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