Reasons, Values and Agent-Relativity



According to T. M. Scanlon's buck-passing account, the normative realm of reasons is in some sense prior to the domain of value. Intrinsic value is not itself a property that provides us with reasons; rather, to be good is to have some other reason-giving property, so that facts about intrinsic value amount to facts about how we have reason to act and to respond. The paper offers an interpretation and defense of this approach to the relation between reasons and values. I start by acknowledging the role that substantive values play in specifications of our reasons, noting that this poses an apparent challenge to the buck-passing account. The challenge can be met, however, if we adopt a deliberative understanding of substantive value, an interpretation that I proceed to develop and defend. In conclusion I consider recent attempts to capture the agent-relativity of reasons within a teleological framework for thinking about the relation between reasons and values. I argue that these approaches rest on a deliberative understanding of value; the teleological framework thus turns out to illustrate the basic insight of the buck-passing approach, rather than offering an alternative to it.