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Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 10, 2008

Ethics

Ryan Tanner
Pages 419-426

Ouch, That Doesn’t Fit There
A Problem for Fitting-Attitudes Accounts of Value

According to the “fitting-attitudes” (FA) account of value, for a thing to be valuable is for it to be the fitting object of a pro-attitude. Value here is analyzed in terms of reasons for and against favoring, admiring, desiring, preferring, loving, etc. a thing. Whichever particular FA analysis you prefer, the basic idea is just that a thing’s value depends on extant reasons to be favorably (or disfavorably) disposed toward it. Of course, proponents of FA analyses deny that just any such reasons suffice to ground a thing’s value. The reasons must be of the right sort. If I threaten to stab you in the face unless you become favorably disposed toward Rob Schneider movies, you now have a reason to do just that. But it seems clear that while my threat does make Rob Schneider movies to you worth liking, it does not make them valuable or good. The difficulty then is to distinguish the right kind of reasons from the wrong kind. Several writers have recently tried to offer principled ways of resolving the so-called “wrong kind of reasons” (WKR) problem, though I will not closely examine them here. Instead I wish to focus on one particular FA account of value whom some have suggested is immune to WKR-style problems, specifically the one Michael Zimmerman offers in The Nature of Intrinsic Value. I argue that even Zimmerman’s account incurs WKR difficulties, and that it can actually help illustrate a certain deep problem with FA accounts in general.

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