Bovine Existentialism

This posting is about one fictional philosopher and one real
one, and how their theories interact. The real philosopher’s theory has to
mis-characterize the fictional philosopher’s theory. The fictional philosopher’s
theory also has some problems, but they will not concern me.

The fictional philosopher, Albert Camoo, has a kind of existentialist eudaimonistic theory.
It is not a plausible theory, but it is intelligible. Camoo thinks that an
important constituent of good life is to love and desire a cow. It has to be a
particular cow, but it doesn’t matter which cow. His theory is existentialist
in that it says that cows have no particular intrinsic value. It is the loving
and desiring of a cow that is important, not the cow.

The real philosopher, Philip Stratton-Lake, tells us what the right kind of
reasons
are when it comes to passing the buck from value to reasons.1 For something to have final value, according
to Stratton-Lake, it must have properties that provide reasons to have
pro-attitudes toward it.2 To avoid the wrong kind of reasons problem, he adds that the
reasons have to be given by the object, which means that they have to be facts
about the object, and also non-instrumental and
non-derivative.3 If something has properties that give us non-instrumental reasons to
desire and love it, then it is thereby valuable, according to Stratton-Lake’s
version of buck-passing theory.

Now back to Camoo’s theory. It says that you have a reason
to love and desire Clara. (You don't love any other cows, at the moment.) Your reason, according to Camoo, is that Clara is a cow. This reason
is not instrumental.4 Furthermore, it is a fact about Clara. Thus, according to Philip
Stratton-Lake, your reason is the right kind of reason for value’s buck to be
passed to. So Camoo’s theory should say that Clara has final value. But, it doesn’t.

Stratton-Lake’s fix of buck-passing seems to me to be on the
right track, but it has not yet managed to pick out which reasons are the right
kind. Camoo’s theory seems to be on the wrong track and should doubtless be
abandoned.

 

1. "How to Deal with Evil Demons: Comment on Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen", Ethics 115 (July 2005):
788–798.

2. Following Scanlon, he doesn’t say which pro-attitudes; I’ll assume that
loving and desiring are among the relevant ones.

3. Stratton-Lake doesn’t spell out explicitly what it is for a
reason to be non-derivative, but I don’t think it’s going to come up so I won’t
bother any further with the distinction between derivative and non-derivative
reasons.

4. If loving and desiring cows caused
eudaimonia, then your reason for loving and desiring Clara would be
instrumental. But according to Camoo, loving and desiring cows is a
constituent of eudaimonia, so your reason is not instrumental.

There isn't any way to do proper footnotes with TypePad, is there? I just added superscript numerals. It would be nice if they linked to the notes.


36 Replies to “Bovine Existentialism

  1. I think Philip would say that the reason in this case is a derivative reason and not a final reason. After all, I would not have a reason to love and desire Clara unless I had a reason to be in a loving and desiring relation to some cow.
    I’m not sure how to make this sharper. But, Camoo says that the loving and desiring relation to some cow is good or a life with that relation is good. So, this relation or the life with it has to have some properties that give us reasons to be in that relation or to have that life and to have various positive attitudes towards those relations and lives. And, only because these of these reasons is there a reason for you to love and desire Clara. There is nothing about Clara per se (you don’t even say what property of Clara gives you the reason) that gives you a reason – only facts about her enabling you to be in the valuable relation gives you the reason. Relation – final reason, cow – derivative reason from that final reason.
    Anyway, I think this is the line Philip would take – contest the footnote 3. The case doesn’t show that there is a basic, non-derivative reason, and thereby Clara isn’t made valuable. Sorry that this wasn’t so clear.
    I took this line in my BP paper to deal with a similar problem in Dancy’s paper and I remember we talked about this with Philip when he was finishing his paper.

  2. Is the eudaimonistic existentialist theory really intelligible? Eudaimonism, if it says what is important, says what has intrinsic value. Or what does Camoo mean by ‘important’?

  3. Sorry, Robert, I don’t get it. Yes, the theory says what has intrinsic value. Why is this unintelligible?
    Jussi, I don’t think I fully understand your response, either.

    There is nothing about Clara per se (you don’t even say what property of Clara gives you the reason) that gives you a reason – only facts about her enabling you to be in the valuable relation gives you the reason.

    I do indeed say what property of Clara gives you the reason. It’s the property of being a cow. That is something about Clara per se.
    It’s true that you wouldn’t have any reason to love and desire Clara if (per impossible!) you had no reason to love and desire some cow. You seem to be saying that this makes the reason to love and desire Clara derivative. I don’t see how. Don’t all examples of final value have similar structural features? When some particular, x, has final value, it will have a property, P, such that if you had no reason to desire P you’d have no reason to desire x. Isn’t this true in general?

  4. Ha.
    Jamie, you wrote: “Now back to Camoo’s theory. It says that you have a reason to love and desire Clara. (You don’t love any other cows, at the moment.) Your reason, according to Camoo, is that Clara is a cow.”
    (1) I am tempted to ask this: Shouldn’t Camoo say, instead, that your reason to love Clara is the (complex) fact that Clara is a cow which (who?) you love?
    (2) But maybe it is better to say this: your loving Clara enables Clara’s bovine nature to be a reason.
    Maybe we need to specify “the wrong kind of” enablers in order to improve on SL’s account?

  5. A rough proposal:
    Fact F about Object O is a reason for agent A to have attitude T towards O.
    O has final value only if F would be a reason for A to have T even if A did not have T.

  6. Jamie,
    sorry about this. It’s tricky but that’s not quite what I was saying.
    I’ll try again. I thought Camoo was saying that it is something about being in the relation *loving and desiring* (a cow) that makes our lives good. It’s the relation that has reason-providing properties – not the objects. So there is something about that relation itself that gives us a reason to try to be in it. This is a basic reason. Having that reason is not explainable by having any other reasons. I take it that this is the distinguishing feature of basic reasons. They have basic force to require things.
    However, things are different for Clara’s having the property of being a cow. That this fact is a reason is explainable by the other reason – the reason provided by being in the relation of loving and desiring a cow. Without us having that other reason, this reason isn’t even intelligible. And, the fact that Clara is a cow doesn’t have any independent requiring force. All the requiring this fact can do is based on the requiring being in the desiring and loving relations to cows can do. So, this property of Clara gets all its normativity from other facts about our relations to cows that are the basic reasons. The fact about Clara just channels the normative force of the basic relation.
    One way to think about is this. If Clara’s having property of being a cow provided me with a basic property to love and desire it, then this would provide me with some reason to love and desire it even if I already was in a loving and desiring relation to another cow Isobel. Given that in that case, I would not have a reason to love and desire Clara, it seems to me that this reason is derivative on my reason to be in a loving and desiring relation (to some cow).
    Note the difference to other objects that provide basic reasons to love them. Both Wire and West Wing have properties that give me basic reasons to like them. That I like Wire takes nothing away from the reason I have to like West Wing.

  7. Should say that Philip mentions at some point of the paper that the same is going on in the evil demon case. The basic reason-providing fact in that situation concerns your own health which thereby correctly gets to be valuable. The reason provided by the fact that the demon is threatening you is just a derivative reason grounded on the more basic reason. This is why the demon doesn’t get to be good.

  8. Brad,
    Camoo doesn’t think your reason to love Clara depends on your already loving her. You may be mixing him up with Kowkegaard.
    Jussi,
    I feel like you’re making a bunch of assertions, and I understand them, but I don’t see why you think they’re true. For instance,

    It’s the relation that has reason-providing properties – not the objects.

    The relation does have reason-providing properties, but so do the objects: that they are cows.

    If Clara’s having property of being a cow provided me with a basic property to love and desire it, then this would provide me with some reason to love and desire it even if I already was in a loving and desiring relation to another cow Isobel.

    I don’t see this. Maybe it is a basic reason, but it would not be any reason if you already loved Isobel. (There is nothing about this kind of counterfactual dependency in the P S-L paper, is there?)
    But in any case, I think you are focusing on an inessential bit of the story. Jean-Paul Steer has a view like Camoo’s, but he thinks your life goes better and better as you love and desire more and more cows. Now there is no counterfactual dependence of your reason to love and desire Clara on whether you have a loving relationship already with Isobel. But, Jean-Paul poses the same problem: the Stratton-Lake view says J-P’s theory counts cows as finally valuable. So this kind of dependence does seem to be irrelevant.
    The bit about reasons that are or are not explicable in terms of (having) other reasons is interesting. I’m not yet comfortable enough with it to decide what I think. For instance, suppose you are causing a very sharp pain on the bottom of my foot. This very sharp pain gives me a reason to ask you to stop. Is this reason explicable in terms of my having a reason to avoid pain? (I have no intuition about this case.)

  9. After reading the exchange with Jussi I think I understand this better. It was the connection between the value of cow-hood and existentialism that puzzled me.
    So your objection is that this buck passing theory tells us Camoo accepts a conclusion he in fact rejects, that the cow has properties that give it intrinsic or final value. It’s the desiring of the cow that has the value, though Camoo tells us that we have a non-instrumental reason to desire the cow that is a fact about the cow (that it is a cow).
    I’m getting the sense that there is some sort of schizophrenia going on here. The theory tells an agent he has non-instrumental reasons to desire something that are facts about the thing desired. It also holds that it is the desiring of the thing, not the thing desired, that is valuable. And that seems to carry the message that it is facts about the desiring of the cow that are reasons to desire it, not facts about the cow.
    But I think I may just be in the grip of the theory.

  10. Jamie,
    I said this:
    ‘It’s the relation that has reason-providing properties – not the objects.’
    because you said this:
    ‘Camoo thinks that an important constituent of good life is to love and desire a cow’.
    The latter for me seems to entail the former.
    About the second point. I, in contrast, don’t understand how the status of being a basic reasons could depend on my relations to other cows. How could my relation to other cows affect how the fact about Clara’s cowhood gives me a reason unless that fact only gave me a reason in virtue of my cow-relations?
    I think there is something like this implicit in the Philip’s paper in the demon story. The idea is that unless you had a reason to protect your health, no property of the demon would give you any reasons to value it for its own sake. I’m not sure how the passage goes in the paper but we did talk about this.
    I’m not sure I follow the pain case. That seems to me to have only one reason – the pain. I know that the paper isn’t clear on the derivative reasons but it just seems to me that on any plausible and intuitive reading of the derivative/basic distinction, the Clara’s cowhood fact comes on the derivative side. Unless there is a special story told on the back-ground its hard to understand how that fact could be a reason. We needed the Camoo story to understand where that fact gets its reasonhood. That just to me seems to make the fact a derivative reason.

  11. Robert,
    I thought you would have been opposed to the idea that existentialists would say that there are any set facts about constituents of good life or importance of cows (or anything else for that matter). I was going to. It would entail that human essence becomes before existence.

  12. Robert,

    I’m getting the sense that there is some sort of schizophrenia going on here.

    Yes, there seems to be an affinity.

    The theory tells an agent he has non-instrumental reasons to desire something that are facts about the thing desired. It also holds that it is the desiring of the thing, not the thing desired, that is valuable. And that seems to carry the message that it is facts about the desiring of the cow that are reasons to desire it, not facts about the cow.

    Yes, it says that he has a reason to desire and love Clara, and that this reason is not instrumental, and it is a fact about Clara. The reason is: that she is a cow. (Don’t you think all those things are true about Camoo’s theory?)
    Some facts about the desiring of the cow are definitely reasons to desire it, though; Camoo does not deny this. He just says that some facts about Clara are also reasons to love and desire her. Compare: a fact about the eating of ice cream could be a reason for you to eat some, and this certainly does not exclude some facts about the ice cream from being reasons to eat it.

  13. Jussi,

    I said this:
’It’s the relation that has reason-providing properties – not the objects.’
because you said this:
’Camoo thinks that an important constituent of good life is to love and desire a cow’.
The latter for me seems to entail the former.

    It does entail that the relation has reason-providing properties. But if you think it entails that the objects do not have reason-providing properties, I’m just mystified.

    I, in contrast, don’t understand how the status of being a basic reasons could depend on my relations to other cows. How could my relation to other cows affect how the fact about Clara’s cowhood gives me a reason unless that fact only gave me a reason in virtue of my cow-relations?

    You may be right; I’m a little lost. “Basic reasons” is not an ordinary concept, it’s a technical term, right? And nobody has defined it, as far as I can tell. So I’m just groping around. In any case, as I said, I think this aspect (the counterfactual dependence) is a red herring, since JP Steer’s theory eliminates the dependence but poses the same problem.

    I know that the paper isn’t clear on the derivative reasons but it just seems to me that on any plausible and intuitive reading of the derivative/basic distinction, the Clara’s cowhood fact comes on the derivative side. Unless there is a special story told on the back-ground its hard to understand how that fact could be a reason. We needed the Camoo story to understand where that fact gets its reasonhood. That just to me seems to make the fact a derivative reason.

    Of course we needed the ridiculous theory to be in place in order to understand how cowhood could be a reason. How could that show that it is a derivative reason? We also needed the ridiculous theory in order to understand how the fact that you will be in a loving relationship with a cow if you love Clara could be a reason to love Clara. But that is supposed to be a paradigm of a reason that is not derivative (according to the silly theory, I mean).
    Hang on, now that I’ve written this I’ve thought of something that may help clear up some confusion. I’ll post it as a separate comment.

  14. I said in the posting (in a note, actually) that I didn’t think the derivative/nonderivative distinction was going to be relevant. Jussi certainly thinks it is. The reason I wasn’t expecting it to be relevant is that I thought the Stratton-Lake response would have to do with the object/state-given distinction, which is what he thinks is relevant to the problem of Mental State Axiologies (MSAs). Stratton-Lake says that his distinction between nonderivative and derivative reasons can’t save buck-passing from the problem of MSAs, because

    according to MSA, the reason I have to favor some nonmental thing
    may be both noninstrumental and nonderivative. If the relevant attitude
    is intrinsically good, it will have internal properties that give us reason
    to have it. In such a case we will have nonderivative, noninstrumental
    reason to favor some nonmental object, though according to MSA, only
    mental states can have final value.

    If this is correct (and I am inclined to take Stratton-Lake to be an authority on which reasons are nonderivative), then it’s very hard for me to see why the reasons to love and desire Clara must be derivative.

  15. Jamie,
    This:
    ‘It is the loving and desiring of a cow that is important, not the cow.’
    seems like an even clearer statement in the story of the idea that cows have no reason-providing properties whereas the relationship has. For me the story seemed to show that the reason is derivative because it tells us that loving and desiring cows is a part of good life. Saying that it is a part of a good life seems like a way of saying that there is a reason to be in this relationship.
    The latter passage is a bit condensed. But, I don’t think the object/state given reason is a competing account with the basic/derivative reasons distinction. Rather, these two distinctions work nicely together.
    In the attitude case, note that it is the *relevant attitude* that is the basic, object-given reason to have that attitude towards something. The object (analogical to Clara) does not give a non-derivative reason here either. In that situation, the non-mental things, the objects of the attitudes, can at best provide derivative reasons that are derived from the basic reasons provided by the attitudes.
    The same is true in the Clara case. In that case, there are two reasons. One provided by the attitude and one provided by Clara. There is a non-derivative, object-given reason to love Clara but this, for me, provided by features of the attitude (just like in MSA). This is why BP entails that the attitude has value not Clara which fits the story well. Clara also gives a reason, but this is a derivative reason. Thus, BP would not ascribe value to her.
    In any case, it seems to me that there is a coherent BP description of the situation that does not require attributing value to Clara. I’m happy with that.

  16. Oh yeah, if Philip doesn’t notice this or won’t comment, I’ll be going to Reading next week so I’ll make sure to ask. I’m curious too about what he’ll actually say.

  17. Thanks, this has been very helpful. I’ll just say one thing and then allow everyone to turn their attention to contractualism and numbers.

    This:
    ‘It is the loving and desiring of a cow that is important, not the cow.’
    seems like an even clearer statement in the story of the idea that cows have no reason-providing properties whereas the relationship has. For me the story seemed to show that the reason is derivative because it tells us that loving and desiring cows is a part of good life. Saying that it is a part of a good life seems like a way of saying that there is a reason to be in this relationship.

    You are actually using the main thesis of buck-passing to infer the conclusion you want, though. From
    ‘It is the loving and desiring of a cow that is important, not the cow.’
    you are drawing the conclusion,
    ‘cows have no reason-providing properties whereas the relationship has.’
    But this is not a good move in the dialectic. My example is offered as a counterexample to the view, and the way the counterexample works is that I give a story in which something (a) isn’t in itself important but (b) does have reason-providing properties. It’s no good arguing that it isn’t a counterexample on the grounds that: all and only the important things have reason-providing properties. Because that is precisely the thesis to which the counterexample is supposed to be a counterexample. (And it seems to me that it is a counterexample to that thesis.)

  18. Sorry Jamie. I wasn’t meaning to beg the question. I was trying to rely on what I took to be the ordinary meaning of not important. I thought that something being not important means in part being something that doesn’t give us reasons. I didn’t think this had anything to do with buck-passing. I puzzled what you would mean by important and not important if this didn’t have anything to do with what gives us reasons and what doesn’t. If that’s right, then one problem with the counter-example is that it relies on an odd understanding of important. But, maybe you can tell me more about how you understand important.

  19. Jussi,
    I don’t think the problem has to do with what ‘important’ means. I think it has to do with what ‘giving reasons’ means.
    If we are getting hung up on the word ‘important’, this should be easy to avoid. The idea of Camoo’s theory is that there is no value in a cow, but there is value in loving and desiring one. So, we have an example of something whose properties (the property of being a cow) give us a reason to desire and love it, but which has no final value. This way of putting things bypasses any potential confusions over the word ‘important’.
    I expect you to say that being a cow still gives us no reason to desire and love Clara. This seems plainly wrong to me, but I wonder whether that’s because of different understandings of ‘gives us reason’.

  20. I wouldn’t say that. I would say that Clara’s being a cow gives us a derivative reason to love and desire it and such reasons are not relevant for the final value of things. So, we would only have a counter-example if we were forced to understand that Clara’s cowhood was a basic and fundamental reason-provider. But, now we are repeating ourselves. You’d have to convince me that I must accept that Clara’s cowhood is a basic, non-derivative reason whilst I’d have to convince you that it is a non-basic, derivative reason. And, this means that we would have to argue for some plausible general theory about the basic/derivative reasonhood and see on what side the reason in question falls. Until that, it seems like we are both in danger of begging the questions here. But, now we seem to be going in circles.

  21. Jussi,
    I thought you were saying that something being ‘not important’ implied that it could not give us reasons.
    So you are not saying that, but you are saying that something being not important implies that it cannot give us nonderivative reasons. You agree that Clara’s being a cow gives us (according to Camoo’s theory) reason to desire and love her, you just think these reasons are derivative.
    But nobody has said what nonderivative reasons are, and it isn’t an ordinary expression. I wonder if it means “reasons that are due to the value of the object”.

  22. Cannot mean that for the buck-passer – for her, no reasons are due to the value of the object. I know people don’t use terms like basic reasons and derivative reasons. However, I don’t think it is that technical of a term for which only a stipulative definition could be given. I thought people know what basic and derivative mean and what reasons are and that they can put the two together. I think we could ask people whether some reason is basic or derivative and that people would have intuitions about these things. I wasn’t aware that the distinction is that problematic. Maybe it is. I need to think about this more.

  23. Right, it can’t mean that for the buck-passer. That’s why it’s crucial for the buck-passer to provide some assurance that that’s not what it means.

  24. Hi guys. Sorry to jump in late – just caught up with Pea Soup again. I need this derivative non-derivative distinction to pass the deontic buck. Here is how I propose to regiment the distinction.
    The fact that p is a derivative reason for A to Φ if (defn) p takes the following form: there is something A has reason to do other than Φing, call it Ψing, and A’s Φing serves his Ψing. All other reasons for A to Φ are (defn) non-derivative reasons.
    Now, there might be problems with individuating actions on this view, and with articulating what it is for an action to serve another. I think these are surmountable. For your example, Jamie, I have to say that the suggested reason to love Clara–that she is a cow–is actually an elliptical expression of your reason-that Clara is a cow, and loving a cow is a way to live the good life (which you have reason to do). I suppose this will be contentions enough for me to say more, but I don’t yet know what more to say. Thanks for the example.

  25. Matt,
    that seems to me to be a definition of instrumental reasons. I wonder if derivative reasons are exhausted by instrumental reasons. There are other kinds of cases in which I would want to say that the reasons are derivative. Suppose that someone knows that there is a surprise party for you at home waiting and tells you that you have a reason to go home. In this case, I would want to say that the fact that there is a reason for you to go home (or, even the fact that you are told that there is a reason for you to go home) is a reason for you to go home. But, I wouldn’t want to say that it is an additional, basic reason for you to go home – so, it must be a derivative reason. Yet, in this case, there is no different actions such that doing one serves doing the other.
    Also, there’s something wrong with the definition. It must be possible to have both basic and derivative reasons for the same action. I can have a reason to study philosophy both because of the intrinsic qualities of philosophy itself and because it makes me happy. Yet, your definition, makes both these reasons derivative. In fact, it makes all the reasons for actions that serve some other purpose derivative reasons. This cannot be right.

  26. Thanks, Jussi
    I was trying to define a term, ‘derivative’. If this maps on to certain natural language terms, like ‘instrumental’, that’s OK with me. The hope is that with this definition we can sort out reasons of the right kind from reasons of the wrong kind for buck passing.
    I have a couple of worries about your reason claims. Do you really want to say that the fact that someone *told* you there is a reason to go home is a reason to go home? If enough people tell you that you have a reason to jump off a bridge, do we come to a point where you have most reason to jump off the bridge?
    Also, why do you want to say that the fact that there is a reason to go home is yet another reason to go home? Is the following fact–that there is a reason to go home is another reason to go home–yet another reason to go home? If not, why not? You probably don’t want to say that these reasons have any weight of their own for fear of putting a finger on the normative scales, but why countenance a normatively weightless reason? That’s like countenancing someone with height but to no degree. There are those who go down this path, or a path like it, but my hope is that my definition of derivative reasons combined with a plausible theory of what reasons there are will solve the WKR problem.
    Last, I don’t understand why my definitions rule out non-derivative reasons. If you have a derivative reason to act, your reason has something to do with the fact that your action serves something else you have reason to do. But this is consistent with having another reason for the same action that is non-derivative, that is, a reason that has nothing to do with the fact that your action serves something else you have reason to do. Even if everything you can do serves something else you have reason to do you can still have non-derivative reasons so long as some reasons do not appeal to the fact that the actions you can do serve something else you have reason to do.

  27. The problem is that your definition doesn’t seem to be able to distinguish between derivative and non-derivative reasons in situations in which you have both. This is just a technical point about the way you have phrased the definition.
    To see this, let’s take an example.
    Say that Ann has a reason to get a college degree. Getting a college degree in this case is psying. Going to the philosophy lectures serves getting a college degree. It is phying in this case.
    So, it is now true that ‘there is something Ann has reason to do other than Φing, call it Ψing, and A’s Φing serves her Ψing’.
    Now, take any p that is reason to go to the philosophy lectures (phying). On your definition, it will true that areason is a derivative reason if there is something Ann has reason to do other than Φing, call it Ψing, and A’s Φing serves her Ψing. Given that the latter clause is satisfied in this case, p is a derivative reason, whatever consideration it is. So, all facts that are reasons to go to philosophy lectures – including that on philosophy lectures you will learn to do philosophy – turn out to be derivative reasons just as much as the fact that going to them is a necessary condition for obtaining the degree.
    I’m sure this is just a matter of formulation. Somehow the sufficient condition on the right should be able to be closer connected to the individual reasons you are classifying.

  28. Jussi, I think I see the issue. You write:
    “On your definition, it will true that areason is a derivative reason if there is something Ann has reason to do other than Φing, call it Ψing, and A’s Φing serves her Ψing. ”
    But my definition says “The fact that p is a derivative reason for A to Φ if (defn) p takes the following form: there is something A has reason to do other than Φing, call it Ψing, and A’s Φing serves his Ψing.”
    The crucial difference is that I do not say that, for any reason p, p is a derivative reason to phi if *there is* a reason that takes the relevant form. I say that p is a derivative reason if *it, p,* takes the relevant form. So I think I’ve avoided the formulation difficulty that concerns you.

  29. Oh, I see. So, does the p have to be the fact that “there is something A has reason to do other than Φing, call it Ψing, and A’s Φing serves his Ψing”?
    In that case, it would be better to formulate the definition in this way:
    “The fact that p is a derivative reason for A to Φ if (defn) p is the fact that there is something A has reason to do other than Φing, call it Ψing, and A’s Φing serves his Ψing.”
    I’m not sure that any other facts could have that form. And, if only those facts can be derivative reasons, then I’m even less certain that your definition can capture all derivative reasons. On your view, facts such as that Clara is a cow or that doing philosophy is required for getting a degree could not be derivative reasons.

  30. I agree with Jussi, Matt, that this is a bit problematic. I can put it more sharply. You seem to be saying that there is only one derivative reason for a given person to perform a given action, and necessarily only one for each. I’m also worried that it will turn out that on almost all occasions when you and I perform the same act, we will have the same reason, according to your individuation of reasons. Is this intended, foreseen, desired?

  31. Jussi,
    I think the way you formulate the definition invites Jamie’s worry. Not sure about this. Let me take one step at a time.
    First, I think I said at the outset that Jamie’s suggestion–that Clara is a cow–refers to a derivative reason so long as this is an elliptical way of referring to the following reason for loving Clara (or something with similar form): you have reason to live the good life, and loving a cow like Clara is a way to do that. At the time I was insufficiently imaginative to elaborate. But I think I can motivate the view by explaining why it might seem as though the fact that Clara is a cow is on its own a reason to love her. I say this. If someone were puzzled about why he should love Clara, and otherwise knew the background of Camoo’s theory, the best way to get him to see that he has reason to love Clara is to explain: “Clara is a cow.” Then it should dawn on him that he has reason to love Clara. But this does not mean that the thing you cited was the full-fledged reason for loving Clara. It was just the conversationally relevant thing to cite to get someone to see that he has reason to love Clara. If your interlocutor knew that Clara was a cow, but did not know that loving a cow was a way to the good life, then the relevant thing to cite to get him to see that he has a reason to love Clara would be: “loving a cow is a way to the good life.” In any case, we should not be depending on conversational pragmatics to unmask the form of the reasons at play. Regardless of what your interlocutor knows, the reason for him to love Clara is that loving her serves living the good life, which he has reason to do. Or so the thought goes.
    Jamie,
    I’m thinking of cases where there is more than one derivative reason for a given person to perform a given action. Suppose that if I buy cage free eggs on some particular occasion at the grocery store I will make it more likely that I have breakfast. Suppose also that doing so will make my nemesis jealous (seeing what a good person I am). Suppose further that I have reason to have breakfast, and reason to make my nemesis jealous. Here, it looks like I have two derivative reasons for buying cage free eggs: 1) I have reason to have breakfast, and buying those eggs serves that action, and 2) I have reason to make my nemesis jealous and buying those eggs serves that action. Does my definition of derivative reasons not capture these? They each take the right form. Here I say ‘form’ because you have to substitute in for the variables to get the reasons. It’s not like the reason just is this, dummy variables and all: there is something A has reason to do other than Φing, call it Ψing, and A’s Φing serves his Ψing (as suggested by Jussi’s formulation, I think). Perhaps my talk of taking a certain form isn’t the most perspicuous?
    Also, now suppose that my buying eggs will make my nemesis jealous, but it will not make it more likely that I eat breakfast. But your buying those eggs will not make anyone jealous, but it will make it more likely that you have breakfast. Here, we have different reasons for the same act (let us grant that reasons favor act types). I assume there will be many such cases. So I don’t think that on almost all occasions when you and I perform the same act we will have the same reason. If we focus on non-derivative reasons, I think the analysis is so-far neutral on whether individuals have the same non-derivative reasons.

  32. Matt,
    Maybe your formulation of the definition of ‘derivative reason’ isn’t what you were thinking of. Here it is.

    The fact that p is a derivative reason for A to Φ if (defn) p takes the following form: there is something A has reason to do other than Φing, call it Ψing, and A’s Φing serves his Ψing. All other reasons for A to Φ are (defn) non-derivative reasons.

    Note that p, A, and Φ are all bound by quantifiers with scope over the entire conditional, and Ψ is bound by a narrower-scope quantifier. So on some occasion, there is a certain fact, and a certain person (say, Jussi), and a certain action (say, buying eggs), and we want to know if the fact is a derivative reason for Jussi to buy eggs. (At this point all the variables except Ψ are instantiated, because we are interested in a particular case of a person, act, and reason.) You tell us that it is just in case it (the fact) has this form:

    There is a something Jussi has reason to do other than buying eggs and buying eggs serves his doing that other thing.

    But this is not really a form. It is just a particular fact. It has no free variables in it. (A form would presumably have some free variables.)
    So if something is a derivative reason for Jussi to buy eggs, then it is precisely that fact. So there could not be two derivative reasons for Jussi to buy eggs.

  33. I have no reasons to buy eggs at all. I’m allergic… Thanks Jamie for putting the point though so well.

  34. I now see what (I think) you intended, Matt. Just take the quantifier for Ψ out of the fact. So it goes,

    … for some Ψ (other than Φ), A has reason to Ψ and p is the fact that A’s Φing serves his Ψing.

    Is that right?

Comments are closed.