Here’s an interesting quote from Stephen Darwall’s entry on “Normativity” in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
On one popular view, morality is normative for action by its very nature, so that to say that an action is wrong is to imply that one ought not to do it. …But it may be that morality is indeed normative, only not for action as the first view supposes. It may be, as Mill proposed, that the concept of moral wrong is tied to the appropriateness of certain sanctions and ‘sanctioning emotions’ such as blame, guilt, indignation and so on…. On this view, morality’s normativity directly concerns not the acts that are said to be right or wrong, but certain reactive emotions and their natural expressions. If this is right, an action could be wrong (and so something one morally ought not to do) without being something one (categorically) ought not to do. Its being morally wrong would consist in its being something that warrants blame and guilt, and that might be true even if there were [sufficient or decisive] reason to do it.
Now I would have thought that morality was normative for both actions
and reactive attitudes, such that an act’s being wrong implies both
that there is decisive reason not to do it and that there is decisive
(or, at least, sufficient) reason to have certain reactive attitudes
(sanctioning attitudes) towards it and its agent. So why should we
think that it has to be one or the other, as Darwall seems to be
suggesting? Perhaps, we would think that morality cannot be normative
for both actions and reactive attitudes if we thought that whether
certain reactive attitudes were appropriate towards a given action was
something entirely independent of whether that action is one that the
agent had a decisive reason to perform. But, arguably, we don’t think
that the two are independent of each other. For instance, I think that
we would be reluctant to wholeheartedly blame someone for doing what we
admit that she had decisive reason to do. Indeed, it seems
inappropriate to blame someone for doing what she had
decisive reason to do–at least, it is if we know this to be the case. This thought–the thought that there is a connection between
the appropriateness of certain reactive attitudes towards an action and the reasons that the agent has to perform it–appears in Sobel’s post “Subjectivism
and Moral Criticism” and can also be found in Shafer-Landau’s Moral Realism. For instance, Shafer-Landau finds it
implausible to suppose that the “proper moral evaluation of an agent
has nothing to do with the agent’s attentiveness of reasons” (p. 193). I agree.
So why think that morality cannot be normative for both actions and reactive attitudes? Any thoughts?