral option seems to be a rationally warranted option. Much of the preceding parts of this chapter have been aimed at showing how normative pluralism can agree that only the moral option is a viable alternative, rationally speaking. Most, perhaps even all, examples of nominal-​notable conflicts between prudence and morality can be seen as illusory once we operate with more sophisticated theories of what prudence and morality would actually require of us. The question is therefore what we want to say about the remainder of cases—​if there are any—​which, I should repeat, would probably be cases that are out of the ordinary and involve agents with a special kind of psychology that we might not share. Do we want to insist that agents informed about the facts (including the normative facts) who choose to pursue their own interests must be irrational? In general, it seems that we do not regard people who choose to pursue what is truly in their own interests, rather than doing what they know is morally required of them, as irrational or as not having understood the facts. We tend to think of them as callous and bad people, but we do not necessarily for that reason think that they are irrational. If that is how we generally think, then why should it be any different with the nominal-​notable cases? There are two things to note with regard to this intuition. One is that while the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons in favor of normative monism relies on intuitions directly about individual cases, the opposing intuition about rational status in favor of normative pluralism is a completely general intuition. What pluralism can appeal to is a general principle concerning the rationality of choosing to pursue one’s own interests. Earlier in this chapter, I discussed a number of features that may make it hard to assess individual cases correctly because they are likely to distort our judgments in various directions. If this is right, then the object of

27 Parfit, On What Matters Vol 1, 135. Parfit thinks that many people who agree with it use a different sense of “rational” from what he uses. This may or may not be correct, but I do not understand the sense of “rational” that I am using here to be interestingly different from Parfit’s.

134  Normative Pluralism the intuitions in favor of normative monism may give us additional reason to stick with the intuition that favors pluralism. In conclusion, then, the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons can be turned on its head and worked as an argument in favor of normative pluralism. Assuming that we do not think the problem with the immoral person is of an epistemic or rational nature, such that we do not want to say that the immoral person (such as Norm) is necessarily misinformed or irrational, then the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons has counterintuitive consequences. If we accept that argument, then Norm necessarily lacks knowledge or is akratic. Now, the intuition at work here is not shared by everyone, but if nothing else, this reasoning shows that we are confronted with an instance where one person’s modus ponens is another person’s modus tollens. My own view is that the intuition here is eminently plausible on a general basis, such that it is natural to extend it also to nominal-​notable cases. If one would like to avoid imputing irrationality or lack of knowledge to immoral persons such as Norm (without denying the normative importance of morality), then one is best served by taking normative pluralism seriously.

5.8.  Two Alternative Variants of the Argument from Nominal-​Notable Comparisons Before leaving the topic of nominal-​notable comparisons, we should note that there are two other possible variants of the argument. Each of them would to a certain degree change the dialectical landscape that we have explored. As we have seen, the typical way to formulate the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons is to proceed from an example where there is a conflict between a moral requirement supported by very strong moral reasons and a prudential requirement supported by a very slight prudential reason. One of the two ways to alter the argument is to appeal to a different sort of case where the strength of the two types of reasons supporting two different options is considered not in absolute terms but in relative terms. Consider an example where one would have the choice of either losing two hundred thousand dollars or else all Falklanders would die.28 A proponent of the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons could here appeal to an 28 Thanks to Kasper Lippert-​Rasmussen for the example and for pressing me on this variant of the argument.

Argument from Nominal-Notable Comparisons  135 intuition that one just plain ought to save the Falklanders. Here it seems that one is prudentially required not to lose the money, for prudential reasons that can be understood as notable but that nonetheless pale with respect to notability in comparison with the moral reasons for saving the Falklanders. So although the prudential reasons are in some sense considerable, they become merely nominal and outweighed when compared to the moral reasons. Or so the monist explanation would go. This way of advancing the argument has the advantage that because the prudential reasons are, at least from a prudential perspective, notable, it seems clearer that the prudential reasons actually support the truth of a prudential requirement not to do the morally required option. It does not seem that we need an agent with an alien motivational structure or that we need an implausible theory of prudence in order for there to actually be a prudential requirement not to act morally. So the argument can much more clearly target the pluralist based on these kinds of examples. On the other hand, however, the advantage of these examples is also a disadvantage. What makes the existence of a prudential requirement here more plausible is the presence of prudential reasons that are, from the point of view of the agent, notable. This also makes it much more plausible to say that the prudential option is actually an option that is rationally eligible. In the example above, that the prudential option would be so becomes more salient when we reflect on the consequences of not acting prudentially. Losing two hundred thousand dollars may lead the agent into debt or economic uncertainty or may otherwise seriously reduce his or her life prospects and life quality (if we stipulate that it won’t, then the argument would no longer have the form we are now considering). The agent is sacrificing himself or herself and the quality of his or her own life to a considerable extent for the lives of others, and it is a sacrifice that is not compensated, for the agent, by the moral gains. That it can be reasonable and praiseworthy to sacrifice oneself in this manner is not disputed by the pluralist, but it is another thing to say that this is the only reasonable thing to do—​as the argument suggests it is. Because of the significant costs to the agent and the quality of his or her existence from conforming to morality, we may also find it reasonable for the agent to take the prudential option. If one still resists this thought and insists that the moral thing is the only reasonable thing to do for the agent, then we can also in this case try to account for this intuition by explaining it through a quantificational ought all things considered. That one would suffer a considerable prudential loss by doing one of the options doesn’t imply that one is, on the whole, prudentially required to avoid that loss. Speaking for myself,

136  Normative Pluralism I doubt that I could live with the knowledge of being responsible for the death of all Falklanders, as that knowledge would seriously affect the quality of my life and probably more so than being in debt. Even if this wouldn’t necessarily be the case—​or the case for every other agent—​facts like these may still affect our judgment about what the agent in question ought to do. And we may, when considering the examples only in the abstract, have a hard time actually putting ourselves in the agent’s place and understanding the consequences to his or her well-​being. So there is room to doubt the usefulness of our intuitions in these cases as well. The second way of varying the argument is to switch which normative standpoint is supported by nominal reasons and which is supported by notable reasons. As we have seen, the typical way to formulate the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons is by appealing to an example where there is a moral requirement supported by notable prudential reasons and a prudential requirement supported only by nominal prudential reasons. But there seems to be logical space to imagine a case that is the other way around, namely, a conflict between a prudential requirement with notable prudential reasons and a moral requirement with only nominal moral reasons. I will now explain why this is likely to be mistaken and that there probably is no such logical space given plausible views about morality. However, I will then proceed to argue that a related type of nominal-​notable conflict may likely be found. Cases where there is a moral requirement based only on a nominal moral reason and there is also a prudential requirement based on notable reasons do not seem plausible as a genuine possibility. Imagine the following case. You have made a promise to meet a friend at a coffee shop to have a little chat. However, you suddenly discover that you have won an enormous cash prize (or insert some other notable prudential benefit), and the deadline to collect it is such that you need to break your promise to your friend. Although it can initially seem that we are here presented with a conflict between a prudential requirement concerning the cost of missing out on the enormous cash prize and a moral requirement that concerns keeping your promise to a friend, on second thought, we may easily come to doubt whether you actually have a moral requirement to meet your friend at the promised time given the costs of doing so. Such a requirement would arise only from a very demanding moral theory that would most likely strike us as having an implausible view of morality. For deontological moral theories, it is common to understand morality as including what is sometimes called “agent-​centered prerogatives,” such that morality allows an agent to give greater weight to his or her own projects than what would be

Argument from Nominal-Notable Comparisons  137 allowed by an entirely impersonal calculus (like the utilitarian calculus).29 The thought is, according to Scheffler, not that morality must compromise with realities of human motivation or that we must settle for a second-​best morality but rather that morality is a system for regulating human affairs, and it would not be a plausible system of that kind if it were not sensitive to the fundamental aims and interests of the humans to whom the system applies.30 Scheffler is here defending the creed that morality must be a moderate system of rules that is fit for humans and that can be integrated in a coherent and attractive way into a human life. Rather than being identical with an impersonal point of view, morality strikes a balance between the impersonal value of others and our natural disproportionate concern with our own lives.31 When we apply this view of a moderate morality to putative nominal-​ notable conflicts between a nominal moral requirement and a notable prudential requirement, the putative conflict starts to seem an illusion. A requirement that one bears great personal costs for what is only a nominal moral benefit seems to be unreasonable not just from the prudential standpoint but also from the moral standpoint. This view of morality is not compatible with a utilitarian system of moral rules that identifies the moral standpoint with the impersonal standpoint.32 The appeal to moderacy within morality is thus not open to someone who holds a utilitarian theory of morality, and a utilitarian can therefore not dismiss the potential for these kinds of nominal-​notable conflicts in the same way. However, for utilitarians, these kinds of conflict seem to be impossible for another reason: since one’s own costs are to be included in the moral calculus, any notable cost to oneself would simply outweigh any benefits to others that are merely nominal. These considerations suggest that unless one defends a certain sort of demanding and self-​annihilating theory of morality, nominal-​notable conflicts between prudential requirements based on notable prudential reasons and moral requirements based only on nominal moral reasons are an impossibility. And if one were to insist on the possibility by defending a very demanding morality without the agent-​centered prerogative and where one’s own costs do not outweigh the general benefits from the moral standpoint, then normative pluralism does not seem to lose any plausibility by the possibility of these 29 The most prominent defender of this idea has been Samuel Scheffler; see his Human Morality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992). For an opposing view, see Finlay, “Too Much Morality?” 30 Scheffler, “Potential Congruence,” 119. 31 Scheffler, Human Morality, 126. 32 See section 3.5.2 for a discussion of why the moral standpoint need not be identical with an impersonal standpoint.

138  Normative Pluralism kinds of conflicts. Quite the contrary; if morality really demands so much of me, then am I really unreasonable in setting morality aside and acting prudentially?33 I believe these considerations explain why opponents of normative pluralism tend to ignore these kinds of putative nominal-​ notable conflicts and instead focus on the converse type of putative conflict. But as we have seen, one can reasonably doubt the possibility of such nominal-​ notable conflicts as well. However, if we retain the focus on notable prudential reasons and nominal moral reasons, we may be able to argue for a different sort of nominal-​notable conflict, namely, one that is not between two requirements but between a prudential requirement and a moral permission. Take again the example of the enormous cash prize. Although you seem prudentially required to show up to claim it, and morally permitted to do so, you could also arguably be morally permitted to abandon it and instead meet your friend at the time you had promised. That you would be so is not clear. On some moral theories, such as typical Kantian theories as well as utilitarianism, you have moral reasons to look after your own interests which may outweigh opposing moral reasons and not only permit you but require you to do what is best for yourself. If that is right, then these types of nominal-​ notable conflicts could not obtain, either. But if this is not right, and “agent-​ centered prerogatives” only grant permission not to sacrifice your own interests for a slight moral gain, then this type of nominal-​notable conflict does seem possible. Although I shall have no official view on the matter, I take it that the latter view of agent-​centered prerogatives is not entirely implausible. This means that the normative pluralist may, after all, have to admit and deal with a particular type of nominal-​notable conflict. How serious is this for the pluralist? My claim is that it is a problem that need not concern the pluralist too much, even if the pluralist would have to bite the bullet and accept that one cannot accept a common intuition that one just plain ought to go collect the prize rather than keep one’s promise. The main reason is simply that it would represent a very different type of conflict, where both normative standpoints could be satisfied by the same action and where the nominal moral reasons in favor of keeping the promise need not trouble an agent with a normal motivational structure when deliberating about what to

33 Witness, e.g., Finlay in “Too Much Morality?,” who starts by defending a very demanding view of morality and the possibility of these kinds of conflicts with self-​interest and then ends up promoting a view about the relationship between morality and self-​interest that seems to be a version of normative pluralism.

Argument from Nominal-Notable Comparisons  139 do. In the case in hand, morality and prudence do not give the same verdict on the deontic status of the relevant options. Because of this, there would be no quantificational ought all things considered fact about what to do. But on the other hand, since morality permits you to take the prudential option, you can do so without doing something morally wrong, and you are (quantificationally) all things considered permitted to do so. Since morality taken as a whole does not disfavor taking the prudential option and permits you to do so, an agent with a normal motivational structure—​meaning an agent who cares both about morality’s demands and about his or her own interests—​ need have no qualms about taking the prudential option and disregarding the nominal moral reason, as the agent is all things considered justified in doing so. I therefore do not think that the existence of these kinds of nominal-​ notable cases commits the pluralist to counterintuitive results of any real significance.34

5.9.  The Concurrence Argument Spencer Case has provided an interesting alternative argument designed to show the need for a plain ought.35 This argument has nothing directly to do with the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons, but I believe that the two arguments can be answered in much the same way. Case thinks that instead of focusing on conflict cases, the need for a plain ought can be much more clearly shown by looking at what he calls concurrent cases, where the two standpoints partially agree. While he thinks pluralism gives intuitive answers in cases of conflict, it does not do so with respect to concurrent cases. In a generic form, a concurrent case can be represented as in table 5.1 (where X and Y denote different normative standpoints, and 1–​3 denote different options). In a less generic form, Case asks us to imagine the story of Gyges, who could either immorally murder the king and take up his crown or remain a

34 Parfit’s ”wide dualism” and Gert’s fundamental normative principle P (which will be examined in ­chapter 6) can both explain the intuition that you just plain ought to go collect the prize, since they do not regard as rational giving much more weight to another person’s interests than your own between morally permissible options. This seems to count in favor of their views. However, it still seems to remain true, for the reasons explained above, that this intuition does not present an important problem for pluralism. 35 Case, “Normative Pluralism Worthy of the Name Is False,” 12–​17.

140  Normative Pluralism Table 5.1.  Concurrent Cases 1 X Y



Bad (−1,000) Good (+​1,000) Good (+​1,000) Good (+​1,000) Bad (+​1,000) Good (+​1,000)

moral shepherd. Let the former be option 1 and the latter option 2, and let X be morality and Y be prudence. By stipulation, option 1 would be preferable to option 2 from the perspective of prudence, and vice versa for morality. However, Gyges could also easily become king by moral and legitimate means (option 3). In this type of case, it seems clear that 3 is the best option and that Gyges ought all things considered to choose option 3. Case argues that normative pluralism cannot explain this. The quantificational sense of ought all things considered requires that the normative standpoints agree on an option, but here they only agree that 3 is eligible. Since morality would require doing 2 or 3 and prudence would require doing 1 or 3, we ought all things considered only to do some option required by morality or prudence, which is 1, 2 or 3. It is difficult to disagree that we do have the intuition that 3 is somehow a better option and what we ought all things considered to do. How can the pluralist respond? Case notes that the pluralist can, in fact, account for the intuition that Gyges ought to choose 3. If morality and prudence are entangled in the way I argued makes nominal-​notable cases impossible, such that there are always notable moral reasons to act prudently and notable prudential reasons to act morally, then it seems such cases may, after all, be impossible, as both standpoints would, in fact, uniquely favor 3. The existence of such entangled reasons would alter the values in table 5.1, such that concurrent cases could not occur and 3 would be the dominant option. Case thinks that this response is not enough. This is because it fails to capture the intuitive force of the generic concurrent. Case claims that we can know that 3 is the most reasonable option without knowing anything about the content of X and Y. I agree that we will intuitively pick 3 as what we ought to do, irrespective of any further details, but I do not think we need to put much weight on this type of abstract intuition. Note also that we would tend to have the same intuition about the generic version of nominal-​notable cases, but I do not think that counts for much, either. One reason for this is that such abstract intuitions are likely to be parasitic on the actual judgments we are used to making with the specific normative standpoints that actually matter to us.

Argument from Nominal-Notable Comparisons  141 It is simply very hard to imagine any other standpoint that could fill in X or Y as a genuine normative standpoint. In section 3.7, I raised meaningfulness as another possible standpoint, but its entanglement with other standpoints was at least as great as that between morality and prudence. On the other hand, if we fill in X or Y with a standpoint that we do not really think has normative authority, we may get a different intuition. If X is a bad standard, such as a mafia code, and Y is, for example, prudence, we would not necessarily think it most reasonable to choose the option that best satisfies both X and Y. So the content of the variables may seem to matter for our intuitions about the status of 3 after all.

6 The Supremacy Challenge The two ways that I can understand myself—​as (1) a separate individual whose suffering and interests are different from those of others but also (2) as part of a whole where I can identify myself as included in a collective “we” with shared moral interests—​give a certain appeal to the idea that my evaluation of actions can be done from two different normative standpoints. What is reasonable from one perspective is not necessarily reasonable from the other. Normative monists, who reject this fragmented picture of normativity, think that the two perspectives can be united or otherwise resolved by comparing the relative strength of the reasons from the two standpoints by virtue of finding some authoritative standpoint. In this chapter, I will examine the prospects for identifying such a standpoint. As pointed out in section 2.6, such a standpoint will have to be comprehensive, by covering both prudential and moral considerations, and authoritative, meaning that the comparisons it offers must have a privileged normative status and must take priority over the comparisons offered by the prudential or moral standpoint. Otherwise, it would merely expand the pluralism by adding a third standpoint. I will argue that in identifying a standpoint as one that can do the job of unifying practical reasons, two challenges must be met, which I call the codification challenge and the supremacy challenge. After presenting the two challenges and discussing the very possibility of supremacy, this chapter will focus on whether there is some standpoint that we are already familiar with that could plausibly be said to have the property of supremacy. It discusses two values that are often claimed to take priority over other values, namely, rationality and morality. I argue that neither of these values shows normativity to be unified.

Normative Pluralism. Mathea Slåttholm Sagdahl, Oxford University Press. © Oxford University Press 2022. DOI: 10.1093/​oso/​9780197614693.003.0006

The Supremacy Challenge  143

6.1.  The Codification Challenge and the Supremacy Challenge The question of whether there is an overarching standpoint that can commensurate morality and prudence and authoritatively resolve their conflicts seems to be an open one. But if there is such a standpoint, we should expect that its proponents can provide us with a picture of how it would relate and compare moral and prudential reason. Call such proponents normative monists. In order to see such a standpoint as more than a mere possibility, we need normative monists to (i) provide us with a substantive candidate for what it could be. In addition, the monist needs to (ii) couple this description with a convincing story about why this way of comparing reasons represents a picture that is more authoritative than the way morality and prudence compare reasons.1 These are the codification challenge and the supremacy challenge, respectively. These challenges are too seldom addressed. We have seen that many monists appeal to concerns about rational agency or the argument from nominal-​ notable comparisons. These arguments attempt to show that comparisons between different types of reasons simply must be possible, without doing the additional job of describing how those reasons compare. If such arguments that would guarantee the truth of monism fail, which I think they do, the monist can instead offer us a unified picture of normativity and attempt to convince us that this is a more plausible picture than the rival pluralist picture. To do so, the monist must address the two challenges: a purported overarching normative standpoint must be given content, and once that content is described, strong arguments are needed in order to show that it represents a normatively privileged way of evaluating our actions. Unless it can show that it enjoys such supremacy, it risks merely expanding the normative pluralism by adding another reasonable normative standpoint. Meeting the codification challenge is not by itself all that difficult. We can describe a number of possible ways in which moral and prudential reasons could be unified and compared. There are a number of covering values that could do this job. For example, I could evaluate the relative strength 1 One may think the overarching normative standpoint is identical to either morality or prudence, in which case one does not have to show that the overarching standpoint is more important than the identical standpoint. But since morality and prudence potentially conflict and are not identical, the overarching standpoint could not be identical to both. There is therefore always a need to show the supposed overarching standpoint to be supreme with respect to at least one of the two.

144  Normative Pluralism of moral and prudential considerations with respect to the comparative category “What I am most motivated by.” Perhaps only short-​term considerations of pleasure motivate me. In that case, only a subset of prudential considerations would compare well with that value. But this is not a plausible candidate for an overarching standpoint, as it doesn’t seem to be a way of comparing reasons that has a privileged normative status. Why should I compare considerations in this way, rather than what morality or prudence recommends? The difficulty lies with meeting the supremacy challenge once a codification has been proposed. We can see the difficulty by considering a much more plausible candidate than that of motivation. Consider meaningfulness. While I have argued that meaningfulness is plausibly a part of prudence, we have also seen that there are some grounds for thinking that it is rather a separate normative standpoint that combines an external and internal point of view and that is responsive both to the agent’s subjective fulfillment and to objective value outside of the agent. Suppose that it is, but suppose also that given your situation, you can only lead a meaningful life by sacrificing your happiness. Meaning matters, and it does not seem unreasonable for someone to sacrifice their happiness in order to live their life in a meaningful way. But nor does it seem unreasonable for them to prioritize their happiness. While their life will be less meaningful, it will be a subjectively better life to live. It seems implausible and much too strong to think that meaningfulness is the standard that ultimately takes priority and has a normatively privileged role in determining what we are to do. If we are to think of meaningfulness as a genuine normative standpoint (separate from prudence), then it merely seems to expand the pluralism rather than resolve it. If not even meaningfulness, with its supposed ability to combine the subjective point of view with the point of view of the universe, can constitute a supreme standpoint, then is there any standpoint that can?

6.2.  The Incoherence Argument against Supremacy The codifying and supremacy challenges saddle normative monists with the substantive task of codifying, or at least gesturing at, some standpoint that could be normatively supreme. However, some normative pluralists think that the very possibility of such a standpoint is incoherent. The most notable attempt to show this has been made by David Copp.

The Supremacy Challenge  145 “There is never,” Copp argues, “an overall verdict as to what action is required simpliciter in situations where moral reasons and reasons of self-​ interest conflict.”2 This conclusion suggests an incommensurable relationship between these two kinds of reasons, which is the central claim of normative pluralism. However, he also defends a much stronger claim, namely, that the notions of an ought simpliciter and of an overarching normative standpoint, which he calls “reason-​as-​such,” are incoherent.3 Copp therefore thinks that normative pluralism is true not only as a substantive matter but also as a formal matter. That there is something one just plain ought to do in a situation of moral-​prudential conflict would simply be an incoherent thought. It is this property of being the normatively most important standpoint that is the source of incoherency, according to Copp. Others, such as Owen McLeod and Dale Dorsey, have objected to Copp’s argument.4 Because I believe that these objections are good ones and because I believe there are other grounds for justifying incommensurability, I do not wish to assign much weight to Copp’s incoherency argument. As we saw in c­ hapter 5, there are grounds for thinking that incommensurability between moral and prudential reasons obtain that are of a substantive rather than a formal nature. I shall very briefly explain Copp’s argument and the objections to it, but I shall thereafter proceed on the assumption that the argument is not successful and that whether moral and prudential reasons can be commensurated or not is a substantive question. Copp’s argument, which he thinks constitutes a reductio of the idea of reason-​as-​such, goes as follows. For any normative standpoint S, if S is the most important normative standpoint, then there must be a normative standpoint R that yields the verdict that S is the most important. Now, either R is identical to S or it is not. It cannot be identical, for a standpoint cannot be normatively most important in virtue of satisfying criteria that it itself specifies as criteria. S must be most important simpliciter, not merely from its own standpoint. For any S, there is presumably a sense in which S assesses its own verdicts as most significant. Therefore, if S is most significant, there is some normative standpoint R distinct from S. This R must be normatively most important, or its verdicts would otherwise not settle the question of importance definitively, and there could be some other standpoint T that

2 Copp, “The Ring of Gyges,” 285. 3 Ibid., 286, 303. 4 McLeod, “Just Plain Ought”; Dorsey, The Limits.

146  Normative Pluralism was definitive in its place. But if R is the normatively most important, then it follows that S is not the normatively most important. The same argument could then be run on R, and so on. It therefore appears that the standpoint of reason-​as-​such, which is supposed to be the normatively most important standpoint, is incoherent. This presents us with a dilemma: only one standpoint can be the normatively most important, but no normative standpoint can be the normatively most important standpoint simply by satisfying its own criteria. In order to reach the verdict that a standpoint S is the normatively most important standpoint, we need to posit a further normative standpoint that becomes normatively most important in its stead. So we either have to say that S is most important simply by satisfying its own criteria, which it cannot be, or we must end up with an infinite regress. The argument relies on two related premises: (a) no standpoint can be the normatively most important standpoint simply by virtue of meeting its own standards; and (b) the normative importance of a normative standpoint S must be assessed from a further normative standpoint R which is external to S. We can say that (a) is undoubtedly correct given that we recognize a plurality of standpoints, since any standpoint may be able to rank itself as the most important standpoint in light of its own criteria, there cannot be more than one standpoint that is the normatively most important. On the other hand, it is less clear whether (b) is true. McLeod argues that we can reject Copp’s argument by rejecting (b). He says that The culprit is Copp’s assumption . . . that “the claim that a standard S has the property of supremacy is the claim that it is normatively the most important standard as assessed in terms of some other standard, R. . . . Why must it be the case that for every standard, S, that ranks on some scale, there exists another standard, R, that assigns S to that rank? Could there not be standards that enjoy their rank without owing it to some other standard?5

I think McLeod is basically correct in this objection, although there is considerable room for disagreement concerning the explanation for some standard’s supremacy relative to other standards. McLeod himself does not try to give such an explanation and instead only argues for its possibility. But as I believe his argument is problematic, we should rather

5 McLeod, “Just Plain Ought,” 286 (McLeod’s emphasis).

The Supremacy Challenge  147 turn to Dorsey, who offers a convincing objection to Copp’s incoherency argument.6 According to Dorsey, Copp’s argument relies on two key assumptions. The first is what he calls “normativity of comparison,” which states that if there is any domain with greater normative weight simpliciter than another, this comparative fact must be explained by a normative principle independent of these two domains. The other assumption Dorsey attributes to Copp is that morality and prudence themselves have independent normative significance that competes with reason-​as-​such. But if we deny them any independent normative significance, then we can hold a view where reason-​as-​such is the only independently normative standpoint. On Dorsey’s view, all normativity is internal to reason-​as-​such, and morality and prudence derive their normativity from this standpoint rather than independently competing with it. Because of this, normativity of comparison applies when comparing morality with prudence but doesn’t apply when comparing morality or prudence with reason-​as-​such. That one has stronger reasons to conform with reason-​as-​ such is simply a conceptual truth, rather than a substantive question in need of further vindication. I accept Dorsey’s objection to Copp’s incoherency argument. It shows how we can coherently make sense of an overarching normative standpoint.7 This corresponds to how we have been portraying the relationship between what we prudentially or morally ought and what we just plain ought. If there is an overarching normative standpoint, then the oughts of morality and prudence can be reduced to mere reasons that play some part in a weighing explanation of what we just plain ought to do. Given that such a standpoint exists, these qualified oughts would not be independent oughts competing with the ought simpliciter but are only domain-​restricted parts of a broader, more generic ought.8 But the question still remains: does such a standpoint 6 McLeod’s argument is problematically based on an analogy with supremacy in US law. See Dorsey, The Limits, 23, for criticism of this analogy. 7 However, see Baker, “Skepticism about Ought Simpliciter,” for another argument against the coherency of supremacy. Baker agrees with the objection above to Copp’s argument but is skeptical about the coherency of the concept of supremacy for other reasons, having to do with the lack of clear content in notions such as “supreme,” “authoritative,” and the like. On the other hand, the coherency of supremacy has also been argued for by Wodak in “Mere Formalities” and McPherson in “Authoritatively Normative Concepts.” 8 Unless one is committed to a deflationary form of normative pluralism, some form of supremacy property must also be part of pluralist theories. Considering that morality and prudence cover many potentially competing values (such as justice and benevolence for morality or needs and meaning for prudence), some privileged comparison of various competing moral/​prudential considerations must be possible for there to be a unified moral or prudential standpoint.

148  Normative Pluralism exist? We can begin to answer this question by a substantive investigation into potential candidates that could be claimed to constitute such a standpoint. Could any standpoint plausibly be identified as such?

6.3.  Rationality and the Nature of the Overarching Normative Standpoint One thing that could help us understand the way in which moral and prudential reasons could potentially combine and systematically interrelate is if we knew something about the nature of the overarching standpoint within which they are supposed to combine. As we shall see, a close connection between the overarching normative standpoint and rationality seems to be a recurrent theme in the philosophical literature, and the two are often even equated. Can this purported connection help us justify the need for an overarching normative standpoint and help us understand its character? In this section, I will argue that any appeal to “rationality” will not bear much fruit. “Rationality,” I shall contend, can refer to very different things, and none of them will do the job. The possible concepts of rationality to which we can appeal are either inappropriate or too obscure to help us gain any further understanding of the purported overarching normative standpoint. Let me first start by noting a general feature of normative standpoints and how normative pluralism relates to it, namely, an important role that oughts play in our thinking and practice. It should be quite uncontroversial to say that when you violate an ought, you are liable to criticism of some form or other. A normal form that such a criticism takes is to call attention to the fact that the action that violates the ought is an expression of or is associated with a character trait that from some normative perspective is considered bad or, in other words, an expression of a vice. For instance, doing something morally wrong might be “monstrous,” “callous,” “egoistic,” “unjust,” “unfair,” “insensitive,” or something similar expressive of a moral vice, depending on the severity and type of wrong committed. Doing something prudentially wrong, on the other hand, might be “myopic,” “intemperate,” “rash,” “self-​annihilating,” “lazy,” “squeamish,” or something similar expressing a prudential vice. These types of criticisms of the moral and prudential kind are familiar to us, and they are generally easy to categorize as belonging to either the moral or the prudential standpoint (or both). We seem to have a

The Supremacy Challenge  149 good grasp of how violating moral and prudential oughts makes us liable to criticism and of what types of criticism they make us liable to. An important function of oughts is thus to legitimize the application of such labels when those oughts are violated, and the type of the ought helps us specify what kind of failure we are committing. Consider now a case, for example, stealing something that does not belong to you. To do what you morally ought not to do, like stealing, could be described as callous, egoistic, unjust, unfair, and insensitive. The agent who violates the moral ought obtaining in this case would clearly be liable to a criticism like this, and the type of criticism that is appropriate seems explainable simply by the fact that it was a moral ought that was violated. The liability to criticism and what kind of criticism you are liable to are easily explained and seem to be fully captured by normative pluralism. Normative pluralism can, through distinguishing different types of oughts, distinguish which kind of criticism is appropriate. The criticisms it would deem appropriate would, it seems, be no different from the criticism we are actually prepared to assign in practice. Equally important is the distribution of liability to a certain form of praise. We can appreciate Paul Gauguin’s drive and artistic ambitiousness in leaving his family and moral obligations for an artistically rewarding and enjoyable life in Tahiti. At the same time, we might find these actions strongly criticizable from the moral point of view. The actions therefore seem liable to both a positive and a negative assessment from two different standpoints. The tendency also seems appropriate the other way around. We might find someone’s self-​sacrifice for the greater good of humanity to be highly praiseworthy, while at the same time finding it appropriate to negatively evaluate that agent for a self-​annihilating lack of prudence.9 Normative pluralism therefore seems to capture, as well as explain, when we find actions and agents liable to criticism, what kinds of criticism are applicable, and what kind of failure we are committing. The normative pluralist would therefore like to claim that pluralism accounts for our relevant practices and that nothing more is really needed for explaining why and for what we are liable to forms of praise and criticism. The problem that now arises for normative monism is not that normative monism cannot draw up the same distinctions and explain when and how an act or agent might be liable to moral or prudential criticism. After all, the moral and the prudential standpoints are parts of the overarching normative 9 See Susan Wolf, “Moral Saints,” Journal of Philosophy 79, no. 8 (1982): 419–​439.

150  Normative Pluralism standpoint and may distribute forms of praise and criticism in the same way and for the same reasons. The problem is rather whether there is any further role for the overarching normative standpoint to play and whether we therefore have any need of this kind of standpoint. If it distributes these evaluations in the same way, does it somehow add to the magnitude of the evaluations? This doesn’t seem to be the case.10 The two normative standpoints that are recognized by normative pluralism seem to allow for the most severe criticisms we can imagine. Violating various requirements of moral and prudential importance may warrant labels such as “monstrous,” “insane,” “horrendous,” or “idiotic.” So there seems to be no lack of severity based on these familiar standpoints. Is there, then, any further type of criticism that we are liable to when we violate the overarching normative standpoint? Is there some further type of mistake that we may make? If the normative monist were able to point to such a type, then we might gain a better understanding of the nature of the overarching normative standpoint, as well as of its role and how it might structure our reasons.

6.3.1.  The Overarching Normative Standpoint as Rationality This is where the idea of rationality comes into the picture. There seems to be a long tradition of equating the most important kind of ought with the rational ought. Morality itself has long been evaluated and sought to be justified in terms of the extent to which it conforms to or can be said to represent “rationality.” Use of the term “rational” is widespread in philosophy for describing the type of normativity that really matters. This is perhaps most strongly expressed in the Kantian tradition, where the moral imperatives are the imperatives of “pure reason.” It is also present in various forms of moral rationalism—​from rights theorists such as John Locke, who thinks that “the proper function of man is acting in conformity with reason,” to consequentialists such as Henry Sidgwick, who sometimes describes what we ought to do as “dictates of reason.”11 In contemporary literature, Michael 10 A similar point is made by Baker, “Skepticism about Ought Simpliciter,” 241; Donald Hubin, “What’s Special about Humeanism,” Noûs 33, no. 1 (1999): 40. 11 John Locke, Essays on the Law of Nature, in Mark Goldie (ed.), Political Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 83. Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics (7th ed.), ch. 3, §3. However, in the moral rationalist tradition, it can sometimes be obscure whether reason or rationality is merely the instrument by which we gain knowledge about what we ought to do or whether the normative requirements are required in virtue of their rational nature.

The Supremacy Challenge  151 Smith, for example, has advocated the view that moral judgments are to be understood as what one would desire if one were fully rational.12 What is important is that this tradition sometimes seems to suggest that the overarching normative standpoint can be characterized in terms of rationality. This means that the function of that standpoint is tied to that of rationality, such that when we criticize someone who violates the oughts of this standpoint, we are criticizing them in terms of rationality. The fault they are making by not complying with that kind of ought is a rational fault, which, according to Derek Parfit, potentially makes us liable to such labels as “senseless,” “stupid,” “idiotic,” and “crazy.”13 This suggestion may conceivably give us a more determinate picture of the nature of the overarching standpoint and what it is supposed to be about. Rationality is something that arguably is important in our lives as agents, and one might think that it is something of which we have a good and independent understanding. Unfortunately, however, the mere appeal to “rationality” does not help us gain much of a better understanding of the nature of the overarching standpoint, since the term is not used consistently by philosophers. “Rationality” and “rational” can refer to a variety of different things. In order to assess the suggestion, we therefore need to look at the various meanings that the word can have in philosophy.

6.3.2.  Two Meanings of “Rational” Rationality is used in many different ways. I present two potential meanings of “rational” here and examine whether they can help us elucidate the nature of the overarching normative standpoint. I do not claim that this is a full list of how the term “rationality” can be used. In particular, I am not discussing “rationality” as referring to a capacity. I will instead be discussing “rationality” as referring to a standard against which to assess an agent’s actions or mental attitudes. Rationality as a capacity might then be conceived as the capacity to conform to this standard. With rationality understood as a standard, the two meanings of ‘rational’ then refer to two different standards that ‘rationality’ is

12 Michael Smith, The Moral Problem (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994), 185. 13 Parfit, On What Matters, Vol. 1, 33; Gert, Brute Rationality, 162. Note that while these could also be used as prudential forms of criticism, they seem to be associated with intelligence and could represent the criticism of some more epistemic type of standpoint.

152  Normative Pluralism constituted by.” Both meanings are widely used with respect to what rationality is thought supposed to be about. The first conception of rationality I will mention is the understanding of rationality that is expressed, for example, by John Broome, which was first explained in section 4.2. Rationality, Broome says, concerns itself with ensuring consistency and coherency between mental states. The requirements of rationality therefore concern themselves only with gaining or preserving such mental coherency and consistency. This conception views the standard such that rationality requires you only to satisfy certain formal constraints upon your mental attitudes in order to make them fit together. Rationality, in this sense, does not ensure that your beliefs are true or that you have the beliefs that you ought to have or that you intend to act as you ought to act. The aim of this standard is an ordered mind, and an ordered mind can be realized in multiple ways without necessarily tracking any truths. This is what is generally referred to as a “structural” conception of rationality.14 Another conception understands rationality as not being merely structural but requires you to have certain substantive beliefs or other attitudes in order to count as being rational. Normally, such conceptions of rationality require you to respond in some appropriate way to normative reasons. This conception of rationality is directly linked to the normative weight of the reasons that exist. If you were to consider all relevant reasons and their strength, you would be acting rationally if you do what those reasons together require or permit you to do, and you would act irrationally by acting otherwise. In addition to the term “rational,” terms such as “reasonable” may also be used to describe the concerns of this kind of standard. This is what is generally referred to as a “substantive” conception of rationality. But while we should expect structural theories of rationality to be more or less similar to one another, and conversely not expect too much disagreement on what counts as ordered relations between mental states, it should be stressed that substantive theories can vary widely from each other, as there are a great many theories and opinions on what reasons there are, what their normative weight is, and what actions they call for.

14 See T. M. Scanlon, “Structural Irrationality,” in Geoffrey Brennan et al. (eds.), Common Minds: Themes from the Philosophy of Philip Pettit (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 84–​103.

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6.3.3.  Different Conceptions of Rationality as the Overarching Normative Standpoint These are rough descriptions of the two conceptions of rationality. Both could be made more sophisticated in various ways, and hybrid conceptions are also possible. I will review the prospects for each of them to help us learn more about the overarching normative standpoint. There are two questions to ask: (i) Can they help put some substance into a standpoint that is otherwise just a placeholder, and so be able to specify what kind of criticism an agent is liable to when he or she fails to live up to the standard? (ii) Is it plausible to suppose that any of these standpoints has the property of supremacy that the overarching normative standpoint is supposed to have? I argue that no conception of rationality has good prospects for answering yes to both questions. Structural Rationality With respect to structural conceptions of rationality, the answer seems to be a clear no. The type of standard that is at the core of structural conceptions of rationality is simply not the kind of standard that could do the job of weighing reasons against each other. Rationality conceived in this manner concerns itself not with determining substantive normative truths but with upholding consistency and coherency among one’s mental states. Because of this, it doesn’t really address the question of what is, in fact, the strongest set of reasons in a case of normative conflict. The only thing it could address is whether our beliefs about this question are in order and whether our intentions match up with those beliefs. But since we are interested in what the facts are concerning the relationship between two sets of reasons and not with the relationship between the mental states of an agent, this type of rationality is an answer to the wrong kind of question. However, even if we are unable to explain the role and nature of the overarching normative standpoint by identifying it with the standard of rationality, the monist might still argue that we are able to gain some understanding of it through the overarching normative standpoint’s special connection with rationality. It may be thought that even if identification fails, the two things still share a relationship that might help us understand what kinds of criticism and praise are appropriate when violating or conforming with the standpoint, and so help us understand what further kind of normative assessments the overarching normative standpoint can bring to bear

154  Normative Pluralism upon the agent. That there is such a special relationship is made evident by the enkratic requirement, which is one of the requirements of rationality and one of the main ways in which rationality can be practical. The requirement, discussed in section 4.2, states that if you believe you just plain ought to F, then you intend to F. In other words, the relationship is such that if you believe that the overarching normative standpoint requires you to F, then you are not fully rational if, at the same time, you do not intend to F. The enkratic requirement, as explained previously, applies only to the oughts of the overarching standpoint that are normatively supreme, not to qualified oughts. This means that if your normative beliefs match up with the overarching normative standpoint, you would not be fully rational if you violate any of its requirements. Potentially, then, by violating the overarching normative standpoint, you are making a rational mistake and so become liable to “rational” criticism. Moreover, if you fail to do what you just plain ought to do, you would necessarily be either irrational or ignorant. While this conclusion is sound, structural rationality still fails at being a proper candidate for the overarching normative standpoint. There are several reasons for this. The first is that it fails at meeting the codification challenge. Rationality simply requires you to have an ordered mind. It does not in itself provide you with any directions for how you are to weigh moral and prudential reasons. While it is a codified standpoint, it does not codify how you are to make moral-​prudential comparisons. We can grant that if there was a normatively privileged way to compare these reasons and determine what you just plain ought to do, then you would either be irrational or ignorant in not doing the prescribed action. But structural rationality does not determine what we ought simpliciter to do in moral-​prudential conflicts, it only requires us to intend to do whatever it is we believe we all things considered ought to do. Second, it is far from clear why the standpoint of structural rationality should possess the property of supremacy. Why should having an ordered mind be the supreme type of consideration? Even if it is granted that having a less than fully ordered mind is a harm to the agent, why would this harm be of greater importance than, or override, all other harms to the agent (or to other agents)? If, for example, a great harm could be avoided by being structurally irrational, then why would it be more important to be rational?15 15 It is arguable whether conflicts between rationality and practical concerns are possible given the principle of “ought implies can” and if we cannot at will become irrational (in which case, it couldn’t not be the case that we morally or prudentially ought to be irrational). But even asking the question of the relative importance should make us suspicious of assigning such supreme importance to rational considerations that are simply about coherency.

The Supremacy Challenge  155 Some have even argued that structural rationality isn’t normative at all, in the sense of providing us with reasons.16 This can be argued for by contrasting concerns about psychic tidiness with seemingly more important practical concerns (as above) or by pointing out that coherence doesn’t even require true beliefs. The enkratic requirement therefore doesn’t require you to base your intentions on any beliefs that are true (or good), and it is therefore unclear why it is so important to follow.17 Structural rationality and psychic tidiness are at best instrumentally useful for achieving other things of value, it may be argued, and are in that case only derivatively normative to the extent that they can help achieve this.18 I will not rehearse this well-​known debate concerning whether structural rationality fundamentally provide us with reasons, as normative pluralism does not need to deny it a fundamental normativity. It could be recognized as fundamentally normative, but as long as it is not considered of supreme importance, it merely expands the pluralism. Another general and related problem is that the enkratic requirement just does not seem to provide the right kind of explanation of what the agent does wrong for it to be understood as an overarching normative requirement that is supposed to cover and commensurate all relevant reasons for the choice situation. The criticism that is applicable when violating the requirement is a very specific and limited one that does not seem to be that which one would be liable to by violating plain normative requirements. What I am criticizing is not really that the agent intends to act against the overall balance of reasons but simply that the agent’s intentions are not in line with their normative beliefs. Since this kind of criticism is a criticism of a belief-​intention pair and not of how the agent relates to actual normative reasons, it seems to be a criticism of the wrong aspects of the agent.

16 Niko Kolodny, “Why Be Rational?,” Mind 114 (2005): 509–​563; Niko Kolodny, “Why Be Disposed to Be Coherent?,” Ethics 118, no. 3 (2008): 437–​463; John Broome, “Does Rationality Give Us Reasons?,” Philosophical Issues 15, no. 1 (2005): 321–​337; Broome, Rationality through Reasoning, 192–​205; Jonathan Way, “The Normativity of Rationality,” Philosophy Compass 5, no. 12 (2010): 1057–​1068. 17 Nor does it commit you to following up beliefs with corresponding intentions. On a common wide-​scope interpretation of the enkratic requirement, it can also be satisfied by dropping one’s beliefs. And were we to assume a narrow-​scope interpretation, it would not be plausible as a normative requirement with supremacy. Certainly, it is not true that we ought to intend what we believe we ought, no matter how crazy or monstrous the beliefs. For more on wide-​and narrow-​scope requirements, see Broome, Rationality through Reasoning, 132–​146; Kolodny, “Why Be Rational?” 18 And according to Niko Kolodny, it isn’t necessarily so in all circumstances, and we do not even ought to have the disposition to strive for formal coherence as such, as this will neither help us believe what the evidence supports nor help us intend what we should. Kolodny, “Why Be Rational?” and “Why Be Disposed to Be Rational?”

156  Normative Pluralism Substantive Rationality Could the substantive conception of rationality do a better job, such that we would find it plausible to identify it with the overarching normative standpoint? Possibly. But we should first note that it won’t do with just any version of substantive rationality. We need a standard of substantive rationality with content that seems well grounded and that can combine prudential and moral reasons in such a way that seems sufficiently fitting and authoritative for us to see it as normatively supreme and so deserving to be identified as an overarching normative standpoint. The problem is just that we need concrete candidates that can spell out at least roughly how these reasons are to be combined, and we also need some argument telling us why this particular way of doing so represents a way that should be understood as normatively supreme. “Rationality,” as it is used here, does not refer to any specific normative standard but is merely a placeholder for whatever reasons there are that we ought to respond to. In principle, there is no guarantee that the different types of normative reasons should combine at all. But if such a candidate ensuring commensuration could be found, we could perhaps get a grasp on the nature of the overarching normative standpoint, the kind of failures we are making when we violate this standpoint, and the kind of criticisms to which we would be liable when doing so. But now we are back to where we began, namely, with the two challenges from normative pluralism about getting the monist to give us a convincing picture of the purported overarching normative standpoint and why it should be considered supreme. While substantive rationality has a conceptual connection to the appropriateness of certain forms of criticism and praise, namely, whether or not one is sensitive and responsive to reasons, we have come no further in understanding when such judgments are in order. Saying that violating the overarching normative standpoint involves making a rational mistake, making one liable to a rational kind of criticism, is not especially illuminating if one can say nothing about what reasons one fails to relate rationally to. Moreover, the form of criticism related to insensitivity and unresponsiveness to reasons (and the converse type of praise) can also be explained in pluralistic terms. Such criticism would be appropriate in relation to sensitivity and responsiveness of particular types of reasons (giving us qualified sensitivity and responsiveness such as being “morally insensitive”), and it would also be appropriate in more general terms in relation to whether or not one is sensitive to and responds to what one ought all things consideredquantificational to do.

The Supremacy Challenge  157 Hybrid Accounts As mentioned, there are also some hybrid accounts of rationality that attempt to combine substantive and structural accounts. While I cannot review each attempt here, I will briefly look at Smith’s account, which may be particularly instructive. Smith attempts to combine the two by understanding our normative reasons in terms of what an ideally structurally rational agent would do, given full information of non-​normative facts.19 Now, we can first ask what normative content this conception involves. At the outset, it seems that such agents would do just about anything (or nothing), as what they would do would entirely depend upon their desires. If they had no desires, they would do nothing and would seemingly be perfectly rational in having no intentions. If an ideally structurally rational agent with full non-​normative information wouldn’t do anything in particular, we would not have any determinate solution as to what to do when faced with a moral-​prudential conflict. However, Smith believes that all such agents would, in fact, converge on some determinate desires, which would further determine how any such agent would act under some circumstance.20 According to Smith, they would converge upon certain desires with “a recognizable moral content.”21 Now, there are many good reasons to believe that there does not have to be such a convergence among rational agents, but let us assume for the sake of argument that there would be.22 Suppose also that Smith is right that they would converge upon some desires consistent with what morality requires of one. Finally, assume also the truism that morality sometimes requires one to make sacrifices with respect to one’s own self-​interest to a significant degree. From the perspective of the actual (non-​idealized) agent, we seem to get the following legitimate complaint: “Why should I sacrifice my

19 Smith, The Moral Problem, 151. See also Michael Smith, “In Defense of The Moral Problem: A Reply to Brink, Copp and Sayre-​McCord,” Ethics 198, no. 1 (1997): 88–​89. 20 Smith, “In Defense,” 89. 21 Michael Smith, “Agents and Patients, or: What We Learn about Reasons for Action by Reflecting on Our Choices in Process-​of-​Thought Cases,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 112, no. 3 (2012): 328. 22 For some arguments against the claim of convergence, see David Enoch, “Rationality, Coherence, Convergence: A Critical Comment on Michael Smith’s Ethics and the A Priori,” Philosophical Books 48, no. 2 (2007): 99–​108; Donald C. Hubin, “Converging on Values,” Analysis 59, no. 4 (1999): 355–​ 361; David Sobel, “Do the Desires of Rational Agents Converge?,” Analysis 59, no. 4 (1999): 137–​147. Note that Smith himself thinks that it is unclear whether there would be convergence and that if there would be no convergence, then realism about reasons would be false. Michael Smith, “Exploring the Implications of the Dispositional Theory of Value,” Noûs 36, no. 1 (2002): 343; Smith, The Moral Problem, 201.

158  Normative Pluralism well-​being for the sake of satisfying the desires of some idealized counterpart of mine, desires that I do not share and that I would only have given unrealizable ideal circumstances?” Perhaps this objection is too strong, however. Perhaps I could change my desires through some feat of reasoning, thereby satisfying those requirements of rationality that Smith thinks apply to me. So I can live up to the rational ideal, and I rationally should. But suppose now that transitioning to such a state would itself come with significant prudential cost. This seems plausible to suppose if that transitioning, for example, involves hedonic suffering or if it means giving up on projects, relationships, and particularities to which I am attached, maybe even such that it could involve a change of identity. Now, it might be the case that this type of rationality provides us with a normative sense of ought—​and that it would be either identical to or separate from the moral standpoint. But given the prudential costs it might involve, it seems to potentially conflict with the prudential standpoint. We therefore need to ask if we have reason to think that this type of rationality possesses supremacy in being the normatively most important standpoint. To Smith, the answer would be yes, since this simply follows from his conceptual analysis. According to this account, being the considerations that motivate ideally rational and fully informed agents is simply what reasons are. But from a more intuitive and commonsensical point of view, the agent does seem to possess reasons to resist transitioning to becoming a fully rational agent in Smith’s sense of rationality. To do so might involve a process that warrants prudential criticism, perhaps even of the strongest kind, by being self-​annihilating. This seems to give us cause to question whether we should accept Smith’s reductive analysis in the first place.23 Unless Smith can deny that there could be such transitional costs or show that they would not truly affect the well-​being of the agent, that agent appears to have actual reasons to resist that transition. Admitting such reasons would spell trouble both for his analysis of reasons and for his conception of rationality and the supremacy of that type of rationality. For given that the prudential costs are significant, it may appear reasonable and, in some sense, rational for agents to protect or pursue their own well-​being even if they “rationally ought” (in the Smithian sense) to transform their desires.

23 The analysis is anyway based on contestable premises. For an argument against the analysis, see, e.g., David Copp, “Belief, Reason, and Motivation: Michael Smith’s The Moral Problem,” Ethics 108, no. 1 (1997): 33–​54.

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6.3.4.  The Relevance of “Rational” Criticism as an Indicator of Ought Simpliciter From what we have seen, the standard of rationality does not seem to help us illuminate the nature of the overarching normative standpoint. But even if it cannot tell us anything about the plain ought, perhaps it can serve a different role, such as telling us that a plain ought is present—​or, in other words, as evidence of the existence of a plain ought. The idea is the following. If a certain kind of “rational” criticism is warranted when a plain ought is violated, then, if we find that a certain action or intention warrants criticism in this way, it would indicate that we are dealing with a violation of an overarching normative standpoint. If that is the case, then we seem to have strong evidence of there actually being such things as overarching oughts. For this strategy to be successful, two general things must be true. First, we must have a sufficiently good grasp of when or in what instances rational criticism is actually warranted and in a way that is independent of what theories we may have about normative monism or pluralism. If we judge that some instance warrants a particular kind of criticism of rationality simply because that is implied by a monistic normative theory, that judgment cannot non-​ circularly give support to said theory. Second, if the sort of “rational” criticism that we find warranted is to serve as evidence of an overarching ought, then that criticism must be of a type that can only be explained by an overarching ought. Even if we find some sort of appropriate criticism that is not covered by morality or prudence, that criticism might be warranted by a non-​normative standard or by some other normative standpoint without supremacy. One cannot therefore connect the relevance of a rational form of criticism directly with the criticism of an overarching normative standpoint, as one will need some independent reason for believing that the standpoint that warrants the criticism has the property of supremacy. Moreover, the existence of some form of rational criticisms that go beyond moral and prudential criticism can also be explained without positing an overarching normative standpoint. By acting contrary to the counsels of both morality and prudence, one would be insensitive to reasons, whatever their kind. Like a quantificational ought, this observation is just a generalization over reasons and not something that requires comparability. Still, this kind of general fact seems to warrant criticisms such as “senseless,” “stupid,” and “idiotic.”

160  Normative Pluralism It is still possible to appeal to these types of criticisms to ground some sort of normative monism. Suppose there is some moral-​prudential conflict, and suppose that by violating, for example, the moral requirement, one would be liable to a criticism of the “rational” kind. If so, that could be seen as evidence that one just plain ought to conform to the moral requirement. I leave this as an open possibility that the normative monist could try to appeal to, but I can think of no relevant cases. And we have already seen that an important motivation for normative pluralism is the intuition that one is never irrational in pursuing one’s self-​interest or in doing the morally right thing.24 The likeliest cases of such irrationality would be the nominal-​notable cases we looked at in c­ hapter 5, but we saw that there are good ways for the pluralist to fall in line with common judgments with respect to such cases. With this, I conclude that the mere appeal to rationality will not help us in understanding the nature of the overarching normative standpoint.

6.4.  The Overarching Normative Standpoint and the Overridingness of Morality There is another standard that is often taken to be normatively privileged in determining our actions, and this is morality itself.25 It is often claimed that the requirements of morality override other types of concerns.26 The reason for this is primarily that other possible comparative relationships are profoundly unattractive. I will argue that this means that monism with the thesis of moral overridingness is preferable to monism without the thesis of moral overridingness. With respect to any case where we might want to claim that the verdicts of morality and prudence are comparable, assuming the standard trichotomy thesis, there are three possible comparative relations. Either (i) the moral

24 See also Gert, Brute Rationality, 165. 25 This proposal need not be in conflict with the former proposal but can be a concretization of substantive rationality. It is indeed often understood in this way and described as a “moral rationalism.” See, e.g., Douglas W. Portmore, Morality and Practical Reasons (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021), 51. This means that violating a moral requirement warrants not only moral criticism but also rational criticism such as being “unreasonable.” 26 Although this view has come under much fire recently, it has traditionally had many defenders. It is central to the Kantian tradition and can also be found, e.g., in Smith, The Moral Problem, 64–​ 65, 91; Peter Singer and Katarzyna de Lazari-​Radek, The Point of View of the Universe: Sidgwick and Contemporary Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), ­chapter 7; Portmore, Morality and Practical Reasons, 51–​62.

The Supremacy Challenge  161 reasons are stronger than the prudential reasons, or (ii) the prudential reasons are stronger than the moral reasons, or (iii) the moral and prudential reasons are equally strong. In principle, which relationship would obtain may vary considerably from case to case. But if we think there is an overarching normative standpoint, that would mean that we think there is some systematic relationship to how morality and prudence compare and therefore also a systematic distribution of what comparative relationship obtains across cases. The moral overridingness thesis (OT) expresses a particularly strong form of systematic relationship. This is how it is stated by Sarah Stroud:27 (OT) If S is morally required to ɸ, then S has most reason to ɸ.

I take it that we can freely substitute “strongest reason(s)” for “most reason.” But while I think Stroud’s formulation of the thesis is correct, it might be considered too weak to express the right idea, since it is unclear what entailments the consequent is thought to have. I take it that in order for morality to override, the moral reasons for ɸ-​ing must defeat the competing considerations for not ɸ-​ing and entail that one just plain ought to ɸ. If the moral requirement to ɸ is overriding, then it is plain impermissible not to ɸ. This seems, on a close reading of her paper, to be the idea that Stroud is after (although she makes little reference to the concept of “ought”). OT, in Stroud’s sense, is not compatible with normative pluralism, since it presupposes that moral reasons can compare with and will outweigh other normative reasons. According to Stroud, much work in moral philosophy presupposes overridingness, and the thesis is often taken for granted.28 In Stroud’s words: One could say that moral theorists have an occupational bias in favor of overridingness. We typically don’t think we are simply working on a particular system of evaluation, the importance of which in human conduct is an open question. We would not be happy with the idea that it could be perfectly all right—​not morally all right, but all right from some more general perspective—​to violate the moral requirements which we strive to articulate and defend.29 27 Sarah Stroud, “Moral Overridingness and Moral Theory,” Philosophical Quarterly 79, no. 2 (1998): 171. 28 Ibid., 177–​178. See also Dorsey, The Limits, 14–​16. However, it should be noted that there are also a number of philosophers who deny overridingness, including Dorsey (ibid., 201). 29 Stroud, “Moral Overridingness,” 177.

162  Normative Pluralism But OT is not assumed entirely without reason. Stroud claims that OT is deeply embedded in our conception of morality and that it reflects our common convictions about sufficient reasons. There are strong reasons to accept OT. To a certain extent, I think we need to accept the thesis, namely, the extent to which we accept commensurability between moral and prudential reasons. For Stroud seems to be right in saying that we would not be happy with the outcome that it could be just plain permissible to violate the requirements of rationality. Imagine the following scenario: Murder. Suppose that you encounter a prospector in the wilderness who has found an extremely valuable seam of gold ore. The prospector is ever vigilant against theft, but by killing him, and only by killing him, you could get hold of his map and become very wealthy, thus providing for yourself and your family and friends for generations. You prudentially ought to kill him, but the fact that you would become wealthy is not enough to justify killing him from a moral point of view, so you have a moral duty not to kill him.

With respect to this scenario, we can stipulate that we know what we morally and prudentially ought to do.30 But what is it, if anything, that we just plain ought to do? I think most people would not be prepared to say that we just plain ought to commit the murder or that we are just plain permitted to commit the murder. The considerable rewards might be tempting, but it seems strange to think that the moral requirement against murder could be defeated by these kinds of prudential considerations—​no matter how high the profit. Consider two further scenarios: Theft. Suppose that you encounter a prospector in the wilderness who has found an extremely valuable seam of gold ore. The prospector is not very vigilant, and you could easily sneak up and steal his map and become very wealthy, thus providing for yourself and your family and friends for generations. You prudentially ought to steal the map, but the fact that you would

30 Though whether prudence would actually require such a thing is not obvious. The prudential reason in favor of the murder is notable in this scenario, but there may be further prudential reasons that could outweigh it. I think it is quite plausible to claim that prudence would require you to refrain from murder in this type of case, but for now, we can assume that there is such a prudential requirement to murder for the sake of argument.

The Supremacy Challenge  163 become wealthy is not enough to justify stealing from him from a moral point of view, so you have a moral duty not to steal from him. Lying. Suppose that you encounter a prospector in the wilderness who has found an extremely valuable seam of gold ore. The prospector is vigilant but gullible, and you could easily trick him into selling you his map cheaply and become very wealthy, thus providing for yourself and your family and friends for generations. You prudentially ought to trick him, but the fact that you would become wealthy is not enough to justify tricking him from a moral point of view, so you have a moral duty not to trick him.

In Theft, the moral cost of acquiring the map is much less than in Murder, and in Lying, it is less still (since a certain level of consent and compensation is involved). Still, even though the rewards of violating the duties of morality are considerable, it does not seem right that one just plain ought to lie or steal in these cases, either. The suspicion is that these results generalize. No matter how much we increase the size of the benefit, it does not seem correct that prudential considerations such as these can ever just plain outweigh our moral duties. No matter the size of the benefit, there seems to be no morally impermissible act we could perform in order to acquire the map that could be considered permissible simpliciter. To test this suspicion, consider a more normal case with a much less stringent moral requirement: Free-​riding. Suppose that you are a fisherman catching your fish from a depletable fish stock. The other fishermen who are exploiting the same stock make an effort to limit their catches in order to keep the stock sustainable over time. Due to considerations of fairness and justice, morality requires you to limit your catch in the same way. However, you could easily take a larger catch without significant negative consequences for anyone (since the joint restrictiveness of the other fishermen ensures sustainability). Because doing so would give you a significantly higher profit, you prudentially ought to do so.

We might think that if anything, Free-​riding must be a case where we can truly say that a prudential requirement can just plain outweigh the moral requirements and where OT could be wrong, as no one is even hurt by your violation of the moral requirements. However, I doubt that even this can be correct. If prudence outweighs morality in this case, then it would be the

164  Normative Pluralism case that you just plain ought not to participate in the maintenance of this public good. This is equivalent to saying that an agent who chooses to pursue the moral benefits and limit the size of his or her catch would be acting in a way that is normatively wrong. Instead of being overall praiseworthy for making a sacrifice for the sake of something morally good, the agent would be liable to criticism of the most severe kind, since he or she would have violated the requirements of the normatively most important standpoint. This sounds extremely unattractive. Nor does it sit easily to say that the reasons in favor of the two options are equally strong and that free-​riding is just plain permissible. Such free-​riding seems, for one thing, to be an appropriate object of criticism, which could be seen as evidence for the claim that the free-​ riding agent has violated the overarching normative standpoint, if we are inclined to believe that such a standpoint exists.31 Moreover, it just seems very strange to say that infringing on the maintenance of a public good is, on the whole, perfectly all right from the overarching perspective of reasons. On the other hand, Consider the alternative provided by normative pluralism. For the pluralist, there is a conflict between the two normative standpoints. This precludes the possibility that one is just plain permitted to free-​ride and also precludes that one is all things consideredquantificational permitted to free-​ ride. Since there is no agreement, there is no quantificational permission. However, both options are rationally eligible. The pluralist interpretation of free-​riding, on the other hand, can explain the rationality of doing so (it is prudentially required) while also maintaining that there is an undefeated normative requirement to refrain from it—​a normative prohibition on free-​ riding that remains in place—​which furthermore explains why you would be liable to serious blame should you choose to do it. In all of these cases, violating moral requirements seems in some sense normatively forbidden, and to do so seems to make you liable to severe criticism. From a monist point of view, this seems to suggest that moral requirements are overriding. But we should note that these claims can also be accommodated by normative pluralism. From a pluralist point of view, there is, in fact, a sense in which these actions are normatively forbidden, and this also explains why you are liable to such criticism. No matter the size of the prudential benefit and no matter the relative severity of the moral infringement, the moral requirements cannot be outweighed and defeated. 31 See Portmore, Morality and Practical Reasons, 54–​60, for a defense of the claim that (assuming normative monism) if an agent is blameworthy, he or she cannot have sufficient reason to refrain to act on a moral requirement.

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6.4.1.  Monism with Moral Overridingness Compared with Normative Pluralism If our discussion of the cases above is right, then this seems to suggest that typical prudential reasons such as what actions would provide gain to myself are not of a type that can defeat moral requirements.32 We should note, however, that this notion is shared by the pluralist, and the pluralist’s appeal to incommensurability is an alternative explanation to OT in explaining this inability of prudential reasons to defeat moral requirements. Aside from the unattractiveness of claiming that it is just plain permissible to violate moral requirements, Stroud also points to some further intuitions that she thinks count in favor of OT. Stroud describes these intuitions in a way that seems to presuppose normative monism, and this could be thought to lend some support to monism with OT. But we should question whether these intuitions must be described with the sort of monist bias that Stroud puts into them, as it seems that when she tries to justify them, she appeals to grounds that can also be explained by the pluralist.33 Let us look at what Stroud says. One of the things that supposedly counts in favor of OT is that we are commonly “inclined to take the fact that S was morally required to ɸ to be sufficient overall justification for her ɸ-​ing, even if ɸ was prudentially wrong, unaesthetically unattractive, and so on. We generally accept moral necessity as sufficient reason for ɸ . . . as we don’t for the deliverances of other evaluative perspectives.”34 The latter of these two claims would, of course, beg the question against the normative pluralist who thinks that prudential requirements also come with sufficient reason. But we should note that if the important point here lies in catching the idea that there are always sufficient normative reasons for acting in accord with what we are morally required to do, then this idea is fully shared by the pluralist. For it is genuine normative reasons that underlie our moral requirement to ɸ, and 32 One might object to this claim by trying to come up with examples where some notable prudential reasons (such as those of collecting an enormous cash prize) seem to override some minor moral requirement (such as keeping your promise to meet your friend for a cup of coffee). But in many of these cases, it is not clear that we are dealing with a genuine moral requirement. For further discussion of these examples, see section 7.8. 33 Stroud does briefly consider and reject the idea that moral and prudential reasons could be incommensurable (Stroud, “Moral Overridingness,” 175). I do not think that Stroud has been able to fully appreciate the kind of normative pluralism that I have described in this book and so seems to think that incommensurability between reasons implies, for example, that an agent could not honor moral requirements as a rational response to reasons. This might explain why she describes these intuitions in a monist language. 34 Ibid., 177.

166  Normative Pluralism those reasons are sufficient justification for ɸ-​ing. We need not appeal to an “overall” sufficient justification in order to have sufficient normative justification to do something. The second thing that Stroud thinks counts in favor of OT is that some of us actually take morality to be overriding in the sense of defeating other claims. But here is how she goes on to elaborate on this: If morality is indeed overriding, then there is no difficulty in understanding this practice: such agents are simply responsive to the true weight of practical reasons. But if in fact morality is not overriding, a commitment to honoring its demands seems rationally unmotivated.35

Stroud continues by describing moral action as a rational response to reasons provided by the interests and claims of other individuals. Whether to uphold moral requirements is not simply a question of preference but a question of rational response to reasons. Forms of normative monism that do not accept OT might have a problem in explaining how other reasons might be defeated and how a commitment to morality could be rationally motivated. But is it a problem for the normative pluralist? It would be if the important point is about defeating and if we insist that the concept of defeating must be expressed as defeating in terms of plain strength. But again, if the important point is being able to explain that honoring moral requirements can be a rational response to reasons and going beyond mere preference, as Stroud seems to suggest, then normative pluralism and its incommensurable normative domains will again be an alternative to OT as an explanation of this intuition. Under normative pluralism, the moral reasons that explain the moral requirements are undefeated reasons with respect to any plain strength, and they are genuine reasons that provide a normative justification for honoring those requirements. An agent’s commitment to honoring morality’s demands can therefore be based on that normative justification, and so be a response to reasons, and not be based merely on preferences. The last point that Stroud thinks speaks in favor of OT is that we think of morality as setting constraints on the pursuit of our aims. This cannot be just any constraint, she claims, but must be a constraint from some broader perspective. Again, this description sounds like something that goes against

35 Ibid., 176.

The Supremacy Challenge  167 pluralism, but if the aim is to catch the notion of a real constraint on an agent, there is no need to think that this can only be explained in terms of a broader (overarching) perspective. Stroud goes on to say that “morality’s felt role as a constraint on the pursuit of those aims would be undermined if it were OK . . . from this more encompassing point of view . . . to ignore moral injunctions.”36 This worry seems to apply just as much to requirements like those in Lying and Free-​riding as in cases like Murder. Certain versions of normative monism that do not accept OT would seem to undermine this role as a constraint insofar as they take it to be plain permissible to ignore those requirements. But this is again not something that is possible on a pluralist view of normativity, as we cannot say from some broader, overarching standpoint that such actions are just plain permissible. Moral constraints are on the pluralistic approach interpreted as genuine and undefeated normative constraints on action. In general, then, the reasons that Stroud thinks count in favor of OT are probably better understood as reasons for preferring monist theories that accept OT over monist theories that reject OT than as reasons for preferring normative monism with OT over normative pluralism.37 The reason for this is that monist theories that reject OT have a harder time explaining the intuitions that motivate OT than normative pluralism seems to have. So if these intuitions are worth taking seriously, then normative monism should be understood as involving a commitment to the thesis of moral overridingness, as exemplified by, for instance, Parfit. Of course, whether OT really is, in the end, the best picture for monists is a complicated question, as Stroud argues. It depends crucially on which moral theory we ought to adopt. Moral theories that demand much in terms of personal sacrifice from an agent are less likely to feel and be overriding, according to Stroud, because, she argues, one’s own self-​interest has special rational weight as compared with the interests of other people, and only moral theories that recognize this fact can have the balance of reasons on their side:

36 Ibid. 37 Portmore also provides a persuasive argument in favor of a moral overridingness claim much like OT, but he does so on the basis of normative monism, which he argues for with the help of nominal-​notable comparisons. Assuming pluralism on the other hand, I think a central premise in his argument (‘P2’) can be challenged because we can distinguish between blame from different normative standpoints. That is, S could have sufficient reason to comply with a moral requirement and at the same time be prudentially blameworthy for it. See Portmore, Morality and Practical Reasons, 8–​12, 55–​58.

168  Normative Pluralism In order to prevail on the field of reasons for action in general, morality must itself be capacious, absorptive, flexible. It must be much more closely integrated with the point of view of the agent who is being asked to obey its instructions.38

And morality, as we ordinarily conceive of it, does possess this sort of sensitivity to the agent’s interests and aims, Stroud claims. What are we to make of all this with respect to what picture of normativity to prefer? We have seen that there are reasons to prefer monism with OT over monism without OT, and according to Stroud, the intuitions behind OT place some restrictions on what moral theories we should accept. But this is only insofar as we accept monism, as pluralism can explain these intuitions independently of what moral theory it accepts. The problem with conjoining monism with OT and utilitarianism is that morality would demand very much in terms of sacrifices from you, and all reasons not to do so would necessarily be defeated. On pluralism, prudential reasons not to sacrifice your own interests would remain undefeated. This means that pluralism is freer to accept demanding moral theories such as utilitarianism, as one can still reasonably reject such sacrifices. Indeed, it was utilitarianism that formed the backdrop to Sidgwick’s acceptance of the dualism of practical reason, and it seems that the same demandingness that makes utilitarianism hard to reconcile with OT is what in part makes the dualism attractive. Utilitarian morality requires sacrifices of the agent that are not in proportion with the agent’s own prudential standpoint. So if we accept this kind of moral theory, we already have some reason to accept normative pluralism. But what, then, of non-​utilitarian moral theories that give more ground to the agent’s own aims and can therefore more plausibly be paired with OT? If we accept this kind of theory, should we then accept OT and the monist picture it offers? The first thing to note when considering this question is that we can hardly expect a full convergence of the moral and prudential standpoints, such that all conflicts between morality and prudence are eliminated. Arguably, on any plausible picture of morality, an agent is sometimes required to make sacrifices that are costly for the agent, harm the agent’s self-​interest, and are contrary to the aims and projects of the agent. This means that the same rationale that was used for resisting OT conjoined with utilitarianism remains when OT is conjoined with less demanding theories, even if the problematic

38 Stroud, “Moral Overridingness, 184.

The Supremacy Challenge  169 conflicts would occur less frequently and/​or less starkly. Regardless of what theory is coupled with OT, we can still appeal to Sidgwickian intuitions, in that what is in one’s own interest also seems a fundamentally reasonable choice of action. These kinds of considerations count against OT. We should note with Stroud that although one often finds moral philosophy taking OT for granted, we should hardly do so ourselves, as OT, if true, would be a remarkable fact about our reasons, and its proponents owe us a convincing story of why our reasons would behave in this way.39 Samuel Scheffler, who is one of the most well-​known advocates of a moderate view of morality, himself describes OT as a very strong claim and for that reason thinks it improbable that it is true.40 We will see in section 8.3 that instead of focusing on the question of whether the reasons behind the moral requirement can outweigh and override the opposing prudential reasons, Scheffler wants to focus on the idea of integration, which is an approach to reasons, morality, and deliberation that is compatible with pluralism.

6.4.2.  Ways for the Monist to Avoid Overridingness Can the monist avoid having to commit to the strong thesis about reasons that is OT while at the same time doing justice to the intuitions that, we have argued, make it preferable over monism without OT? One way the monist can avoid admitting that prudential reasons ever override moral requirements, while still giving some room for prudential reasons to make other actions reasonable, is by saying that there are cases where the prudential reasons are just plain equally as strong as the reasons behind the moral requirement. But we have seen that part of the reason monism with OT is preferable to monism without it is that we would not be happy with the idea that it could be just plain permissible to violate moral requirements, and equality of plain strength seems to entail such permissibility. Not even in cases like Free-​riding, where the consequences of violating morality are not severe, does it sit well to say that it is just plain permissible not to do what morality requires of you. 39 Ibid., 178. 40 Scheffler, Human Morality, 56. He also thinks that less turns on the question of whether overridingness is true than some have supposed, since its truth would not guarantee that all sane people would act morally, nor would its falsity mean that people would abandon their moral beliefs and concerns (76–​77).

170  Normative Pluralism Another way to avoid this result is to appeal to local failure of comparison, rather than appealing to one of the three comparative relations. If comparability fails locally in, for example, Free-​riding, such that none of the three comparative relations holds, then we can deny OT while still avoiding having to say that the prudential reasons just plain outweigh or are just plain equally as strong as the reasons behind the moral requirement. Since comparison fails, we need not think that it is just plain permissible to violate the moral requirement. And by keeping the incomparability local, one could still claim that morality overrides prudence in other cases. What we should say about this strategy is that it owes us an explanation of why comparability should break down locally like this, as well as an account of how that failure of comparability actually will distribute. It is hard to assess this strategy without answers to those questions. I will now discuss two other strategies for avoiding overridingness: an appeal to indeterminacy and an appeal to a fourth comparative relation. Indeterminacy Broome argues that failure of comparability is best understood as indeterminacy and that the indeterminacy is a result of vagueness.41 Although Broome discusses “better than” and not “stronger than,” the two seem sufficiently similar to allow for the same conclusions. The idea is that these comparative predicates are vague in their application in the same way that “balder than” or “redder than” is. Although all these predicates have some clear applications where it is true that one item is “F-​er than” another, there is also what Broome calls a “zone of indeterminacy” where such truths cannot be established. Suppose that we are comparing moral and prudential oughts. In adapting Broome’s schema, we would think that there are clear cases where one of these oughts is stronger than the other, for instance, in nominal-​ notable cases. But when we move from a nominal-​notable case where, say, the moral ought is clearly stronger than the prudential ought, toward the opposite nominal-​notable case, where the prudential ought is clearly stronger than the moral ought, we are bound to encounter a zone of indeterminacy in between in which no truths can be found about which is stronger. In this zone, we might expect to find cases where the two oughts approximate each other in strength. However, Broome argues that it would be implausible to 41 John Broome, “Is Incommensurability Vagueness?,” in Ruth Chang (ed.), Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reason (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), 67–​89.

The Supremacy Challenge  171 think that there is any sharp boundary between the point where it is true that “x is F-​er than y” and the point where it is false. Just as “being bald” is vague, so is “being balder than.” For any ordinary comparative, we should expect to find some vagueness. So for any ordinary comparative, we should expect to find a zone of indeterminacy where it is neither true nor false that one item is “F-​er than” another, even though the comparative term covers both items.42 Such indeterminacy because of vagueness is a very natural phenomenon and so provides a cogent explanation for why comparisons fail. It also seems to be a very local phenomenon, since failures are contained within the zone of indeterminacy which is bordered by zones of truth. Indeed, the zone of indeterminacy only seems to cover cases where the items to be compared could be described as “roughly equal.” Since this kind of indeterminacy seems to be a natural feature of many comparisons, it may be thought to apply here, too, and to explain why we can sometimes experience indeterminacy with respect to the question of whether one has stronger reason to violate a moral requirement than to uphold it. We could, for example, imagine having indeterminacy in the case of Lying but not in the case of Murder with respect to the comparative term “are plain stronger reasons than.” The problem with this appeal to indeterminacy is that it isn’t incomparable enough, in the sense that it seems to presuppose cases where prudential reasons actually do outweigh moral requirements. First of all, the two types of reasons can still in principle be compared, and so it seems that there could in principle be cases where prudential reasons of one’s own gain can outweigh or become equal in strength to a moral duty. More important, if vagueness is all there is to it, then it seems that not only are such cases in principle possible, but, one could argue, we should ostensibly be able to find such cases if we just sufficiently increase the gain in the gold prospector scenarios. The natural case of a comparative predicate that allows for indeterminacy has what Broome calls “zones of truth” bordering its “zone of indeterminacy.” For example, for the comparative “is balder than,” there are some determinate cases where it is true that x is balder than y and some determinate cases where it is true that x is not balder than y (and so is equally as bald as or less bald than y). So if “plain stronger than” behaves like this, then we should expect there to be zones of truth where prudential reasons actually do

42 A problem still exists in that the transition from the zone of truth to the zone of indeterminacy is abrupt, but Broome argues that it is less stark than any direct transition from truth to falsity. See Chang, Making Comparisons Count, ­chapter 6, for a related criticism of Broome’s account.

172  Normative Pluralism outweigh or become equal in strength to moral requirements. If nothing else, it would be strange if “is a plain stronger reason than” were an exception to this structure. So the possibility of local failure of comparability only seems to suggest that moral duties can sometimes be outweighed by prudential considerations of gain to oneself, which conflicts with the central intuitions that Stroud describes. Parity Another attempt to avoid overridingness can be made by trying to appeal to a fourth comparative relation. So far, we have assumed that there are only three possible comparative relations among reasons. With respect to the strength of reasons, a reason r1 can be stronger than, weaker than, or equally as strong as another reason r2. Or more generally, with respect to some covering value, an item can be of greater, lesser, or equal value when compared to another item. The view that there are only these three possible comparative relations is known as the trichotomy thesis, and as we might expect, there are some philosophers who reject this thesis and argue for further types of comparative relations. For example, in addition to these three relations, Ruth Chang argues that there exists a fourth comparative relation, which she calls “parity.”43 Interestingly, she also thinks that the comparative terms that typically admit of parity are those that are “essentially normative.”44 According to Chang, being “a stronger reason than” is therefore a likely candidate for parity. When two items are “on a par” with respect to some covering value V, then it is not the case that one is better than the other, nor is it the case that they are equally good with respect to that value. It is also not possible to define what being “on a par” means by virtue of any other comparative relation or to give some other type of analysis, as Chang claims it is a primitive concept. However, we can understand parity as a form on “nonzero, unbiased difference.”45 Like equality, it is not biased in favor of any of the compared items, but unlike equality, the evaluative difference between the items is not zero. This kind of relation can occur when the covering value is a combination of contributory values, such that evaluation with respect to the covering 43 Ruth Chang, “The Possibility of Parity,” Ethics 112 (2002): 659–​688; Chang, Making Comparisons Count, ­chapter 5. Chang thinks that Parfit’s concept of “rough comparability” or “rough equality” and James Griffin’s concept of “vague orderings” also constitute comparative relations in addition to those specified by the trichotomy thesis. Chang, Making Comparisons Count, 170. 44 Chang, Making Comparisons Count, 171. 45 Ibid., 142.

The Supremacy Challenge  173 value is not just along one dimension. So, for example, with respect to two choice alternatives, one option might have a greater prudential value but a lesser moral value, while another option might have a greater moral value and a lesser prudential value. Chang thinks that in some of these cases, the alternatives allow for multiple legitimate rankings with respect to the covering value (call it “prumorality”). If such comparative relations are possible, we could avoid moral overridingness by arguing that in some cases of moral-​ prudential conflicts, it is not the case that the requirements of morality outweigh the conflicting prudential reasons and requirements, but this does not mean that the opposite is the case or that the two options are equally good (nor are they incomparable or noncomparable). Instead, in these cases, there are multiple legitimate rankings, and giving priority to prudential reasons does not mean that the prudential reasons somehow stand in a comparative relationship where the prudential reasons somehow categorically “defeat” the moral reasons. This also preserves the intuition, at least with respect to these particular cases, that we could rationally pursue both the moral and the prudential alternative. I believe Chang may be right in positing this additional comparative relation, and I think it may be a useful concept for better understanding many types of comparisons with respect to normative terms. However, I do not think that appealing to parity can help us escape moral overridingness. To see this, notice that our language so far has said nothing about the deontic status of the options. If the choice alternatives being on a par implies that both choices are plain permissible, then we are still left with problematic results. If, for example, Lying and Free-​riding are candidates where the options could be said to be on a par, then it still seems wrong to claim that deceiving the prospector or free-​riding on the efforts of others is just plain permissible. But as an objection to this argument, it could be said that it is a mistake to think that parity must imply anything about the deontic status of the alternatives. While deontic facts are usually thought to be the product of the comparative relationship between the reasons at stake, could it be that no deontic status can be generated by the comparative facts in these kinds of cases? Chang, for example, in describing how parity can be resolved into choice, says that when I ask myself “Which should I choose?” I am exercising my freedom within the constraints of reason.46 This amounts to expressing one’s autonomy in a way that reflects what one most fundamentally cares about.


Ibid., 171–​172.

174  Normative Pluralism She also says that it involves taking a substantive stand toward the values at stake and how they should be weighed with respect to the covering value and also that “it involves a practical declaration: in choosing between [the alternatives] . . . I shall regard [the covering value] thus.”47 What to make of Chang’s description in terms of deontic categories is not quite clear. It is obvious that she does not see choosing either of the two alternatives that are on a par as plain required by reasons. As for plain permissibility, it is hard to interpret her, but let us for now assume that there is no fact about plain permissibility in these cases. That it should be so would in itself be quite surprising. In section 2.7.2, I understood silence with respect to permissibility to occur only if there were no relevant reasons at play. This is not the case with respect to any moral-​prudential conflict, and we seem to be in need of an explanation of why there would be no fact as to whether or not the two options on a par are permissible to choose. Incommensurability could explain it, as we would have two separate normative standpoints generating their own relative permissions and requirements and no covering value in the form of an overarching normative standpoint that could bring the two together and generate plain deontic facts. But if we do have such a standpoint under which it is “legitimate” to prioritize either option, why would that not mean that either option is plain permissible? In any case, Chang’s description of such cases does not seem to fit well with conflicts between moral and prudential requirements. The type of case on which Chang focuses is the choice between two careers that are on a par by virtue of being good with respect to different dimensions of “goodness as career.” Here it seems much more plausible to say that this involves a practical decision about how to understand what constitutes goodness as a career in the relevant agent’s life and that the resulting weighing reflects what that agent fundamentally cares about. So also with many other choices between options that are good in different ways. They can be resolved by way of coming to specify what matters for that agent or maybe through other pragmatic considerations. But it is not clear that we can say the same about our type of case. There is something about the choice of whether to conform to what morality requires of you or to pursue your own interests that isn’t just about what you fundamentally care about as an agent or about just specifying what “prumorality” means in your life. Presumably, what you fundamentally care about can inform what you have prudential (and maybe certain moral)

47 Ibid., 172.

The Supremacy Challenge  175 reasons to do, but those facts do not resolve the question of what you just plain ought to do. It just seems wrong to say that the fact that I decide to declare and understand myself as an amoral person—​where I care little for the moral aspect of “prumorality” in my life—​somehow resolves the conflict (in particular if this would make it plain permissible to act immorally). This seems unlike choosing between a career as a dentist and a career as a musician, where it seems much more appropriate to say that I can resolve the conflict by coming to understand myself as a musician and specifying that the creative or expressive aspect of a career should have greater import for what I consider a good career. Chang’s view on choice parity is also connected to her “hybrid voluntarism,” according to which “willing has an important, though constrained, role to play in determining what we have most reason to do.”48 With respect to cases of parity, you can will yourself a reason to choose one option over the other, such that you can directly determine what you now have most reason to do.49 I won’t go into details with this view or any of the problematic aspects of it.50 As we have already explored in ­chapter 4, there does seem to be an important role for the will to play in determining choice, regardless of whether we accept incommensurability, incomparability, and presumably parity, for that matter. But if parity is marked by the appropriateness of creating “voluntarist reasons,” then that gives us further reason to reject the view that we can understand cases such as Lying and Free-​riding as cases where the moral and prudential options are on a par. For yet again, unlike the case of choice between careers, it seems wrong to say that we can, through exercising our will, tilt the balance of reasons such that deceiving the prospector or free-​ riding on the sacrifices of others now is something we just plain ought, or are plain permitted, to do. I take this to mean two things: (1) even if we introduce parity as a fourth comparative relation, assuming comparability between moral and prudential reasons will still make us lean toward the thesis of moral overridingness, and (2) if we would like to say that moral-​prudential conflicts are cases where given reasons run out, incommensurability gives us a better way of understanding this than parity.

48 Ruth Chang, “Grounding Practical Normativity: Going Hybrid,” Philosophical Studies 164, no. 1 (2013): 179. 49 Ibid. 50 For example, Dorsey criticizes the idea that we can create new reasons in this manner and instead argues that we can merely strengthen preexisting reasons. Dorsey, The Limits, 189–​190.

176  Normative Pluralism

6.5. Summary Earlier parts of the book have tried to show that normative pluralism is a motivated and coherent theory of normativity and how it can deal with various problematic issues and objections. In this chapter, we have kicked the ball to the other part of the field and have started examining whether we have reason to believe that there is an overarching normative standpoint that can allow us to compare moral and prudential reasons. I have argued here and in previous chapters that the question cannot be answered unless we engage with substantive views about what we have reasons to do, such that we can have candidate standpoints to assess. There is no successful argument showing either normative pluralism or monism to be incoherent. In trying to understand what that standpoint could be like, I have in this chapter focused on familiar standards for evaluating considerations. I first examined whether the nature of such a standpoint could be illuminated in terms of rationality. I concluded that it could not. Conceptions of rationality cannot be of help because they either are of the wrong kind (in the case of “structural rationality”) or are merely placeholder concepts (in the case of “substantive rationality”) or cannot easily be thought of as supreme in the case of Smith’s hybrid conception—​given that it has any determinable content at all. Second, I examined the idea that morality has normative priority in conflict situations by its requirements always overriding conflicting prudential reasons. I argued that any normative monism is best served by conforming to the thesis of moral overridingness or else risking violating some important intuitions (as described by Stroud), and I argued that the thesis could be avoided by appealing neither to indeterminacy nor to parity. But we also saw that while Stroud describes these important intuitions in a way that makes them somewhat biased toward normative monism, their deeper rationale seems nevertheless to make them equally able to be accounted for by normative pluralism. Normative pluralism therefore represents a way of avoiding such a strong view, while at the same time respecting its motivating intuitions. Normative pluralism is also better placed to respect the Sidgwickian intuition that action in pursuit of the agent’s self-​interest is also fundamentally reasonable. Although it could be that not everyone shares all of the intuitions I have referred to here, normative pluralism is in any case better placed to account for them all.

7 The Codification Challenge Can We Discover an Overarching Normative Standpoint?

Chapter 6 presented the codification challenge and the supremacy challenge, focusing on the latter. With respect to any familiar standard for evaluating actions, such as rationality or morality, it is difficult to recognize any of them as normatively supreme. This may make us think that we need to formulate a normative standard governing our practical reasons that heretofore has not been properly codified. This is also a natural thought, at least for those normative monists who accept a source pluralism of reasons, such that there are both moral and prudential pro tanto reasons. If there are, there must be some way of bringing them together and determining their relative weight with respect to their respective contribution to an explanation for what you just plain ought. Consider, for example, how Ruth Chang thinks there is some previously unnamed value that covers morality and prudence, which she tentatively calls “prumorality.” A natural complementary thought is that philosophical ethics so far has been mostly preoccupied with codifying moral reasons and the moral standpoint. There seems to be a further task for philosophy in codifying a more general normative standpoint that encompasses and unifies all our reasons. This chapter assesses the prospects for discovering such a standpoint. The first half of the chapter examines some actual attempts at codifying our reasons into a single standpoint. A common theme to all of these attempts is that they build upon similar intuitions to those that led Henry Sidgwick to endorse his dualism. This results in views that also approach normative pluralism but nevertheless represent different structures of normativity. The second half of the chapter deals with the attempt to reject the codification challenge itself through philosophical positions that asserts comparability while also claiming that our reasons are ultimately uncodifiable. With respect to the positions surveyed in both halves of this chapter, I argue that although there are merits to some of them, it is hard to see any of these alternatives as Normative Pluralism. Mathea Slåttholm Sagdahl, Oxford University Press. © Oxford University Press 2022. DOI: 10.1093/​oso/​9780197614693.003.0007

178  Normative Pluralism superior to a pluralist conception of normativity. However, the more similar practical consequences those theories have for pluralism, the less clear can we reliably judge the relative merits of their theoretical underpinnings.

7.1.  Parfit’s Wide Dualism We have seen that whether or not there is an overarching, supreme normative standpoint that can supply us with unqualified oughts is a substantive question. We have also seen that more familiar standards such as meaningfulness or structural rationality cannot plausibly be identified as being that kind of standpoint. Rather than appealing to such standards, we may therefore have to construct new and particular pictures of how moral and prudential reasons relate and hope that we can argue that this picture can be identified as a normatively privileged way of weighing the different types of considerations. One of the few attempts at explicitly identifying and codifying a purported overarching normative standpoint is made by Derek Parfit. Parfit takes Sidgwick’s dualism of practical reason seriously and tries to find a way to overcome it. He takes Sidgwick’s dualism to be constituted by two different standpoints, namely, a personal point of view, which Sidgwick thinks consists of self-​interested reasons, and “an imagined impartial point of view,” which Sidgwick thinks consists of impartial reasons.1 Here is what Parfit says concerning the latter point of view: It can be worth asking what we would have most reason to want, or prefer, if we were in the impartial position of some outside observer. By appealing to what everyone would have such impartial reasons to want or prefer, we can more easily explain one important sense in which outcomes can be better or worse. But when we are trying to decide what we have most reason to do, we ought to ask this question from our actual point of view. We should not ignore some of our actual reasons merely because we would not have these reasons if we had some other, merely imagined point of view.2

1 Parfit, On What Matters, Vol. 1, 134. Parfit obscures his view by distinguishing between a “personal” and an “impartial” point of view. I believe the distinction he is after is that between a “personal” point of view and an “impersonal” point of view, where Sidgwick (according to Parfit) thinks that the former is made up of partial reasons and the latter of impartial reasons. 2 Ibid., 133–​134.

The Codification Challenge  179 The distinction that Sidgwick makes between two points of view for Parfit only explains that there can be several ways for outcomes to be better or worse. But there is for Parfit only one standpoint that determines what one ought or has most reason to do, namely, our “actual” point of view. There is an initial problem in the way he represents the dualism. The problem is that Parfit assumes that one of these standpoints is a “merely imagined point of view,” which is then contrasted with an “actual, personal point of view.”3 But nowhere, it seems to me, does Sidgwick appeal to a standpoint that is merely imaginary. Although Sidgwick speaks about “the point of view of the universe,” which may easily lead one to think of that standpoint as an impersonal standpoint that does not belong to the agent, he also uses other expressions to explain this standpoint. Sidgwick here talks about “conceiving of ourselves as part of a larger whole.” This is to conceive of ourselves in a way in which we actually are related to the world.4 It is a standpoint that is our own, not that of an imagined, impartial, outside observer.5 In the same way, when an agent conceives of himself or herself as a whole in himself or herself and separate from other individuals, that is also an actual way in which that agent relates to the world and is a standpoint which is his or her own. A similar thought is expressed by Thomas Nagel with respect to the contrast he draws between the more personal, subjective point of view and the detached, objective point of view. According to Nagel, the contrast between these two ways of seeing the world is at the root of a range of philosophical problems, not only including ethics but also concerning freedom, knowledge, and the mind–​body problem. But in any of these fields, the elimination of either perspective results in untenable philosophical solutions, since neither perspective is illusory and both are instead genuine aspects of the world.6 Also with 3 Ibid., 134 (my emphasis). 4 There is textual evidence for the claim that Sidgwick did not view any of his normative standpoints as merely imaginary and not actual. Sidgwick writes: “I, therefore, do not see any inconsistency in holding that while it would be reasonable for the aggregate of sentient beings, if it could act collectively, to aim at its own happiness only as its ultimate end—​and would be reasonable for an individual to do the same if he were the only being in the universe—​it is yet actually reasonable for an individual to make an ultimate sacrifice of his own happiness for the sake of the greater happiness of others, as well as reasonable for him to take his own happiness as ultimate end.” Sidgwick, “Some Fundamental Ethical Controversies,” 486 (Sidgwick’s emphasis). Although the dialectical context here is different, Sidgwick is contrasting an agent’s actual reasons with the reasons an agent would have under imagined circumstances. 5 See Scheffler, “Projects, Relationships, and Reasons,” 250, who also claims that the distinction between partial and impartial value “can be misleading if it is taken to suggest that the values that fall on the impersonal side of the divide are values that can be appreciated only from a detached, ‘impersonal’ standpoint, and are not values that we ourselves recognize or accept.” 6 Nagel, The View from Nowhere, ­chapter 1.

180  Normative Pluralism respect to ethics, Nagel acknowledges that a dualism of reasons “arises out of our nature, which includes different points of view on the world.”7 Besides the personal point of view from where I am the center and where I subjectively experience the goods and bads of my actions, I must also “recognize that objectively I am no more important than anyone else—​my happiness and misery matter no more than anyone else’s. And the part of me that recognizes this is central—​no less a part of me than my personal perspective.”8 The impersonal perspective, then, is, according to Nagel, just as much my actual perspective as my personal perspective. It seems to me, then, that Parfit does not succeed in eliminating the dualism simply by appealing to an actual point of view.9 However, in addition to trying to eliminate one of the standpoints by claiming that only one of them is actual, Parfit also makes an attempt to codify what he thinks of as the only genuinely normative standpoint. He accepts as defensible what he calls a revised version of Sidgwick’s view, which is: Wide Dualism: When we are choosing between two morally permissible acts, of which one would be better for ourselves and the other would be better for one or more strangers, we could rationally either give greater weight to our own well-​being, or give roughly equal weight to everyone’s well-​being.10

Parfit thinks that wide dualism “recognizes and endorses our reasons to be specially concerned about our own well-​being,” which is a crucial premise behind Sidgwick’s stronger form of dualism and which Parfit also accepts.11 This principle also reveals a certain way in which our reasons are structured for the cases governed by the principle. The role of prudential reasons is 7 Ibid., 185. Nagel also thinks this makes a unified answer of how to live difficult and that the dualism is “too deep for us reasonably to hope to overcome it” (185). 8 Ibid., 201. 9 Michael Smith also notes that while an actual personal standpoint might allow for comparability, Parfit does not show that such comparability must actually obtain. Smith also argues that there is a danger of Parfit’s position to collapse into normative pluralism. This is because his consequentialism determines what we ought to do based on what action has more value and because of Parfit’s admission of different kinds of value (personal and impersonal). Without a third kind of goodness in terms of which we can formulate what has most value overall, incommensurability results. Michael Smith, “Desires, Values, Reasons, and the Dualism of Practical Reason,” Ratio 22, no. 1 (2009): 98–​125. 10 Parfit, On What Matters, Vol. 1, 140. The resulting normative standpoint would be codified further through Parfit’s discussion and endorsement of various other normative principles. Given that he assumes we know all the relevant facts, “rationally” here means that one acts in accord with what one has sufficient normative reasons to do (35). 11 Ibid., 140.

The Codification Challenge  181 primarily to “permit us to give much greater weight to our own well-​being.”12 But we are not required to do so, nor are we required to give greater weight to a stranger’s well-​being. This is the case even if the stakes are very high. In other words, whether to prioritize our own or another person’s interests is optional. This can be seen by a number of cases:13 Case One. I could either save myself from some injury, or act in a way that would save some stranger’s life in a distant land. Case Two. I could save either my own life or the lives of several different strangers. First Shipwreck. I could use some life-​raft to save either my own life or the life of a single stranger. The stranger is relevantly like me, so our deaths would be, for each of us, as great a loss.

Parfit maintains that either action in all these cases is rational. In these three cases, the badness to the other person(s) is roughly equal to or greater than the badness to myself, but Parfit also thinks that it can be rational to prioritize the other person when that badness is less. This is illustrated by a case where I am in pain in a hospital ward and possess only a single dose of morphine. Parfit claims that it could be rational to give the morphine to the stranger in the bed next to me even if that person’s pain is less bad than mine.14 The only thing that wide dualism precludes is giving much greater weight to a stranger’s well-​being. For example, I could not rationally save some stranger’s finger rather than saving my own life. However, we should note that the general optionality in wide dualism only holds when we are choosing between two morally permissible options. While the principle itself does not specify what is the case when the antecedent fails to hold, Parfit seems to think that if an act would be morally wrong, then because of this, the act could not be rational or in accordance with reasons.15 If so, this means

12 Ibid. (Parfit’s emphasis). 13 Ibid., 137–​139. In Case One and Case Two, the outcome of not giving more weight to the stranger(s) would be worse, impartially considered, than not doing so in First Shipwreck. Parfit thinks that it is morally permissible and hence rational to give more weight to the well-​being of the stranger(s) in these cases as well. However, it should be noted that Parfit expresses some doubt as to his conclusions regarding First Shipwreck. 14 Ibid., 139. 15 Ibid., 136. Whether to attribute this belief to Parfit or not is unclear, as he in a later volume claims that it might be the case that we sometimes have sufficient reason to act wrongly. Derek Parfit, On What Matters, Vol. 3 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 22, 341. However, he also says that this would be a “disturbing conclusion” and so presumably one that it would be good to avoid (22, 348).

182  Normative Pluralism that Parfit ends up with the moral overridingness thesis (OT) described in ­chapter 6. Optionality only holds as long as there is not a moral requirement prescribing one of the options. As I argued, OT should indeed be preferable to a monist theory without OT, but it seems to explain fewer of our intuitions than normative pluralism does. While Parfit’s theory can explain the Sidgwickian thought that it would be normatively permissible to pursue our own well-​being even if much greater good can be had by acting otherwise, this permission is restricted to cases where doing so is also morally permissible. However, Sidgwick’s intuition is not so restricted and has further explanatory power. Consider a case such as Free-​riding from ­chapter 6, which involved an agent benefiting from free-​riding on the efforts of others. Given that we are disposed to think that such a free-​riding agent would not be irrational, this thought can only be explained by wide dualism if such free-​riding is morally permissible—​which is profoundly unattractive. Furthermore, with respect to the conclusions drawn by Parfit to the range of cases he uses, normative pluralism can give a somewhat different conclusion that appears to be at least as plausible. On Parfit’s view, the role of prudential reasons in these cases is merely of a justificatory nature, enabling a permission to give our own well-​being much greater weight. This view is also possible for a normative pluralist, given a certain view of prudence. But on the face of it, it appears much more plausible to think that not prioritizing our own welfare in these cases is imprudent and that the prudential considerations at hand come with a requiring strength. Given that both options are morally permissible, as Parfit plausibly thinks, the normative pluralist conclusion would be that these represent cases without a direct normative conflict but also without full normative disagreement. While both standpoints agree on the permissibility of prioritizing our own well-​being, prudence takes a different stance from morality on the permissibility of sacrificing our well-​being. I take it that when we are confronted with such cases, we can recognize the impartial goodness to be had by prioritizing the other(s) and that our well-​being does not objectively matter more, making it rational to pursue such goodness. But we also recognize that it will be we who will experience suffering and that our reasons not only permit us to avoid such suffering but urge us positively to do so. Normative pluralism can recognize the permissibility of both options but avoids mere optionality and can retain a stronger sense in which Parfit argues clearly against a view in which moral reasons are always decisive, but OT is concerned with the overridingness of moral requirements and not with individual moral reasons.

The Codification Challenge  183 we have “reasons to be specially concerned with our own well-​being,” a sense in which we not only can but should be concerned in this way.16

7.2.  Weak Monism The standard forms of monism that we have worked with so far posits an overarching normative standpoint that allows us to compare reasons, such that it is possible at least sometimes to determine what we are just plain required to do, even in cases of moral-​prudential conflict. Normative pluralism claims that there is no overarching normative standpoint, so it is not possible to weigh conflicting types of reasons, and so neither are there any actions that we are just plain required to do. But there is also room for a middle position, namely, the position that claims that there is an overarching normative standpoint from which we can compare different kinds of conflicting requirements but from which we can never get a unique option that is just plain required, only a set of options that are just plain permitted. This position is a variant of monism because it recognizes an overarching normative standpoint from which reasons of different types can be weighed against each other. It is a weaker kind of monism because it denies that when different types of requirements conflict, then although they can be weighed against each other, they lead never to a plain requirement to act but only to plain permissions to act.17 Weak monism can accept that some actions can be plain required in certain cases. This is likely to be so in cases where all the relevant qualified standpoints require the same action and so do not conflict. It is when moral and prudential requirements conflict that weak monism differs from standard monism, as the result of weighing moral and prudential

16 It can also do so without resulting in a position that is too egoistic. Parfit claims that a position that, for example, requires us to give twice as much weight to our own well-​being would give us a sense in which we should have special concern for our own well-​being, and such positions could not account for the rationality of prioritizing the good of the other(s) in cases such as First Shipwreck. Given incommensurability, however, we can award these concerns with requiring force while retaining the permissibility and rationality of sacrificing our well-​being for that of someone relevantly like us. 17 I speak about conflicting requirements for simplicity’s sake, but we should bear in mind that, as was discussed in section 2.7.2, moral-​prudential conflicts need not be between two conflicting requirements; they can also be between a requirement and a conflicting permission. On this weak form of monism, such a conflict might also result in just a set of plain permissions rather than a plain requirement.

184  Normative Pluralism requirements against each other will not be the issuing of a plain requirement that tells one what one ought to do but only a set of plain permissions telling one what one is plain permitted to do. For example, if morality requires one to donate to charity and prudence requires one to save the money, weak monism might say that neither option is just plain required, but both options are plain permissible. One may think that this amounts to nothing, since it says nothing about how one ought to act and so has no bearing on one’s practical deliberation. But it does amount to something. The fact that donating to charity and saving the money are both plainly permitted actions does not imply that everything is plain permitted. It does not, for example, imply that spending the money on something worthless is also permitted. The set of plain permissions that results from weak monism represents a range of options that are permitted for the agent, and that permissiveness is not extended to every action. Plain permissions therefore seem to be of use for the deliberating agent in much the same way that qualified oughts are practically significant for normative pluralism. We might say that they delineate a set of options that are rationally eligible. With respect to those options that are not plain permissible, weak monism could either be silent or say that those options are just plain not permitted. While the latter option may be taken to imply a plain requirement, these are only plain requirements about what not to do (in much the same way as normative pluralism may give quantificational “ought all things considered” facts about what not to do when morality and prudence conflict). Weak monism does not pick out a unique option that the agent just plain ought to do when faced with a moral-​prudential conflict. Joshua Gert has developed a view that can be understood as a form of weak monism. Gert’s theory also differs in another way from standard normative monism. So far, most of the arguments that have been presented against normative monism have been aimed only at a subset of monistic theories that have in common that they attempt to understand the intertype balancing of reasons along a single dimension of strength provided by an overarching normative standpoint. Gert develops a two-​dimensional variant of normative monism that is able to take into account many of the considerations that work in favor of pluralism. I will show that Gert’s form of weak monism can give an account of the nature and character of an overarching normative standpoint, while additionally being able to account for the classical conception of human agency as well as accept the intuition that underlies the reversed argument from nominal-​notable comparisons. However, I will argue that weak monism nevertheless is less plausible than pluralism, as it

The Codification Challenge  185 gives a role to morality that is too restricted, and this results in certain counterintuitive implications.

7.2.1.  Gert’s Two-​Dimensional Weak Monism Gert argues for commensuration into an overarching normative standpoint that delivers permissions rather than a unique required action in the face of moral-​prudential conflicts. However, Gert uses a different terminology and frames his issues differently from what is adopted here, which makes it somewhat difficult to place him in this debate. Gert’s primary aim is to discover and defend a fundamental normative principle applicable to action. An approximate description of this principle, which he names P, is as follows. P: It is irrational to do anything that you believe will cause you harm, unless you also believe that someone (perhaps yourself) will thereby be spared at least as significant a harm, or that someone (perhaps yourself) will thereby receive at least as significant a benefit.18

If any of the latter conditions obtain, then it is rational (and hence permissible), according to Gert, to do that which will cause yourself harm.19 The terms in which P is formulated complicate things for our purposes. Making this principle have relevance for the debate about normative monism and pluralism is no straightforward matter, as P is not couched in the terms in which the monism-​pluralism debate has been framed in this book. But I would argue that it is natural to understand P as a suggestion for an approximate codification of an overarching normative standpoint. This seems to be what Gert means when he describes it as a fundamental normative principle.20 Being “irrational” here seems to read as the criticism to which we are liable by violating the fundamental normative principle, and the principle describes what makes an action irrational in that way. I would furthermore 18 Gert, Brute Rationality, 53, 91. The principle is only an approximation, since Gert thinks it needs to take account of the likelihood of harms and benefits, as well as the distinction between causing harm and refraining from benefiting. 19 Ibid., 53. 20 Gert says, however, that the word “fundamental” should not be understood in terms of “most important,” which is how we characterized the overarching normative standpoint. But Gert seems to understand “most important” as “most useful,” and he is very clear that we should never follow other principles if they conflict with the fundamental one. Ibid., 4.

186  Normative Pluralism argue that the talk about harms and benefits leads to a principle that is more clearly relevant to our debate, which I will call P*. P*: You ought all things considered not to act imprudently (with respect to causing yourself harm), unless you also believe that you morally ought (or are morally permitted) to do so, in which case it is permissible to act in either way.21

P* is not necessarily a principle that Gert would endorse, but it is a plausible implication of P. Now, let us first note that both P and P* arguably give too much weight to what an agent believes, irrespective of what reasons the agent may have for those beliefs. An agent who acts in conformity with the principles out of perverse beliefs for which the agent has bad reasons seems to be liable to some severe kind of normative criticism. It doesn’t seem appropriate for a principle that is supposed to be normatively fundamental that one could be liable to that sort of criticism for conforming to it. If it is to be at all plausible, it would therefore have to be modified such that it only holds for “reasonable” beliefs. Let us suppose that this can be done and leave that issue aside. P* seems to express an overarching normative standpoint and to be an example of weak monism. In practice, it leads to verdicts that are similar to the verdicts of normative pluralism, as a conflict results in two rationally eligible actions. Note, however, that the normative structures behind those verdicts are different. Whereas normative pluralism quantifies over the standpoints and ends up with two qualified oughts (or a disjunctive “all things considered” ought), P* similarly takes the qualified oughts as its point of departure but transforms that into a dual set of plain permissions. On the face of it, this is mysterious. The logic behind normative pluralism’s quantificational disjunctive ought is clear, but how can we go from a conflicting set of qualified oughts to unqualified permissions? This is where Gert’s two-​dimensionality comes into the picture. Gert rejects the view that one can speak about “the strength” of reasons in a simple way and instead 21 P* is in a certain sense weaker than P, since P* is silent about how benefits to yourself affect the rationality of causing harm to yourself. While it is reasonable to agree with Gert that sufficient benefits to yourself ground a permission for causing such harm, Gert would also deny that this could ever ground a requirement to cause that harm. I find this a bit dubious, especially given nominal-​ notable cases involving a very small harm and a very large benefit, but since this is not the point that I want to discuss here, I have adopted a weaker principle. But it should also be noted that P itself is actually consistent with the notion that it is sometimes irrational to refrain from acquiring benefits.

The Codification Challenge  187 argues for a distinction between requiring and justifying strength. Strength of reasons, according to Gert, is of two kinds, and one option can be stronger with respect to one of them but not to the other, and both options can have, for example, a low requiring strength but a high justifying strength. The two types of strength serve two different roles with respect to determining the deontic status of actions. Where requiring strength counts in favor of an action being required, justifying strength counts in favor of an action being permitted. This picture does not amount to incommensurability. If the requiring strength of the reasons to ɸ exceeds the requiring strength and the justifying strength of the reasons to not ɸ, then ɸ-​ing is just plain required. If the justifying strength of the reasons to ɸ exceeds the requiring strength of the reasons to not ɸ, then ɸ-​ing is just plain permitted. For example, the loss of two hundred dollars is arguably of some harm to you, and so there is a reason with both a certain requiring strength as well as a justifying strength to avoid such a loss. But there is also a reason that comes from the prospect of saving twenty children from malnutrition by donating that money to charity, which comes with a justifying strength that seems to exceed the requiring strength of the reason not to lose that money without a sufficiently significant benefit to yourself.22 Because of this, donating the money is just plain permissible despite the harm it causes you. But unless the reason to donate the money to charity also comes with a requiring strength that would exceed the justifying strength of the reason to save the money, then the justifying strength of the latter reason serves to make that option justified as well. And since these types of reasons never come with any requiring strength according to Gert’s official view, the prudential option will always be permissible. The distinction between requiring and justifying strength helps ground the overarching normative standpoint P, which is the fundamental normative principle that Gert aims to defend (and P*). Because there are systematic ways in which these dimensions of strength are distributed among reasons, the distinction helps determine what you are just plain required or permitted to do. According to Gert, the only types of reasons that come with a requiring strength are (prudential) reasons to avoid harm to yourself.23 But harm to yourself can be justified if a benefit can be given to yourself or others that is at least as significant as the harm you would suffer by giving that benefit or if by

22 The example comes from Gert. See ibid., 92, 110. 23 This claim seems to be implicit in his claims that permitting harm to oneself requires countervailing reasons. Ibid., 9.

188  Normative Pluralism suffering harm to yourself, you can avoid harm to others that is at least as significant as the harm you would suffer yourself by so doing. These latter types of reasons are imbued with justifying strength that can exceed the requiring strength of reasons to not suffer harm to yourself, and in many important cases they do. Again, we can take Gert’s example of whether to give to charity. By giving to charity, you suffer harm by reducing your economic resources. But doing so can nonetheless be justified by the greater harm to others it can alleviate or the great benefits to others it can bestow. So, according to Gert, some prudential reasons come with a requiring strength, but this is never the case with moral reasons to benefit or avoid harm to others. This means that altruistic reasons—​reasons that favor other individuals in terms of benefits or the avoidance of harm—​can never, in themselves, rationally require actions, even though they can, in themselves, justify actions.24 The insufficiency of altruistic reasons to rationally require is furthermore the result of their being of a certain type, the function of which is only to justify and not to require.25 Gert, then, ends up with a systematic relationship between these two types of reasons. Gert holds the following two claims to be true: (a) that the justifying strength of altruistic considerations is always at least as great as the requiring strength provided by an equivalent self-​interested consideration and (b) that the requiring strength provided by an altruistic consideration is sometimes less than the requiring strength provided by an equivalent self-​interested consideration.26 These claims are very weakly formulated, since they leave open that altruistic reasons can have requiring strength, even though it is Gert’s official position that they do not. For now, I shall proceed on this official view and come back to the weaker position later. On that assumption, since self-​interested reasons can come with a requiring strength but not so for altruistic reasons, these reasons can by themselves require you (simpliciter) to do certain actions. But because of (a), any conflicting altruistic reasons of equivalent justifying strength will always make self-​sacrificing actions also rationally permissible. And in a large and significant range of cases, there will be altruistic considerations that would justify you in not doing what self-​ interested considerations would otherwise require you to do.

24 Ibid., 89. 25 Ibid., 88. 26 Ibid., 125–​126. Gert’s original formulations of these claims, M and N, talk of maximum and minimum degrees of motivation rather than justifying and requiring strength, but he is explicit that the two sets of terms function in the same way. See ibid., 129.

The Codification Challenge  189 In describing the way in which the two types of reasons systematically relate and come together to determine plain permissions, Gert meets the codifying challenge in a quite detailed way. This is an important advantage of weak monism, since except for those who hold the OT, few opponents of normative pluralism give any account of how the purported overarching normative standpoint operates when commensurating different types of reasons and how much weight it gives different types of considerations. Equally important is that Gert tries to give a justification of his description of how the different types of reasons relate and so also attempts to meet the supremacy challenge. According to Gert, P has the virtue of accounting for our considered normative judgments. P allows us to say that all the following four kinds of options are rationally permissible:27 (1) avoiding harm even though you could prevent more significant harm to someone else; (2) doing things that do not harm yourself, just because you feel like it; (3) suffering harm in order to avoid equivalent or greater suffering by someone else; (4) suffering harm in order to provide someone else with a benefit that is at least as significant. In addition, it classifies the following kinds of options as rationally impermissible: (5) suffering harm merely to avoid a less significant harm to yourself; (6) suffering harm merely to obtain a benefit that is not equally significant. According to Gert, common sense classifies all of these cases as P does, which counts in P’s favor. Gert also claims that P agrees with what he describes as a common-​sense normative judgment that being immoral is not necessarily irrational but that making sacrifices for other people is not irrational, either.28 Call this the “rationality intuition.” Gert seems to arrive at P primarily through intuitions or what he takes to be commonplace judgments about what he calls “the wholesale rational status” of certain types of actions. I think there are problematic aspects of identifying supreme normative principles by means of rationality, which I discussed in section 6.3. Gert understands “rationality” in terms of “mental functioning,” but while mental functioning matters greatly to agents, it may not be all that normativity amounts to. However, on the whole, I do not think this approach should trouble us much. For fully informed agents, there is a conceptual link between their reasons and their rational status, through the enkratic or the weak enkratic requirement. In section 5.7, we followed Gert’s argument that even in cases that seem to constitute nominal-​notable

27 Ibid., 54. 28 Ibid., 85.

190  Normative Pluralism comparisons, there does not seem to be any rational defect in fully informed agents who choose to pursue their self-​interest, as we would expect there to be if prudential reasons were, in fact, outweighed. The same judgment will be reached even more easily with respect to less dramatic cases. So our judgments of agents’ “wholesale rational status” and what types of criticisms/​ praise they are liable to is (as also discussed in section 6.3.4) an indication of how our reasons relate. In fact, Gert’s weak monism can account for and is motivated by many of the same intuitions that serve to motivate normative pluralism. The dual permissions that result from moral-​prudential conflicts on Gert’s view mean that the agent’s rationality or sensitivity to reasons is not compromised by his or her choice of either the moral or the prudential option. The agent instead faces a genuine choice about what action to pursue that is left to that agent’s will. This, first of all, means that we can account for what is taken to be a fact by the classical conception of human agency, namely, that we commonly face several different rationally eligible options, the choice of which has to be mediated by our will. Even though Gert disagrees with Joseph Raz that this is explained by incommensurability between those options, saying that it is rather explained through a set of plain permissions, both authors seem to attempt to explain the same basic phenomenon. Gert also describes it as a “common-​sense view.”29 Second Gert’s weak monism seems to classify the same types of actions as rationally eligible and ineligible as normative pluralism does. With the possible exception of (2)—​which is anyway not directly implied by P, since P says nothing about the rationality or irrationality of options that do not harm yourself—​normative pluralism seems to give the same result with respect to rational eligibility for actions (1) to (6), given reasonable assumptions about morality and prudence, as P does. On normative pluralism, (1), (3), and (4) are made rationally eligible, because these actions are supported by a prudential or a moral requirement or permission. The (5) and (6) type actions are rationally ineligible given normative pluralism, since you ought all things considered not to perform them given that they are prudentially forbidden while also not supported by moral considerations. Now, if we are to believe Gert, this classification also corresponds to the way common sense classifies these actions. Third, both theories are deeply motivated by the rationality intuition. The pursuit of your own interests and the pursuit of the good of other individuals are both normatively sanctioned

29 Ibid., 102.

The Codification Challenge  191 goals that provide rationally eligible choices for an informed agent, with none of them having plain normative priority. You can pursue either one of them in any instance without reducing your rationality or sensitivity to reasons.30

7.2.2.  Comparing Gert’s Weak Monism with Normative Pluralism In sum, Gert’s view can account for the most significant intuitions that underlie normative pluralism, while still being able to provide an overarching normative standpoint, and can attribute deontic statuses to actions (primarily permissibility) that are plain and non-​qualified, originating from an overarching level that commensurates and compares moral and prudential reasons. At the outset, however, we may think that Gert’s view is less parsimonious than normative pluralism. If the positions explain the same set of intuitions, but Gert needs to do so by positing an additional fundamental normative principle as well as an additional counting-​in-​favor-​of relation for reasons, then one can argue that normative pluralism, which doesn’t need these assumptions, is a preferable theory. Still, we need to look at whether there are any other comparative advantages to either theory. To answer the question of the relative merits of the two theories, we need to look at where they differ. The most important and obvious respect in which they differ is on the issue of types of weights that they assign to different types of considerations and on the normative statuses they assign to actions—​plain permissions rather than qualified oughts. I shall mention five reasons (i–​v) I think normative pluralism has more merit than Gert’s position. (i) First, if for any moral-​prudential conflict situation, it is permissible simpliciter to avoid personal harm or losing a benefit, that has some problematic implications. Let us again consider nominal-​notable comparisons and the case of Norm. To repeat from c­ hapter 5: Norm: Norm’s television is hooked up such that at all times it is turned on, very painful electric shocks are sent through 100 randomly selected persons. Norm knows this, but doesn’t much care. (One might even imagine

30 See Joshua Gert, “The Distinction between Justifying and Requiring: Nothing to Fear,” in Errol Lord and Barry Maguire (eds.), Weighing Reasons (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 160–​ 161, for further elaboration on this point.

192  Normative Pluralism that Norm is a misanthrope, and enjoys causing these electric shocks.) However, Norm also enjoys the television program Arrested Development, and gets a lot of pleasure watching daily reruns at 6:30 in the evening.31

If Norm can truly be said to suffer harm or lose a benefit, if only ever so slightly, by not watching the rerun of his favorite TV show, then he would be just plain permitted to do so, despite the fact that it would give painful electric shocks to one hundred people, as moral reasons to prevent harm to others do not come with requiring strength. Although these moral reasons would have a higher justificatory strength, they also have a lower requiring strength and do not prevent watching TV from being just plain permitted. There are reasons with a certain justifying strength supporting both options, and these reasons come together under an overarching normative standpoint and create permissions for Norm to do either action. The result of this is that the question of what Norm ought and is permitted to do is resolved. There is nothing that Norm really ought to do, but he is permitted to do either. On this line of argument, Gert’s position is subject to the argument from nominal-​notable comparison. To the extent that normative pluralism is able to avoid this argument, as I argued in ­chapter 5, normative pluralism seems to have a clear advantage. There I argued that the pluralist both can and should deny that such cases can exist, as the agent would, in fact, do himself or herself greater harm by acting immorally in these extreme cases. However, Gert could, of course, pursue a similar line of argument for his weak monism. This endeavor might be successful. But let us now, for the sake of argument, suppose that such cases exist and constitute a problem for both theories. How do the theories compare? From the point of view of the proponent of the argument from nominal-​ notable comparisons who finds it intuitive that Norm just plain ought to do the moral option and ought not to do the prudential option, a virtue with Gert’s theory is that it can account for a sense in which the morally required notable option is supported by reasons with a high level of justification and which in a pure justificatory sense exceeds the level of justification shown by the reasons supporting the prudentially required nominal option. So there is a sense in which Gert could say that the reasons in favor of the former are stronger. However, since this is only true with respect to one dimension

31 Dorsey, “Two Dualisms,” 119; Dorsey, The Limits, 24.

The Codification Challenge  193 of strength, this does not capture what the proponent of the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons would like to say. Moreover, if the prudential reasons come with a slight requiring strength and the moral reasons do not, as Gert seems to think, then it will also be true that the reasons in favor of the prudential options are stronger in another dimension of strength. In addition, another way in which Gert’s answer is more counterintuitive than the pluralist’s answer with respect to the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons is with regard to the normative statuses assigned. The intuition behind the argument is that it is just plain impermissible to choose the prudential option, and it is also not plain permissible. These judgments directly contradict Gert’s answer. Normative pluralism, however, can accommodate the latter judgment (i.e., no plain permission to do the prudential option) even if it cannot accommodate the first (i.e., that this option is plain impermissible). So normative pluralism appears to be somewhat better off with respect to the normative statuses it assigns in these cases—​or in any case in which we tend to think that we just plain ought to do the moral rather than the prudential option. I take this to be a slight advantage of normative pluralism. (ii) The second reason I think normative pluralism is preferable is parallel to the criticism of Parfit’s wide dualism. Parfit’s view is more or less the opposite of Gert’s, as Parfit only gives prudential reasons a justificatory role in cases of moral-​prudential conflict, only serving to make the prudential choice optional. I argued that this is implausible, given Sidgwick’s intuition concerning how prudential reasons appear to us. Normative pluralism can avoid mere optionality and can retain a stronger sense in which we have “reasons to be specially concerned with our own well-​being,” such that we not only can but should be concerned in this way. The same can be said about moral reasons, and the very fact that Parfit and so many other philosophers argue in favor of some thesis of moral overridingness and conceive of moral requirements as duties upon us indicates that moral reasons do have the appearance of having requiring strength and that they can actually require. Gert can, of course, argue against such “moralist” positions through his claim that prioritizing our own well-​being can never be irrational—​and that we are always justified in doing so—​even as we are also justified in acting morally. But normative pluralism can agree with Gert’s claim about the rationality of egoistic action, without denying the requiring force of moral demands. They are, in fact, genuine demands upon us, telling us not merely what we are permitted to do but what we ought to do.

194  Normative Pluralism (iii) In comparing Gert’s position with a Sidgwick-​style normative pluralism, Sergio Tennenbaum thinks pluralism has the advantage. He thinks that pluralism “can account for virtually the same intuitions that Gert can,” and while the two theories tend to have the same implications for action, in the few cases where they do not, pluralism seems to have the better answer.32 In particular, pluralism does not permit me to choose my own lesser good over my own greater good or a lesser moral good over a greater moral good (other things being equal), whereas Gert’s view can permit this. For example, Tennenbaum thinks that the following two action patterns would be rationally permissible on Gert’s view but not on the pluralist view:

(I) Larry donates four hundred dollars to UNICEF to save ten children from starvation. (II) Larry would not have donated four hundred dollars to UNICEF if the money were to save twelve children from starvation instead. Since moral reasons only justify and do not require, Larry does not seem to be required to donate to the morally best option. On pluralism, however, there seems to be a moral requirement to save twelve over ten, and therefore saving only ten would not be an eligible option on either normative standpoint. This seems to be a strong point in favor of pluralism. (iv) The fourth reason is related to what attitudes it is appropriate to take toward one’s choice. Tennenbaum also claims that a pluralist theory can better account for the regret involved in moral-​prudential choices than Gert’s theory does. Tennenbaum notes that we tend to experience regret or other negative feelings in sacrificing our own good for the benefit of others and feelings of guilt at failing to benefit others by instead procuring a relatively smaller benefit to ourselves. We may add that such negative feelings (or similar ones) also seem reasonable when making such choices. However, Tennenbaum thinks that “for Gert’s account, given that in these cases one acted in accordance with a reason that had sufficient justifying strength to make the choice rational, it’s not clear how such feelings could be warranted.”33 While I think it is not impossible that Gert could provide a story for how to justify such feelings, it seems that the pluralist route would be much more clear and direct. For the pluralist, given either choice, we will 32 Sergio Tennenbaum, “Brute Requirements,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 37, no. 1 (2007): 161, 165. 33 Ibid., 164–​165. This point is also echoed by Portmore, Morality and Practical Reasons, 54–​60.

The Codification Challenge  195 have failed to act in accordance with one of the normative standards we are subject to. (v) The fifth reason is more internal to Gert’s own theory. The problem is exhibited by something Gert thinks his theory can explain, which was the case (2) earlier: that it allows one to say that doing things that do not harm oneself, just because one feels like it, is rationally permissible. Gert, as we have seen, thinks that only the prospect of harm to oneself can constitute a consideration with requiring strength, so when an action would not harm oneself, that action could not be plain impermissible. While it certainly seems that many such actions are not just plain impermissible or all things considered impermissible, this seems less clear for a number of other cases where there are moral reasons against doing the action in question. Consider Gert’s own example, which is picking up a rock and throwing it into the woods. While there may in some contexts be no moral or other kinds of reasons against that action, we can also think of contexts in which there are. Suppose, for example, that the woods are a recreation area filled with children and walkers and that the rock might consequently have a significant chance of hitting and hurting someone. This is a case where normative pluralism and Gert’s weak monism would give two very different normative results. First, we should bear in mind that (2) is meant to express a case where there are no positive prudential reasons in favor of the action. The action is done simply because the agent feels like it (or, in other words, because of an urge), not because of any benefit or avoidance of harm that it could bring to the agent. Whether urges or brute desires can themselves be reasons for an agent is somewhat controversial, but Gert agrees with authors such as Raz that they are not.34 So what we have is a situation where there are no prudential reasons either against or in favor of throwing the rock but where there are moral reasons against doing so (and such, we can presume, that make it the case that one is morally required not to throw the rock). If this is the case, then normative pluralism would conclude that one ought all things considered not to throw the rock. The absence of prudential reasons means that there is only one type of reasons on the stage, and only one ought, which allows us to say (through a quantificational inference) that one ought all things considered not to throw the rock. This can furthermore be paired with the weak enkratic requirement, such that it would follow that an agent who has these beliefs would be irrational in choosing to throw the rock. On Gert’s weak

34 Gert, Brute Rationality, 187.

196  Normative Pluralism monism, on the other hand, the agent would not be. As moral reasons do not come with any requiring strength, you could not be rationally required not to throw the rock, even if the moral reasons against doing the action are the only reasons in play. It is important to notice, though, that (2) does not follow from P, since P says nothing about the rationality or irrationality of actions that do not harm or benefit yourself. Rather, (2) seems to follow from Gert’s more general theory about rationality and harm together with his distinction between requiring and justifying strength of reasons, which in turn justify P. The (2) -​type actions are a big problem for Gert’s weak monism if the theory just plain permits any agent to act immorally just because that agent feels like it. That this result seems like an implausible normative claim becomes even more apparent when we imagine cases where the suffering of other people is even greater. Again, normative pluralism seems better off. We have seen that an important intuition that motivates normative pluralism is that it can never be irrational to choose to pursue your own self-​interest. This is why it is rational also for a fully informed agent to do what he or she prudentially ought to do in a case of nominal-​notable conflict between morality and prudence (if that could exist). But in the case of (2), no option is in your own self-​interest, and the moral reasons and the moral requirement are all that remain. To violate this requirement would be failing to respond to the only reasons that apply to you, and if you are aware of these reasons, then acting on the urge would constitute an irrational weakness of the will. Gert could try to argue, and this is maybe how we ought to interpret him, that there is, in fact, no plain permission to throw the rock in (2), given that he makes a distinction between actions that are and are not in need of justification. For example, saying that Robinson Crusoe is morally permitted to skip stones in the lagoon is a misleading way of saying that this action is not in need of moral justification.35 This seems to suggest a way in which the action in (2) can be warranted not as a matter of a positive normative permission but rather as a matter of normative silence. This could help him avoid the more directly counterintuitive claim that it is just plain permissible to throw the rock. Instead, it is just not the case that it is plain impermissible. However, insofar as moral reasons have no plain requiring strength, this would have no effect on the rationality or irrationality of throwing the rock. The moral reasons, by just granting a permission not to throw the rock, are still completely optional for the agent to respond to, despite the fact that there are

35 Ibid., 29.

The Codification Challenge  197 no reasons to throw it while there are reasons not to. The culprit in all of these five objections is that Gert denies requiring strength to moral reasons. It should be said, however, that he does not insist on this claim. Although he says that it is his official position that moral reasons have no strength, he also says that it does not contradict the main points of his book (concerning that a parallel between practical and theoretical rationality is unsuccessful) if they were to have a minimal amount of requiring strength. Such a view could classify the rationality of actions (1) to (6) in the same way that P does, Gert says.36 This claim is obviously false with respect to (2), but perhaps that is for the best. Could such a modified version of weak monism do better? With respect to (2), certainly. But there are deeper problems with it. First of all, it seems ad hoc. Gert mentions it in relation to nominal-​notable cases, where certain people might be troubled about the permissibility of acting from the nominal prudential reasons (even though Gert is not). But there seems to be no deeper motivation for holding such a view that Gert mentions than just to avoid certain results. Second, there is a question about how stable such a view can be with respect to constituting what we have described as weak monism. If requiring strength by moral reasons is admitted, why must they always be relatively small no matter the context? Why couldn’t moral reasons make it irrational to perform actions that benefit the agent as long as the harms to other people (or loss of benefits) are large enough? Third, by giving plain requiring strength to moral reasons sufficient to defeat nominal prudential reasons, Gert could no longer account for the general intuition that motivates normative pluralism, namely, that it can never be irrational to pursue one’s own interests.

7.3.  Dorsey’s Hybrid Voluntarism The last attempt at codification that we shall look at is that provided by Dale Dorsey. Dorsey’s position draws on the distinction made by Gert between the justificatory and requiring strength of reasons and is motivated by many of the same considerations, but the resulting codification is somewhat different and less complete. Although he does not label his own position, it also seems to belong to a type of theory that Chang has called “hybrid voluntarism,”

36 Ibid., 61.

198  Normative Pluralism which was briefly discussed in section 6.4.37 This type of theory distinguishes between two different sources for our reasons. On the one hand, reasons are given to us by facts. For example, the fact that something is painful is a reason to avoid it. Different ethical theories would tend to think of different types of facts as salient; a virtue ethicist might, for example, think that the fact that some action would contribute to virtue is a reason to perform it, or for a deontologist, the fact that an action would be using someone as a mere means is a reason not to perform it. These are what Chang calls our “given reasons” and what Dorsey calls the “default level of reasons” and are the type of reasons that we have primarily been concerned with in this book. On the other hand, hybrid voluntarism thinks that another source of our reasons is the will. Through willful commitments, we can, according to Chang, create new reasons in addition to our given reasons. According to Dorsey’s variant, however, we cannot create new reasons through our will but can merely modify our given reasons.38 Let us start with what Dorsey calls the “default level,” that is, our given reasons without any added voluntarist reasons. Dorsey explicitly defends a form of normative monism, where what ultimately determines what we ought to do is not the moral or prudential standpoint but only what he calls “reason-​as-​such.” On the default level, Dorsey defends a certain codification of reason-​as-​such, which is very similar to P* above, although it concerns only permission: Structure of Permission: for any two practical reasons r and s, r and s maintain both requiring and justifying force. If r is a moral architectonic reason, and s is a non-​moral consideration of default strength, the justifying force of r cannot be rendered insufficient to justify by the comparative requiring force of s.39

A reason is “architectonic,” according to Dorsey, if that reason is the fact that φ-​ing is required from the perspective of a particular standpoint.40 Less technically, structure of permission says that a moral requirement is always of sufficient plain justifying strength to justify moral action, in that its justifying 37 Chang, “Grounding Practical Normativity.” As I use the term, Chang and Dorsey advocate different versions of hybrid voluntarism. 38 Dorsey, The Limits, 189–​190. An advantage of this view is that completely unreasonable commitments cannot lead to reasons that can compete with what is reasonable at the default level. 39 Ibid., 194. 40 Ibid., 31.

The Codification Challenge  199 strength always exceeds the requiring strength of any conflicting nonmoral reasons—​on the default level. Morally required actions are, then, on this principle, always just plain permitted and plausibly also sometimes just plain required with respect to our given reasons.41 So much for morality, but what about prudence? Dorsey also thinks that there are prudential architectonic reasons that may compete with moral architectonic reasons.42 However, according to structure of permission, prudential requirements can never override moral requirements but may in turn potentially be overridden. Other than that, Dorsey says little about the general justifying strength of prudential considerations on the default level. It may be that they often have sufficient justifying strength to render prudentially required options rational, or they may do so on occasion. But whatever the answer to this, prudential considerations may have increased importance on the voluntarist level. Dorsey is only one of many philosophers imbuing an agent with a certain capacity or power to affect the reasons that agent is subject to, and this capacity is related to the normative significance that an agent’s self has to that agent.43 This thought also should be seen as closely related to the importance of the separability of persons and the connected Sidgwickian intuitions explored in section 3.5 and which was taken as a significant motivation for normative pluralism. Through an agent’s commitments, projects, practical identities, and social roles, Dorsey thinks that we can affect and alter the strength of our reasons. By, for example, committing to being a dancer, a caring son, or a moral person, you can strengthen the reasons you otherwise have to pursue a career in dancing, to stay at home to care for your mother, or to do the morally right thing. This applies to both the justifying and requiring strength of reasons. This may permit you—​and, in some cases where the prudential interest is “extraordinarily significant,” require you—​from the overarching standpoint of reason-​as-​such, to pursue your interests instead of doing what you are morally required to do. 41 Dorsey thinks that his codification respects the intuitions set forth by Sarah Stroud, discussed here in section 6.4. However, Dorsey thinks they in general merely ground plain permission rather than requirements, and so he does not accept the moral OT (ibid., 201). The reasons for this are long and complicated, one based on the objection that morality is too demanding and the other based on a conclusion that the overridingness of morality is incompatible with supererogation. As I see it, these arguments are based on an impartial conception of morality and a specific conception of supererogation that are both contestable, but I shall not press these points here. 42 Ibid., 67. 43 Dorsey mentions Jean-​Paul Sartre, Kate Manne, Christine Korsgaard, Bernard Williams, and Ruth Chang. Ibid., 173–​175.

200  Normative Pluralism I take no issue with the claim that as agents, we have the capacity to alter the strength of our reasons, be they plain (if they exist) or qualified reasons. And like P*, Dorsey’s codification of reasons at the default level respects the rationality intuition identified by Gert and which also motivates the pluralist. In addition, Dorsey’s acceptance of the normative significance of the self also resonates well with normative pluralism. These are all advantages of Dorsey’s view. On the other hand, I think there are three problems with it that make normative pluralism equally or more appealing. First, as I argued in section 6.4, no matter the prudential reason, it simply seems counterintuitive to claim that it can be just plain permissible (not to mention required) to violate genuine moral requirements—​at least, of the kinds I described in that section. Dorsey does not give a lot of examples of the kinds of moral requirements that he thinks can be outweighed by prudential reasons strengthened by the self, but most of the examples he does give are consequentialist examples that reflect Dorsey’s general view of morality as a completely impartial standpoint, requiring you to benefit people impartially. I do not find this view of morality particularly plausible, and so I do not see these cases as genuine examples of moral requirements (however, they certainly generate moral permissions). Dorsey’s most central example, however, is not based simply on impartiality but also involves a special relationship. This example, Kate, has a rich context and involves a woman who has been sublimating her own interests throughout her life and has dedicated her life to the flourishing of her community. She now faces a decision about finally doing something for herself and going on a cruise or staying at home to look after a friend who is going through a difficult divorce. With respect to this case, Dorsey claims that if Kate decides to commit to her own prudential good, the relevant prudential reasons have a sufficiently strong requiring strength to outweigh the justifying strength of the moral reasons to help her friend. Now, I find this to be a very interesting type of case, and it is in many ways similar to Bernard Williams’s Paul Gauguin example, though with a weaker set of moral reasons. But it is not quite clear what we should make of it. You might agree that Kate ought all things considered to finally do something for herself. But while the explanation of this could be that the moral reasons are outweighed by the prudential reasons, the explanation could also be—​given that Kate may also have moral reasons to pursue her own interests—​that the moral reasons for helping her friend are outweighed by these competing moral reasons, such that the all things considered judgment is explained in a quantificational

The Codification Challenge  201 way. We might arrive at such a moral conclusion either through a non-​ impartial understanding of morality where morality also includes duties to oneself or even through an impartial understanding of morality where Kate simply ought to give an equal consideration to her own happiness as she gives to that of her friend. Alternatively, you might think that it is, in fact, permissible, in some sense, for Kate to stay and help her friend, regardless of her existential commitment to start to look more after her own good. You might think so, because acting on those moral reasons that support helping her friend does not actually seem irrational to you—​which it would be if she ought all things considered to be selfish. The second reason concerns Dorsey’s codification of reasons at the default level, as formulated in structure of permission. As Dorsey himself admits, the principle “is jury-​rigged to deliver my desired view,” and he says that there is little independent evidence in its favor, such that the principle is simply ad hoc.44 But in saying this, Dorsey does not consider these features to constitute an objection to his view. This is because he believes that the principle in spite of these features delivers correct first-​order conclusions, and if it does, it would be wrong to reject it merely because it is ad hoc. In this, I think Dorsey is right. That it gives the right first-​order conclusions (if we think it does) should be something that counts in favor of the principle, and it is also possible that a deeper grounding may be discovered at a later time. But a problem arises if there are also other views that can account for the same first-​order conclusions. The one reason Dorsey mentions as supporting his codification is that “it’s required to accommodate permission to conform to moral demands, which we have reason to want to accept.”45 And maybe it is required, if the important judgment to be accounted for is that there is a plain permission to conform to these demands. But this may equally be explained by Gert’s principle P as well as by normative pluralism. The first two reasons I’ve mentioned merely sideline normative pluralism with Dorsey’s view, but the third points to a problematic aspect with the latter, which gives us reason to prefer normative pluralism. This problem is one that Dorsey explicitly discusses and acknowledges as problematic, which is that his view seems to feature “an entrenchment of inegalitarian privilege.”46 As Dorsey rightly says, it is plausible “that we will maintain permission to

44 Ibid., 170. 45 Ibid. 46

Ibid., 202–​206.

202  Normative Pluralism refuse to conform to moral demands when our central life’s projects or prudential interests are at stake.” But our life projects and interests and what we tend to be committed to are to a large extent shaped by our circumstances and upbringing. This means that people who grow up in circumstances of privilege will tend to develop interests and projects that depend on such privilege, often in ways that are unjust. Now, the problem is that morality seems like an important device for fighting this kind of privilege, and “by allowing prudence to justify immoral action . . . morality is rendered impotent.”47 Morality is rendered impotent to require you to give up on your unjust privileges and conform to fairer and less resource-​intensive projects and ways of living. Dorsey worries about this objection but responds to it by arguing that the problem can to a large extent be practically resolved through social and political action that reorganizes upbringing and society such that new generations come to value things that are more friendly to morality’s demands. I think this response is fine as far as it goes. But the problem is that even if there are ways to mitigate the practical problems over time, Dorsey’s view still seems to give first-​order judgments about the present that do not seem quite right. It seems plausible to say, with respect to many such cases, that morality does require you to alter your lifestyle and not proceed with certain of your projects that depend on an unjust privilege and that this represents a genuine non-​defeated normative requirement that you cannot escape by way of existential decisions to pursue your own interests.48 This also seems to be part of Dorsey’s worry, and here normative pluralism offers a way to accommodate this type of judgment, whereas Dorsey’s view does not. And normative pluralism can do this without compromising the judgment that an agent can still be permitted or required—​and not be irrational—​in pursuing his or her own interests in such cases. For these reasons, I believe normative pluralism should be seen as preferable to Dorsey’s version of weak monism.

47 Ibid., 203. 48 Chang’s version of hybrid voluntarism seems better off in this respect, as Chang does not allow voluntarist reasons to change what you have most reason to do. According to Chang, voluntarist reasons only become relevant when given reasons fail to determine what you have most reason to do. Chang, “Grounding Practical Normativity,” 178. However, if given reasons are structured such that you are just plain required to conform to moral requirements, Chang’s account could, unlike Dorsey’s, not respect the Sidgwickian intuition that you are always rational not to sacrifice your own self-​interest.

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7.4.  Rejecting the Codifiability Challenge Establishing the existence of an overarching normative standpoint is difficult. Such a standpoint must both cover the normative reasons it is supposed to adjudicate between and have the property of supremacy. In order to examine whether some standpoint has the property of supremacy, we need something more than a placeholder. We need a standpoint with a sufficient amount of content. In ­chapter 6, we saw that familiar standpoints such as meaningfulness, rationality, or morality either do not seem to have the right content or cannot easily be said to possess supremacy. In this chapter, we have also seen that attempts at codifying a standpoint beyond our familiar categories also have trouble with resulting in a code that can be identified as normatively supreme. One way to avoid these difficulties is by rejecting the codification challenge. The strategy here is to reject the assumption that moral and prudential reasons would relate in systematic ways if they are comparable. It seems that this could be accomplished by assuming certain Aristotelian or particularist approaches to reasons. Both are general theories about reasons that want to emphasize the role of particular judgments about particular cases. Such judgments are not thought to be made on the basis of rule-​like principles but are rather thought to be heavily dependent on context and practical competency. These theories therefore do not search for codifications in terms of principles and universalized or generalized specific claims about reasons for action. Given such theories, we could say that the very notion of an overarching normative standpoint is unnecessary. There are normatively privileged ways of comparing reasons in particular cases, even if we cannot codify these reasons. To be more specific, by Aristotelian, I mean a type of theory associated with Aristotle that holds that practical reason is uncodifiable such that we cannot give a set of rules for what practical reason requires of us, or at least not rules that any agent without a specific competence (wisdom) can apply to specific situations. According to Richard Kraut, Aristotle thinks that “what must be done on any particular occasion by a virtuous agent depends on the circumstances, and these vary so much from one occasion to another that there is no possibility of stating a series of rules, however complicated, that collectively solve every practical problem.”49 Instead of a code, what is being appealed to within Aristotelianism to serve as the measure of right action 49 Richard Kraut, “Aristotle’s Ethics,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 ed.), http://​plato.stanf​​archi​ves/​win2​012/​entr​ies/​aristo​tle-​eth​ics/​.

204  Normative Pluralism is the action of a virtuous agent. This type of agent does not require knowledge of any code in order to choose correctly but is instead served by his or her virtues which enable the agent to make good judgments. Such virtue is acquired through experience by setting the correct goals and, in so doing, engaging with the good.50 Because of the context-​dependent nature of choice situations, no set of rules could be developed that could serve as a complete guide to wise decision-​making.51 Particularism, which is first and foremost advocated by Jonathan Dancy, is a related moral theory which claims that “the possibility of moral thought and judgment does not depend on the provision of a suitable supply of moral principles.”52 Dancy thinks, however, that this lack of reliance on principle is not merely confined to the moral domain but extends to normativity and reasons in general. In its strongest form, it also denies the existence of defensible normative principles. Weaker versions of particularism merely claim that the “rational” person does not need to know and apply principles in order to reach correct normative judgments and may even be normatively worse off for doing so. With respect to the question of whether there is an ought simpliciter, both theories could defend its existence by saying that although we may not be able to find and formulate an overarching normative standpoint, we can nonetheless—​insofar as we are virtuous agents with sensitivity to reasons—​ arrive at correct judgments about what one just plain ought to do. Experience and virtue may make one sensitive to what action reasons count in favor of in particular cases and to what plain weight they have. A virtuous agent may, in other words, be able to compare the plain strength of reasons without any commensurating standard. The debate about codifiability and particularism in ethics is a general debate about which much has already been said. I do not aim to offer new arguments or review old ones to settle that debate. Many people reject particularism for reasons that are independent of questions about normative pluralism, and this position will not be attractive to all normative monists.53 Instead, I will argue that such theories are not by themselves sufficient to ensure moral-​prudential comparability. 50 The ability to make comparisons could be seen as a form of expertise. See Regan, “Value, Comparability, and Choice,” 136–​137. 51 See also McDowell, “Virtue and Reason.” 52 Jonathan Dancy, Ethics without Principles (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 7. 53 Dancy admits that principled conceptions of the ethical are dominant, both in terms of theory and in terms of how people organize their lives, and that particularism is not a majority view. Ibid.

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7.4.1. Particularism I shall leave aside the independent debate about whether particularism is true or not. However, an important point I want to make about particularism is that there is nothing in this type of theory that guarantees the truth of a monist picture of normativity. That our reasons cannot be codified into rules and that what we ought to do is only determinable in relation to specific contexts does not imply that reasons are comparable and that any ought we might determine to apply in such a context is an ought simpliciter rather than one among several oughts or a quantificational ought based on agreement among sets of several types of reasons. There may be no particular context where the reasons we would classify as moral and the reasons we would classify as prudential combine and could be weighed against each other. There is a quite powerful objection that the particularist could make. For if we are to understand the differences in what type a reason belongs to in terms of how that reason systematically relates (and does not relate) to other reasons, as I described it in section 3.4.1, then the uncodifiability of reasons seems to ensure that reasons cannot be systematized such as to belong to well-​ordered sets or types. Hence, normative pluralism, understood as the view that normativity is divided into two incommensurable sets of reasons that are systematically related internally, could not be a correct picture of normativity. Nor could there be a specific moral ought and a specific prudential ought that derive their natures from belonging to such sets of reasons. Because of these features, particularism constitutes a powerful opponent to normative pluralism. Not only can it, it seems, (defensively) escape the codifying challenge and the related supremacy challenge, but it can also (offensively) reject the possibility of normative pluralism based on formal features of reasons. However, even if reasons do not systematically relate in a specific way across all contexts, they will presumably relate in a specific way in a given context. Suppose that in one such context, one group of reasons concerned with the quality of one’s own life conflicted with another group of reasons concerned with benefiting others. This seems to be a commonsensical basis for identifying what we tend to call a moral-​prudential conflict. And particularism provides no guarantee that what we see as such conflicts will at any time be resolvable. If particularism were to be true, then that may, in other words, bar us from describing the structure of normativity in positive terms such that there exist two sets of practical reasons where those reasons relate

206  Normative Pluralism systematically inside those sets but where they do not relate between sets. But we also cannot positively say that what we think of as moral-​prudential conflicts will be resolvable and the reasons involved comparable. While the structure of normative pluralism would not obtain as such, this would be a hollow victory for normative monism—​and all assuming that a strong form of particularism could be justified in the first place.

7.4.2.  Three Types of Aristotelianism On Aristotelian theories, knowledge of right action is dependent on wisdom being a realized virtue in the agent. The fact that I am unable to discover any privileged solution to moral-​prudential conflicts could merely reflect a lack of such wisdom on my part. A wise and virtuous agent would know (generally, not infallibly) what would be just plain required in a given context by being sensitive, cognitively as well as affectively, to how the relevant reasons would bear on that particular case. The agent can do so without resorting to a rule or principle. First, as a way for the monist to escape the codifying challenge, it can easily be seen as overstating that challenge. The challenge to describe how morality and prudence are related in systematic ways does not necessarily call for “a series of rules . . . that collectively solve every practical problem,” as we saw Kraut describe non-​Aristotelian views. An account of reasons featuring such rules would be welcome, though, since it would provide a theory that would be easier to assess; what is minimally called for is only some clear substance to a standpoint, such that we can know what it is “about” and what kinds of actions it generally calls for (and for what reasons). We do not need a complete or exceptionless code able to give us definite prescriptions about what to do in every case. As long as we can have some vague idea of the structure of plain normative facts, about what is just plain required of us and why, there will be some degree of codifiability. This will furthermore trigger the supremacy challenge, such that we also need to show that this way of acting takes priority over the adverbial normative facts. And it appears that Aristotelian virtue ethical theories provide us with such an idea, even though that idea is somewhat vague when it comes to what specific actions it picks out as plain required. Different versions of this type of theory present different accounts of what virtues there are, what the virtuous agent would do, and, most important, what makes something virtuous. These

The Codification Challenge  207 descriptions may provide us with some insight into how reasons are thought to be commensurated, even if the resulting codification may be very general. For any such versions of Aristotelian theories that admit of some degree of codifiability, such that we can see the contours of an overarching normative standpoint, this will then trigger the supremacy challenge. This involves answering such questions as why a life according to the virtues, however they are laid out, is the only way in which we ought to live and why there cannot be other reasonable ways of determining what to do. Virtue ethicists often do try to answer some questions and, arguably, to a greater degree than other theories in ethics attempt to answer the question of how to live, all things considered, rather than just trying to answer the question of what is morally right. However, virtue ethics has, as far as I know, never been directly discussed in relation to the issue of normative pluralism versus normative monism. This is unfortunate, as it may have a lot to contribute, but it also makes it somewhat difficult to exactly identify various virtue ethical positions with respect to the terminology employed in this book. Indeed, readers with a virtue ethical persuasion may even balk at the distinction between moral and prudential reasons. With respect to this problem, let me identify three possible virtue ethical positions through using the terminology of this book. I shall furthermore try to identify some advantages and challenges for each of them.

7.4.3.  Source Monistic Aristotelianism Many virtue ethicists deny that there is a deep distinction to be made between moral and prudential reasons because they believe that there is ultimately only one source of reasons. There are several versions of source monistic virtue theories, differing on what type of consideration they think grounds the virtues. For example, one view is that what makes it the case that we have reasons to be virtuous is that virtues are necessary for and contribute to an individual’s flourishing. Call this view eudaimonism. Another, and related, view is that the virtues are what make us well-​functioning members of our species. Call this view virtue naturalism.54 It is important to note 54 The two views may come down to one and the same, and the second tends to be an attempt to interpret the first. For the naturalist view, see Philippa Foot, Natural Goodness (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); Rosalind Hursthouse, On Virtue Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

208  Normative Pluralism that the mere claim that what grounds the virtues are these sorts of reasons does not constitute a source monistic normative theory, as it is nevertheless possible that beyond these virtue-​grounding reasons, there are also other sorts of reasons for action (that do not ground the virtues). That there are no further types of reasons may in some cases just be tacitly assumed, but in other cases, it is argued for. Naturalists, for example, tend to base such arguments on the claim that goodness must be understood attributively, such that “good” is always a good exemplar of some class (such as being a “good human”).55 Rosalind Hursthouse explicitly mentions that her view results in “some sort of reductionism of the concept of the right,” as well as of other normative concepts.56 There is a general problem that concerns virtue ethical proposals for how to understand evaluation of agents and actions. In claiming that our actions are to be evaluated with respect to “flourishing” or being “well functioning,” that evaluative category must have some more specific meaning that allows us to understand what it is about. Flourishing could be understood in many ways, and so could being a good human.57 Now, these concepts could be explicated in either a determinate or vague and indeterminate manner. The problem is that once we start to spell out in more detail what these concepts amount to, the degree of codification increases, but the prospect of meeting the supremacy challenge decreases. A similar claim has also been expressed by R. Jay Wallace.58 With respect to various conceptions of “the highest good,” Wallace thinks that the more determinate conceptions tend to fail as plausible views of the highest good, while the more indeterminate conceptions are too vaguely characterized to support the claim that we must be virtuous to attain them, or otherwise act, live, or be in some unique way. Consider first the less determinate conceptions. They are more plausible candidates as far as they go. Understanding the overarching normative standpoint as aiming for “rational excellence,” “human flourishing,” or “sensitivity to reasons” seem to be a plausible way to characterize what the overarching normative standpoint is supposed to be “about.” But the worry is that these are either empty placeholder concepts or they admit of multiple and practically conflicting interpretations. In particular, consider Hursthouse’s 55 Foot, Natural Goodness, 2–​3. See Broome, Rationality through Reasoning, 11–​12, for a general criticism of Foot’s naturalistic way of understanding normativity. 56 Hursthouse, On Virtue Ethics, 82. 57 See David Copp and David Sobel, “Morality and Virtue: An Assessment of Some Recent Work in Virtue Ethics,” Ethics 114 (2004): 535, for competing ways to understand evaluation with respect to a species. 58 Wallace, “Virtue, Reason, and Principle,” 241.

The Codification Challenge  209 claim that good functioning for humans consists of living in a “rational way,” meaning “a way that we can rightly see as . . . what we have reason to do,”59 this way of functioning is consistent with thinking that there are several ways to function rationally, in accordance with several types of incommensurable reasons. This belongs to a wider point about the virtuous agent, seen as one who is responsive to reasons, namely, that it is quite possible that those reasons to which he or she responds are reasons that are incommensurable. There is therefore a possibility that such concepts are less monistic than they seem. Consider next a more determinate conception, namely, Hursthouse’s proposal for the criteria by which we evaluate functioning in a social animal: (1) the individual’s survival, (2) the continuance of the species, (3) the individual’s enjoyment and freedom from pain, and (4) its role in the social group.60 With the possible exception of (2), each of these seems individually to be a consideration that can ground reasons, but taken together as a standard for determining what reasons we have, this set is not obviously a good candidate for a supreme standpoint. First, what the standpoint is supposed to do is tell us what is involved in being a good member of a particular kind of species. But being a member of a species is not the only type of membership we have. We belong to many other types of categories as well, being citizens of some country, members of some family, clan, or class, along with having many other identities. It is unclear that our species membership takes precedence over other types of membership in determining what to do.61 Second, there are also further questions about how to balance these criteria, for it seems they can be in conflict along familiar moral-​prudential lines. For example, (1) and (3), which seem to constitute prudential concerns, seem able to come into conflict with (2) and (4), which seem to constitute moral concerns. If it is not specified how they are to be weighed against each other, then the concept of “social functioning” is again indeterminate enough to think that the relation between these concerns may be incommensurable. If the relative weights are specified, then this will result in a standard that is likely to fail to come across as being supreme, as we seem to be back in a Sidgwickian dilemma where sacrifice to the greater good and being concerned with the quality of one’s own existence are both reasonable. Given 59 Hursthouse, On Virtue Ethics, 222. 60 Ibid., 201–​202. 61 Copp and Sobel, “Morality and Virtue,” 536. In the case of rational animals, such as humans, Hursthouse also thinks that good functioning consists in going about in a rational way, meaning that we act in accordance with reasons. However, as Copp and Sobel argue, this does not seem to add any new determinate content (540–​543).

210  Normative Pluralism this, neither set of concerns can be given normative priority, and the dualism of two types of reasons seem still to be present.62

7.4.4.  Phronetic Comparativism There is another possible type of Aristotelian theory that can accept source pluralism, meaning that there are different types of normative reasons and requirements but also accepting that these reasons are comparable across types.63 Such a theory would then tend to hold that requirements on an agent to be virtuous and cultivate the virtues are results of comparative facts concerning the relative strength of competing moral and prudential reasons to be virtuous. However, I will not focus on the virtues, because whether we ought to be virtuous and in what form are less interesting for our purposes than the very possibility of comparability between moral and prudential reasons. Interestingly, Aristotelianism allows a combination where reasons (1) are of several kinds and (2) cannot be codified such as to form an overarching normative standpoint, yet (3) agents of particular sensitivity to reasons (the phronetic, virtuous agents) may be able to successfully compare different kinds of reasons in particular circumstances and determine what they just plain ought to do. Such Aristotelian theories placing particular emphasis on uncodifiability and phronesis may be found, for example, in John McDowell’s work,64 but as with the other types of Aristotelianism, he and other theorists can be hard to place in this taxonomy with great certainty. Comparative Aristotelianism may come in two forms. In addition to the source dualistic version I’ve described, there may be source monistic versions. Such theories would propose that we cannot classify reasons into several types, perhaps because the context-​sensitivity of reasons makes it the case that they do not behave in the type of systematic way required to distinguish kinds. And while reasons cannot be codified, the phronetic agent has 62 There are also many other reasons familiar from the literature to believe that source monism of this kind is sustainable. One is the problem of egoism. If what grounds the virtues is that they benefit their possessor through their contribution to flourishing or eudaimonia, then they seem to be grounded in a way that is objectionably egoistic in the sense that the grounding is not of a sufficiently moral nature. There seem to exist more other-​regarding grounds as well. Potentially, the two types of considerations could ground a different set of virtues. 63 Although we are here concerned with Aristotelian virtue ethics, it should be noted that we can also find source pluralistic interpretations of Confucian virtue ethics. Wai-​ying Wong, “The Moral and Non-​Moral Virtues in Confucian Ethics,” in Asian Philosophy 21, no. 1 (2011): 71–​82. 64 See, e.g., McDowell, “Virtue and Reason.”

The Codification Challenge  211 the competency to correctly or reliably judge how particular reasons compare in particular circumstances. This type of theory can be seen as a version of particularism, and I have no more to say about it beyond what has already been said. Of the source pluralist kind, in order to distinguish between the different types of reasons, it seems necessary to allow a sufficient amount of systematic relationship between reasons of a similar kind. This means that we have at least some significant degree of codifiability on the qualified normative level, but the way these reasons relate across types is uncodifiable and knowable only in particular cases to the phronetic agent. It is hard to know how to assess such a view. I do not know anyone who can be said to defend it, and it mostly remains a theoretical possibility. One could easily try to reject such a view as merely that, but on the other hand, I would not be surprised to hear someone say of a moral-​prudential conflict that they know that they just plain ought to do this or that thing and that the corresponding reasons just seem to plain matter more, without being able to give much of an account of why. And I think the possibility of that kind of intuitive ability to compare reasons across types should be taken seriously, though I’m not sure quite how to respond to it, with the exception of perhaps demanding an explanation of why we should trust that kind of judgment. We should also consider that there is a position very much related to this that belongs in the mainstream philosophical literature, namely, Rossian intuitionism. David Ross’s intuitionist theory is usually understood as a theory of morality, and this seems to be the most natural understanding, since the prima facie duties he lists seem to be of a moral nature.65 Ross also tends to be portrayed as a deontologist, but that may mostly be a result of his opposition to consequentialism. The moral rules he formulates are not of a categorical but of a pro tanto nature and depend on competency in the agent to weigh them against each other to reliably result in correct overall moral judgments. And neither should we forget that Ross was a scholar of Aristotle and ancient ethics. Ross’s list of prima facie duties reflects a significant degree of codification of morality. Not only does he describe what morality is concerned with and what types of considerations enter into a properly made moral judgment, but he also specifies their relative importance. Ross argues that some of these duties are more important than others, in that, for example, the duty of non-​maleficence (not

65 Ross’s work is suffused with descriptions that pertain to morality. For example, he claims that his list of prima facie duties are those that are morally significant. David Ross, The Right and the Good, ed. Philip Stratton-​Lake (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 20.

212  Normative Pluralism harming others), as well as several other duties, are more important than the duty to promote a maximum of aggregate good.66 Ross’s moral theory is fundamentally pluralistic, in that he claims that there are many sources of moral reasons and that these cannot be reduced to one single source. His codification also seems to be a plausible enough description of the moral standpoint, such that we can understand its general character and what it aims for, but it is of a nature that is not specific enough to allow much codification with respect to how conflicting duties are weighed against each other. However, it is important to note that his claim about their relative importance actually gives us some degree of codification at the level of overall moral duties. Could a picture like this be applied to normativity in general? Possibly, but I’m not so sure. There are many issues with Ross’s moral epistemology that have already been much discussed and that have formed the basis of objections. There is nothing new for me to say about this subject, but insofar as these objections should be seen as damaging to his moral theory, the same is likely for an attempt to transfer it to normativity in general. However, there are some additional concerns with that kind of attempt. I said that Ross manages to give a fairly convincing picture of the moral standpoint by describing, in a way that can be said to resonate with us, what kinds of considerations matter and in what way they matter. The result of Ross’s codification is that we get some idea about how to characterize and conceive of the moral standpoint and the way it operates. And despite Ross’s source pluralism about moral reasons (or prima facie duties), they seem to have some kind of general unity to them, in being, in various ways, concerned with the considerate treatment of others. It is not clear that we can find some similar unity with respect to the combination of moral and prudential reasons, and prima facie (no pun intended), the two sorts of considerations seem to stem from normative standpoints with opposing concerns, in that they do not agree on whose interests one should be concerned with. It also seems difficult to find a description of the relative importance of moral and prudential concerns that we can be sure represents a way of weighing reasons and assigning importance that takes normative precedence over a purely moral or a purely prudential way of doing so. These are general concerns about the monistic project that I have discussed throughout this book. But the concerns that I’ve now mentioned are not such that we should consider it impossible that a Rossian theory of normativity in general could be true. Far from it. I have argued throughout this

66 Ibid., 19–​22, 30, 41–​42.

The Codification Challenge  213 book that a proper evaluation of the prospects of reasons commensurability must proceed with respect to substantive judgments about how reasons can be thought to relate. If we can codify those relations, then we have general views to argue against, and if those arguments can be held to be successful, then normative pluralism has been defended. But if we only have a low level of codification, as in the case of a Rossian normative monism, such general arguments cannot be had as easily, and we must instead look at the nature of purported comparisons on a case-​by-​case basis. This is perhaps the limit (as Ross would have it) where general philosophy ends and judgment based on intuition and perception begins.

7.4.5.  Integrative Aristotelianism There is a last type of Aristotelianism that I think is particularly interesting. A common strategy for grounding Aristotelianism is to argue that acquiring and living a life of virtue form the best or most reliable strategy for living a good life, sometimes also coupled with the claim that a life of virtue is necessary for living a good life. From this thought, it follows naturally that we can be said to have decisive prudential reasons to live a virtuous life. And since the virtuous life—​a life displaying justice, charity, and compassion—​is also a morally praiseworthy life, we also seem to have decisive moral reasons to live a life of virtue. In other words, given the value of virtue in an agent’s life, we both morally and prudentially ought to be virtuous. There is therefore no need for an Aristotelian, following this kind of argument, to deny source pluralism and the existence of several normative perspectives. In fact, this kind of Aristotelianism is compatible with normative pluralism. It can recognize that we can distinguish between several normative standpoints making genuine normative demands on us and even that these standpoints should be incommensurable such that no intertype comparisons of reasons can be made.67 No overarching normative standpoint and no intertype comparability of reasons is necessary to claim that we ought all things considered to be virtuous, given that we have both morally and prudentially decisive reasons to be so. The ought in question here can be understood to be of a quantificational nature, rather than one presupposing comparability. While the basic 67 Crisp suggests this virtue ethical view and also argues that it is Aristotle’s view. Crisp, “Prudential and Moral Reasons,” 811.

214  Normative Pluralism argument underlying such a view is common, namely, that we ought to live virtuously both for our own sake and for the sake of others, this argument has not been made in the context of the so far very limited debate about normative monism versus pluralism and therefore does not tend to be formulated such that we can determine whether its proponents need more than qualified oughts (and quantifications over those oughts) to promote it. But whatever its proponents may have thought (or not thought about), it represents a theoretical possibility with many advantages. While it can account for the intuitions underlying normative pluralism, it can also avoid the possibility of irresolvable normative conflicts, which can be thought to be unattractive. It offers an optimistic view where the normative standpoints can and should be brought together in an agent’s life, and it does so by way of the concept of integration rather than the more problematic metaphor of weighing on a balance. This also avoids the codifying challenge, as there is no need to describe how moral and prudential reasons compare. But while the view is attractive, it is a strong view that faces many objections. Many objections to the view that we ought to be virtuous because the virtues benefit their possessors are already familiar in the literature on virtue ethics. But I should note that I have already relied on a related view in my main reply to the argument from nominal-​notable comparisons. In section 5.3, I argued that we are never prudentially permitted to take the morally objectionable option that tends to figure in these arguments, because we always have some notable prudential reasons to cultivate moral virtues. However, I also claimed that this is not the same as saying that we always have decisive prudential reasons of this kind. The normative pluralism that I have been concerned with, which admits of certain irresolvable normative conflicts, tends to be committed to much weaker claims about our prudential reasons than integrative Aristotelianism does. The concern, therefore, is that although the position is attractive, the promise of perfect coextension between morality and prudence is more than it can keep. One standard objection to virtue ethics is that in environments hostile to moral virtue, possessing those virtues would not benefit the agent and may even be harmful. Copp and Sobel ask us, for example, to consider “a time and place in which a person who goes along with a vicious aspect of society, say slavery, has full opportunities for a long life of privilege, enjoyment, love, and achievement, whereas speaking up against the viciousness in society promises hostility from the powers that be and worse.”68 However,

68 Copp and Sobel, “Morality and Virtue,” 528.

The Codification Challenge  215 being virtuous says more about the attitudes you ought to have rather than what concrete actions you ought to undertake. A plausible reply from the virtue ethicist is therefore to deny that the wise, just, and compassionate agent would necessarily “speak up” under such circumstances and that the disposition to justice would instead be expressed in other ways that are also sensitive to the agent’s prudential concerns. A truly virtuous agent could be able to find meaning and enjoyment in exercising compassion and justice while prudently balancing that with risks and other types of enjoyment and self-​development, in such a way as to reliably (though not infallibly) avoid major personal sacrifices.69Alternatively, a Stoicist form of virtue ethics could even argue that the psychological benefits of virtue would outweigh any loss of external goods. These replies rely on strong assumptions but might be successful. However, they assume the premise that we are dealing with an agent who is actually virtuous. Most of us are not. While virtuous agents by definition are good at balancing risks and are able to enjoy their psychological benefits, learning to do so may not be prudentially all things considered worthwhile under certain circumstances. For someone who must first develop a sense of justice, it may be risky because there is no guarantee that they will prudently balance the concerns of justice with those of their survival or other important interests. It may be safer not to even start on the path of becoming virtuous. If so, a perfect coextension between moral and prudential requirements at best is contingent on ideal circumstances. While I would be happy to see a convincing account of this coextension, it is a tough sell. In my defense of normative pluralism, I have relied on the premise that there are always notable prudential reasons to develop virtue, but I have not claimed that these reasons are always decisive. This takes into account the value of virtues but amounts to a much weaker and much more defensible claim.

69 However, some virtue ethicists are clear on the point that the virtues sometimes demand sacrifices of the agent with respect to their prospects of flourishing. Hursthouse, On Virtue Ethics, 185.

8 Conclusion and Integration 8.1. Conclusion In examining the prospects for a pluralist theory of normativity, I do not take myself to have provided any sort of proof or decisive reason for why that type of theory must be true. I have argued that whether or not normativity displays the kind of incommensurability claimed by normative pluralism is a substantive issue that can only be settled (if it can ever be settled) by first-​ order normative theory through developing potential accounts of how our reasons relate. The most central claim of normative pluralism is negative: that there does not exist an overarching normative standpoint that can commensurate and resolve the conflicts between morality and prudence. The onus is therefore on normative monists to show that there actually is such a standpoint or to show that we can commensurate moral and prudential reasons without codifying such a standpoint. In this book, I have described problems that such attempts will face and argued that a number of actual proposals fail at overcoming them. Some such proposal may still be true, however, as I have not surveyed every possible codification or argument in favor of some such interpretation. What I believe we are entitled to conclude is that normative pluralism is a coherent and well-​grounded theory that has the resources to deal with a range of problems. It is therefore an attractive and viable theory that should be taken seriously as a competitor to normative monism. So far, the pluralism found in Henry Sidgwick, David Copp, and others appears mostly to be treated as an untenable position whose philosophical role is only to generate a philosophical puzzle concerning how to avoid it. Much of this book has focused on showing how the pluralism is a natural view emerging from the separateness of persons and with enriching and sophisticating normative pluralism so that it can solve a number of problems or questions that it needs to deal with. Some of the most important enrichments are the following. (1) Explaining why qualified oughts are to be understood as genuine oughts in the absence of an overarching ought that could reduce them to reasons. Normative Pluralism. Mathea Slåttholm Sagdahl, Oxford University Press. © Oxford University Press 2022. DOI: 10.1093/​oso/​9780197614693.003.0008

Conclusion and Integration  217 This is because they are normative prescriptions addressed to an agent based on favoring considerations that are reasons, and they are able to play an important role in enkratic practical reasoning. Furthermore, their incommensurability means that there is no overarching ought that could reduce them to plain reasons. (2) Making normative pluralism able to account for certain “ought all things considered” claims and to treat them as true. This was done by developing an alternative understanding of “ought all things considered” that quantifies over relevant normative standpoints rather than presupposing a plain ought. It was also argued that facts about what we “ought all things considered” in this sense are pervasive. (3) Explaining how we can deal with a pluralistic normativity in practical reasoning. It was argued that there are requirements of practical rationality that apply to beliefs about “ought all things considered” in a quantificational sense, meaning that we can reason our way in many cases from normative beliefs to intentions. (4) Explaining how an agent can make choices between incommensurable options, how those choices can be upheld through commitments, and how those choices can be intelligible to the agent as choices made by the agent rather than being mere happenings. This was explained by appealing to the will as an active and controlled act by the agent. (5) Understanding the nature of standpoints as codifications of reasons. Taking reasons, rather than rules, to be basic is likely to avoid the problematic proliferation of normative standpoints found in deflationary versions of normative pluralism. (6) Explaining in what way normativity is divided and why. The claim here is that the plurality takes the form of a dualism between morality and prudence, which exists because of the depth of the distinction between myself and other individuals that makes us separate wholes distinct from the larger whole of humanity.1 (7) Opening up for the enrichment of the personal standpoint that we have called “prudence” by, for example, including concerns of meaningfulness and authentic personal relations. Such goods can contribute to making a life choiceworthy in R. Jay Wallace’s sense. This may, in many cases, lead to greater congruence with moral requirements but still leaves a significant and plausible range of moral-​prudential conflicts. (8) Showing how we can avoid or reduce the impact of the objection from nominal-​notable comparisons simply by acknowledging pro tanto prudential reasons to maintain or develop virtue. All these enrichments should help make the general theory more attractive. They explain how normative pluralism can deal with various important 1 Humanity should here be understood to also include other creatures relevantly like us.

218  Normative Pluralism puzzles. That it can do so is important. If we borrow some metaphors from Kuhnian philosophy of science, we can say that “converting” to normative pluralism would in many ways represent a sort of paradigm shift, given the very dominant position monism seems to have in today’s philosophy of normativity. If we are to make the conversion, we should first be able to see that the alternative paradigm, in this case normative pluralism, can successfully solve a number of puzzles. Converting to normative pluralism will provide us with a different conceptual framework for thinking about normativity.

8.2.  Is Normative Pluralism Revisionary? Would a conversion to normative pluralism have dramatic consequences for the way we do normative philosophy or the conclusions we draw for how we should live our lives? I will argue no. In fact, it is normative monism that holds the most potential for drawing radical conclusions and also involves the need to change our focus in normative theorizing onto a new philosophical topic that reduces the relevancy of traditional moral philosophy. I have claimed that explicit attempts at codifying moral and prudential reasons such as to make an overarching, supreme standpoint are rare occurrences in philosophy. An important reason for this, I suspect, is that it is unclear what philosophical resources we have available to do this and that we have no clear picture of how it could be successfully done. But another reason, I think, is that with respect to contemporary philosophical practices, nothing of much significance seems to hang on whether such a project could be successful or not. As already mentioned, modern normative philosophy is normally compartmentalized in a way well suited to the tenets of normative pluralism. Modern moral philosophy, despite what might be the aspirations of some of its practitioners, is primarily concerned with the moral standpoint and with answering moral questions. It asks questions about what actions are morally permissible or required, about what is just, and about what a morally virtuous agent would do, and it typically examines and compares our reasons through a moral lens—​sometimes impartially or with respect to what is required by respect or care. It is similarly easy, though not as common, to find philosophers discussing what prudence requires of us based on what are seen as prudential considerations and a prudential way of weighing considerations.

Conclusion and Integration  219 From the perspective of normative pluralism, this is how philosophy ought to be conducted, because it is conducted in a way that concerns itself with questions that can be answered and are of importance to us as agents. This means that if normative pluralism is true, philosophy can more or less go on as before. Accepting normative pluralism would not require us to alter the way we conduct moral philosophy or the philosophy of prudence. Rather, it is by accepting the existence of oughts simpliciter that philosophy comes across as being in need of revision. For while figuring out what one morally and prudentially ought to do might be useful to some extent in figuring out what one ought to do simpliciter, these are not the oughts that ultimately matter. What matters, rather, is what one ought to do simpliciter. Traditional moral or prudential philosophy therefore becomes less relevant. What seems to be called for is a new field of study that concerns itself with transcending purely moral and prudential ways of reasoning and to seek ways of combining these two ways of reasoning into a common whole. Alternatively, the monist could avoid the need for this new field by casting aside source pluralism and rejecting the inherent relevancy of one of the standpoints, say, prudence. This would also be revisionary insofar as prudence is thought to matter in determining what one ought (in any normative sense) to do. The way I have described contemporary normative philosophy might not necessarily find resonance in the self-​understanding of the practitioners of these fields. Some may indeed think that they are already involved in answering what one just plain ought to do rather than the question of what one morally or prudentially ought to do. But we should keep in mind that there is a big step from something being morally required to something being just plain required. By looking at the types of considerations that are typical for, say, moral philosophy, one may be warranted in drawing a conclusion about what one morally ought to do, but one is less clearly warranted in drawing a conclusion about what one just plain ought to do. If moral philosophers aim to say something about the latter, then it is curious that this step does not tend to be made explicit or problematized. One does not usually see explicit attempts to relate moral considerations to a wider picture where one also tries to do justice to conflicting prudential considerations. It is therefore easier to see how moral philosophers can justify drawing conclusions about moral oughts than it is regarding plain oughts. In any case, whatever self-​understanding moral philosophers may have, engaging with the subject matter of moral philosophy (when considered as distinct from the

220  Normative Pluralism philosophy of prudence) does not require anything more than the resources normative pluralism can provide. In addition to suggesting that we should change our focus in normative philosophy, normative monism can also be revisionary in a much more dramatic sense. Unlike the oughts of morality and prudence with which we are familiar, the existence of oughts simpliciter can have truly revisionary consequences. While normative pluralism recognizes the normative significance to both morality and prudence as distinct normative standpoints, in a way that ensures that both morality and prudence can contribute to the explanation of ought facts and ensures the rationality of both moral and prudential ways of acting, there is nothing in normative monism itself that can ensure that both sources are at all normatively significant or provide us with ought facts. This is a clear danger of any normative monist theory that also affirms a monism about the sources of reasons. But even comparative forms of monism that agree with normative pluralism on the existence of a plurality of sources of reasons can also have dramatically counterintuitive consequences. For example, we can imagine one variant of normative monism that involves the idea that moral concerns have very little normative weight, such that their weight is never strong enough to outweigh prudential concerns. Of course, normative monism can strive to describe a relationship between morality and prudence that is without such counterintuitive outcomes, and this is probably the aim of many monists. Although such counterintuitive outcomes are not an inherent feature of the theory, we should keep in mind that neither does the idea of comparative monism guarantee an intuitively satisfying account of what one ought to do, and some monist views may call for revision of our ordinary judgments. Some may be excessively tilted toward egoism, while others may lean too much toward an excessive moralism. For example, on the moralistic side, Peter Singer draw radical conclusions about how we ought to live our lives that seem to allow us little room for anything else other than contributing to impartial value.2 On a different pole, Roger Crisp says of his own comparatively monistic view that it (or some version of it) “may allow an agent to inflict serious harm on another person to promote their own good (perhaps killing someone in the prime of their life so as to benefit from their will).”3 Whatever we want to say in the end about the reasonableness of such actions, they are surely counterintuitive. 2 E.g., Singer, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality.” 3 Crisp, Reasons and the Good, 135.

Conclusion and Integration  221

8.3.  Integrating versus Comparing If we take up normative pluralism as our normative framework, then we cannot resolve potential moral-​prudential conflicts by comparing their relative weight. The agent would be doomed, one might think, to act wrongly in at least one normatively important sense (either morally or prudentially). But weighing and trying to determine where the balance of reason lies represent only one way in which an agent might resolve normative conflicts. Some philosophers have proposed approaches to resolve normative conflicts other than the “weighing on a balance” model. One method that is particularly relevant to pluralism is integration, which consists of planning and organizing one’s life such that one can fulfill the requirements of both standpoints. Wallace is an advocate of this approach to normative conflict resolution. He asks us to imagine that we have made a decision about what is important to the goodness of one’s own life and says the following: Once a conception of what is important is fixed in this way, it establishes a framework for . . . integration. One does not necessarily weigh the things that matter to one in a balance, with the objective of maximizing the value of something (the goodness or meaningfulness of one’s life, say). Rather, one tries to find ways of integrating the various objectives that matter, bringing them together into a single life that makes appropriate room for each. . . . [O]‌ur primary practical objective is to find ways of doing justice to the concrete demands of both spheres within the parameters of a single life. It is only when integrative reasoning of this kind cannot go forward, because circumstances do not allow the demands of the two different spheres to be satisfied together, that considerations of comparative importance may become relevant. And even here, one’s decision is apt to have the character of a radical choice or a tragic conflict, rather than a simple problem of maximization.4

In this way, Wallace argues, we can hope to do justice both to our own interests and to the requirements of morality.5

4 Wallace, “The Rightness of Acts,” 316. See also Wallace, “Reason and Responsibility,” 134–​135. 5 The method of integration is also advocated by Samuel Scheffler and, if I understand him correctly, by Henry Richardson. See Scheffler, Human Morality, 102, 124–​125; Henry Richardson, Practical Reasoning about Final Ends (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 143.

222  Normative Pluralism The potential for successful integration depends on many things. First, it depends on what theories of morality and prudence we accept. Wallace argues that very demanding moral theories such as utilitarianism would systematically thwart the project of integration, and Scheffler similarly argues that moral theories that call for “radical self-​transcendence” are not compatible with integration.6 Second, as the reasons of some prudential theories are sensitive to what a particular agent cares about, it may depend on the psychological makeup of individual agents. Someone who cares about being cherished by his or her community may find it easier to integrate his or her concerns with those of morality. Third, the potential for successful integration may depend on external circumstances, both natural and social. A state of scarcity of necessary goods may provide some obstacles to integration, while a state of plenty may make it easier. Scheffler argues that a just and well‐ordered society with strong traditions of civic responsibility and moral education minimizes the occasions on which people prudentially ought to violate moral requirements.7 On the other hand, an unjust society without proper rule of law may make it in the interest of some to act immorally. Scheffler draws an interesting point that can be made from the last two conditions, namely, that the prospects of successful integration, and therefore the frequency of irresolvable moral-​prudential conflicts, are to a large extent a social and political, and thus also an empirical, matter.8 It is, according to Scheffler, a social and political task to achieve a measure of fit between the demands of morality and the individual’s interests. Social and political institutions can influence the prospects of integration in two important ways. First, the way society is ordered may affect what we come to care about. By facilitating a certain culture and values and by promoting moral education, we can promote moral concerns and moral emotions in members of society. Second, by becoming well ordered and just, a society can make immoral behavior less attractive. Especially important here are effective laws and sanctions creating risks for immoral behavior, but positive measures such as engendering trust and cooperation can be equally important. Scheffler also argues that achieving integration is something we generally have an interest in, on both a psychological and a political level.9 Generally, 6 Wallace, “Reason and Responsibility,” 141; Scheffler, Human Morality, 129. Both think that this is a reason to reject such demanding moral theories, and Scheffler thinks that such theories can at most serve as a supererogatory ideal. 7 Scheffler, Human Morality, 140. 8 Ibid., c­ hapter 8. 9 Ibid., 141.

Conclusion and Integration  223 we will tend to benefit from a society that cares about moral requirements. That morality should be beneficial to all on a collective level seems to be part of morality’s justification. Generally, we will also tend to suffer on an individual level if we experience tension between what we morally ought to do and what we prudentially ought to do. While we may care about our own interests, we generally also tend to be equipped with some capacity and degree of moral emotions that make immoral behavior psychologically uncomfortable. The existence and degree of such interests may be contingent, but they seem to provide some frequently occurring and general reasons for agents to promote integration and so become able to resolve normative conflicts. Ancient ethics is a very valuable field for this topic, where we can look, for example, at the Stoics who thought there were techniques to do so and who argued that the person who achieved this would be in a position to lead the best possible life.10 However, looking at the work of Plato and Aristotle, we also see the view that the integration of such interests in the life of an agent tends to be under the influence of social and cultural factors as well, which is something that we cannot control as individuals but over which we can exercise control as a collective. The task of reconciling morality and prudence may therefore not be entirely an individual and philosophical endeavor but also a social and political one requiring collective action. Such a solution is also favored by Thomas Nagel. Although he thinks that it is possible for us to reform our psychology and projects such that we no longer experience moral-​prudential conflicts (what we might call internal integration), he thinks it preferable to achieve this integration externally through political effort. This requires “a less heroic unification” of standpoints where all the work isn’t “done within a single soul” and where “a great deal may have to be abandoned.”11

10 See, e.g., W. B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008). We should also mention Epicurean hedonism, which requires us to drastically reform our desires in order to live a good life. 11 Nagel, The View from Nowhere, 206. See also Dorsey, The Limits, 203–​206.

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Index For the benefit of digital users, indexed terms that span two pages (e.g., 52–​53) may, on occasion, appear on only one of those pages. agency classical and rationalist conceptions of, 11, 87–​88, 97–​99, 110–​11, 112 as reasons-​responsive, 104–​5, 111, 156, 159, 166 virtuous, 203–​4, 206–​15 agent-​centered prerogatives, 134–​39 all things considered ought (see ought all things considered) as placeholder concept, 28 argument from nominal-​notable comparisons alternative variants, 134–​39 description of, 113–​16 structure of, 116 Aristotelianism, 203–​4, 206–​15 Aristotle, 203–​4, 213n.67, 222–​23 Baker, Derek, 50n.21, 84–​85, 147n.7 blame. See criticism of actions and character Bloomfield, Paul, 120n.13 Brink, David, 71–​76 Broome, John, 19–​20, 22–​23, 26–​27, 28, 86–​87, 88–​90, 92, 93–​94, 106–​9, 152, 170–​72, 208n.57, 208n.58 Case, Spencer, 139–​41 categorical imperative, 54–​55 Chang, Ruth, 24–​25, 28, 87, 100n.21, 102–​ 3, 104, 110, 114, 171n.42, 172–​75, 177, 197–​98, 202n.48 codification challenge, 12–​13, 143–​44, 177 codification challenge, 142–​44, 156, 177–​ 78, 203, 205, 206 commitments, 67, 76–​79, 83–​84, 87, 100, 109, 112, 197–​98, 199–​202, 216–​17

comparative relations parity, 172–​75 trichotomy thesis of, 160–​61, 172, 173 vagueness of, 170–​72 comprehensiveness, 29–​31, 142 concurrence argument, 139–​41 Confusianism, 210n.63 Copp, David, 4, 10–​11, 32–​33, 41–​50, 51–​52, 53, 57, 57n.34, 78n.77, 83–​85, 144–​48, 208n.57, 208n.58, 210–​ 13, 216–​17 Crisp, Roger, 65–​67, 213n.67, 220 criticism of actions and character, 148–​51, 153, 155–​56, 159–​60, 160n.25, 163–​ 64, 167n.37, 185–​86 Dancy, Jonathan, 204, 204n.53 deontic conflicts, 19–​20, 62–​63 deontology, 127–​30 Dorsey, Dale, 13, 32–​33, 113, 116–​19, 145, 146–​48, 161n.28, 175n.50, 197–​202 drowning child, 41–​42, 52–​53 dualism of practical reason, 2, 3, 10–​11, 41, 60–​76, 83, 168, 177–​83 ego-​depletion, 100n.20 Elster, Jakob, 125n.17 enkratic reasoning enkratic requirement, 88–​91, 92, 93–​94, 130–​31, 132–​34, 153–​55 in general, 11, 28, 86–​88, 110–​11, 112, 216–​17 weak enkratic requirement, 92–​97, 106–​7, 132n.25 epicurean hedonism, 223n.10 etiquette, 44–​45, 53–​54, 59–​60, 72 eudaimonism, 207–​10

232 Index Finlay, Stephen, 56, 119–​23 flourishing, 207–​10 Frankena, William K., 62 Frankfurt, Harry, 80n.83 Gaugin, Paul, 81–​82, 149 Gert, Joshua, 13, 65n.53, 130–​34, 139n.34, 184–​97 Griffin, James, 172n.43 Gyges, 139–​41 hardness of choice, 102–​3 hedonism, 30–​31, 74–​76, 78, 119–​23, 223n.10 Hills, Alison, 71–​72, 75n.71 Holton, Richard, 87, 99–​100, 101–​2 Hume, David, 119–​23, 132–​34 Hursthouse, Rosalind, 207–​10 hybrid voluntarism, 175, 197–​202 incoherence argument against supremacy, 144–​48 incommensurability as failure of measurability, 24 as noncomparability, 24, 25–​26 test of, 130–​31 incomparability, 24–​25 integration of reasons, 83–​84 intentions formation of, 88–​89, 90–​91, 92–​94, 97, 98–​101, 111–​12, 216–​17 stability of, 87, 100, 105–​9, 112 intuitionism, 210–​13 just plain ought. See ought simpliciter Kant, Immanuel, 54–​55, 71–​76 Kantian ethics, 54–​55, 71–​76, 85, 130–​31, 134–​39, 150–​51, 160n.25 Kolodny, Niko, 155n.18 Kraut, Richard, 203–​4, 206 Lemmon, E. J., 70n.63 Lemos, John, 119–​23 Locke, John, 150–​51 Mackie, J. L., 43–​44 McDowell, John, 210–​13 McLeod, Owen, 145, 146–​47 McPherson, Tristram, 32n.27

meaningfulness, 76–​81, 85, 144 methods of ethics, 61 morality comprehensiveness of, 29–​31 demandingness of, 6, 134–​39, 167, 168–​ 69, 200–​2, 222 as normative standpoint, 16–​19 relevance criteria, 18–​19 moral overridingness definition, 161 in general, 12–​13, 160–​75, 176, 181–​ 83, 189 and parity, 173, 175 moral philosophy and assumptions of moral overridingness, 161–​62 limitations of, 1, 218–​20 moral reasons nature of, 3 moral virtues, 117–​23 most reason, 37–​38 Nagel, Thomas, 66, 80, 179–​80, 223 naturalism, 57n.34 nominal-​notable comparisons argument from, 115–​16 definition, 114 noncomparability definition, 24–​25 as definition of incommensurability, 24 two types of, 25–​26 non-​conflicting cases, 38–​39 non-​naturalism, 53–​54 normative authority, 32–​33, 34–​35, 47–​53, 62, 72–​76, 142–​43, 156 normative conflicts definition of, 14 normative monism as revisionary, 13, 219–​20 basic idea, 4–​5, 15 comparative monism, 5–​6 implications for first-​order normative theory, 13 source monism, 5–​6 two-​dimensional weak, 185–​97 weak, 131n.21, 183–​97 normative pluralism basic idea, 2–​3, 14, 21 definition, 33

Index  233 deflationary, 47–​53, 55, 57n.34, 84–​85, 110n.40, 147n.8, 216–​17 independence from value pluralism, 7–​10 neutrality on first-​order moral and prudential theories, 6 and praise and blame, 149–​50 teleological grounding of, 41–​47, 48–​50, 51–​52, 84–​85 normative requirements nature of, 16–​18 normative silence, 39, 92–​93, 102–​3, 174 normative sources as distinct from theories, 19–​21 nature of, 16–​19 normative standpoints characteristics of, 15, 19, 20–​21, 42–​43 as codifications of reasons, 54–​55, 177–​ 78, 180, 216–​17 hyperinflation of, 36n.32, 67–​71, 80, 216–​17 number of, 36n.32, 44–​46, 47–​48, 53, 58–​59, 60 normativity bottom up approach to, 53–​57, 66–​67 derivative vs fundamental, 58–​59 fictional, 56 reason implying vs rule implying, 53–​54, 56 structure of, 14–​15, 21, 22–​23, 41, 177–​78 top-​down approach to, 52–​53, 66 oughts several senses of, 14 weighability of, 22–​23 ought all things considered as central concept, 22 connection with rationality, 34–​35, 36–​ 37, 88–​96, 130–​31 defined by comprehensiveness, 31 as distinct from ought simpliciter, 22 meaning of, 33–​37 and permissibility, 38–​40 as pervasive, 36–​37, 216–​17 quantificational interpretation of, 34–​35 truths about, 33–​34, 36–​37, 216–​17 ought simpliciter connection with rationality, 34–​35, 36–​ 37, 88–​91, 130–​31

as distinct from all things considered, 22, 34–​37 nature of, 15 overarching standpoint connection with rationality, 148–​ 49, 150–​58 existence of, 14–​23 fundamental normative principle P, 139n.34, 184–​91, 195–​97, 200–​2 necessary properties of, 28–​33 as precondition of commensurability, 23 Parfit, Derek, 13, 53–​54, 63–​64, 65–​66, 67–​71, 132–​34, 139n.34, 150–​51, 167, 172n.43, 178–​83, 193 particularism, 204, 205–​6 Paul, L. A., 100n.18 permissibility simpliciter, 94–​96, 161, 162, 163–​64, 165, 166–​67, 169–​70, 173–​ 75, 180–​97 persistence of intention (rational requirement), 107–​9 personal identity, 67–​71 personal standpoint, 65–​71, 78, 178 Phillips, David, 62–​63 phronesis, 210–​13 Plato, 222–​23 pluralist-​teleology. See normative pluralism: teleological grounding of point of view of the universe, 62, 65–​66, 67–​71, 80, 179–​80 Portmore, Douglas, 160n.25, 164n.31, 167n.37, 194n.32 problems of normative governance, 10–​11, 43–​47, 48–​49, 84–​85 prudence absolute, 119–​23 categorical, 72–​76 comprehensiveness of, 29–​31 hedonistic, 30–​31, 119–​23 narrow sense of, 76–​78, 85 as normative standpoint, 16–​19 relevance criteria, 18–​19 prudential reasons for moral virtues, 117–​23, 213–​15, 216–​17 to be moral, 117–​24 nature of, 3, 117–​19

234 Index qualified oughts as genuine oughts, 10, 26–​28, 216–​17 as reducible to reasons, 18–​19, 26–​27 rational egoism, 61–​62, 71 rational eligibility, 97, 98, 103, 183–​84 rational intelligibility, 103–​5 rationalism, 71–​72, 150–​51, 160n.25 rationality conceptions of, 12–​13, 89, 150–​52, 176, 185–​86 hybrid accounts, 157–​58, 176 practical, 11 requirements of, 89, 91–​92, 93–​94, 107 structural, 94–​96, 131n.21, 152, 153–​55, 176 substantive, 152, 160n.25, 176, 180n.10 Raz, Joseph, 11, 76–​78, 87, 97–​99, 102–​3, 110, 195–​97 reasons aesthetic, 44–​45 architectonic, 30–​199 default level of, 30–​199 epistemic, 3, 44–​45 given, 197–​98 integration of, 13, 168–​69, 210–​ 13, 221–​23 legal, 44–​45, 53–​54, 55–​56, 58–​59, 72 of love, 79–​81 partial vs impartial, 66, 67–​71 requiring strength vs justifying strength of, 186–​88, 192–​93, 195–​202 uncodifiability of, 5–​6, 177–​78, 203–​13 Regan, Donald, 87, 103–​5, 110 Reid, Thomas, 60–​61n.37 Reisner, Andrew, 16 requirements modal vs normative sense, 16–​18, 53–​ 54, 55–​56 revisionary views about normativity, 33–​34 Richardson, Henry, 221n.5 Ross, David, 210–​13 Scheffler, Samuel, 122n.16, 134–​39, 168–​ 69, 221n.5 sensible knave, 120n.11, 132–​34

separateness of persons, 65–​72, 74–​76, 80–​81, 85, 199, 216–​17 Sidgwick, Henry, 2–​3, 10–​11, 41, 60–​71, 72, 74–​76, 78, 83, 85, 127–​30, 168–​69, 176, 177–​83, 202n.48, 216–​17 Singer, Peter, 127–​30 skepticism about normativity, 2–​3, 33 Smith, Michael, 150–​51, 157–​58, 176, 180n.9 Sobel, David, 208n.57, 208n.58, 210–​13 social constructions, 55–​56 source monism, 207–​10 source pluralism, 16, 65–​66, 177 standpoint of eudaimonistic reflection, 76–​78, 81–​83 stoicism, 119–​23, 222–​23 Stroud, Sarah, 160–​62, 165–​69, 171–​72, 176, 199n.41 supererogation, 199n.41 supremacy coherency of, 32–​33, 146–​48 definition of 32 incoherence of, 144–​46 supremacy challenge, 12–​13, 143, 144, 156, 177 Tennenbaum, Sergio, 194–​95 thesis of moral overridingness. See moral overridingness Tiffany, Evan, 10–​11, 47–​53, 84–​85 utilitarianism, 54–​55, 61, 62, 64–​65, 71–​72, 127–​30, 134–​39, 168 value pluralism, 7, 8–​10 virtue ethics, 197–​98, 206–​10, 213–​15 virtue naturalism, 207–​10 Wallace, R. Jay, 76–​78, 81, 207–​10, 216–​ 17, 221–​22 Wedgwood, Ralph, 6–​7, 29–​30 wide dualism, 139n.34, 180–​83, 193 will, 87, 97, 98, 99–​102, 110, 175, 216–​17 Williams, Bernard, 82n.88, 200–​2 Wodak, Daniel, 56, 147n.7 Wolf, Susan, 78–​80, 81