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Philosophical Topics

Volume 38, Issue 1, Spring 2010


Joshua Gert
Pages 87-105
DOI: 10.5840/philtopics20103814

Fitting-Attitudes, Secondary Qualities, and Values

Response-dispositional accounts of value defend a biconditional in which the possession of an evaluative property is said to covary with the disposition to cause a certain response. In contrast, a fitting-attitude account of the same property would claim that it is such as to merit or make fitting that same response. This paper argues that even for secondary qualities, response-dispositional accounts are inadequate; we need to import a normative notion such as appropriateness even into accounts of such descriptive properties as redness. A preliminary conclusion is that the normativity that appears in fitting-attitude accounts of evaluative properties need not have anything to do with the evaluative nature of those properties. It may appear there because evaluative properties—or at least those for which fitting-attitude accounts are plausible—really are so much like secondary qualities that it might well be appropriate to think of them as a subclass of secondary qualities. In the second half of the paper I discuss the views of three of the philosophers who have been most influential in discussions of response-featuring accounts of evaluative notions and who explicitly distinguish response-dispositional accounts of value from fittingattitude accounts: John McDowell, Simon Blackburn, and Crispin Wright. I highlight some of the theoretical temptations that can be associated with the assumption that the response-dispositional/fitting-attitude distinction parallels the secondary quality/evaluative property distinction.