Being Realistic about Reasons
T. M. Scanlon (Author)
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DescriptionT. M. Scanlon offers a qualified defense of normative cognitivism--the view that there are irreducibly normative truths about reasons for action. He responds to three familiar objections: that such truths would have troubling metaphysical implications; that we would have no way of knowing what they are; and that the role of reasons in motivating and explaining action could not be explained if accepting a conclusion about reasons for action were a kind of belief. Scanlon answers the first of these objections within a general account of ontological commitment, applying to mathematics as well as normative judgments. He argues that the method of reflective equilibrium, properly understood, provides an adequate account of how we come to know both normative truths and mathematical truths, and that the idea of a rational agent explains the link between an agent's normative beliefs and his or her actions. Whether every statement about reasons for action has a determinate truth value is a question to be answered by an overall account of reasons for action, in normative terms. Since it seems unlikely that there is such an account, the defense of normative cognitivism offered here is qualified: statements about reasons for action can have determinate truth values, but it is not clear that all of them do. Along the way, Scanlon offers an interpretation of the distinction between normative and non-normative claims, a new account of the supervenience of the normative on the non-normative, an interpretation of the idea of the relative strength of reasons, and a defense of the method of reflective equilibrium.
Oxford University Press, USA
March 15, 2014
5.5 X 0.6 X 8.6 inches | 0.65 pounds
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About the Author
T. M. Scanlon received a BA from Princeton in 1962 and a PhD from Harvard in 1968, in between studying for a year at Brasenose College, Oxford. He taught at Princeton from 1966 until 1984, and at Harvard since that time. Scanlon is the author of many articles in moral and political philosophy, andof three books: What We Owe to Each Other (Harvard University Press, 1998), The Difficulty of Tolerance: Essays in Political Philosophy (CUP, 2003), and Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame (Harvard University Press, 2008).
"Scanlon delivers new insights and develops new ways of thinking about normative claims. His book thereby introduces engaging ways of discussing normative theory that should be further developed and brought to bear on actual discussions. As such Being Realistic about Reasons shows us an independent thinker outlining his current thinking about normative claims. His book is a challenge to all non-cognitivist theories of moral thinking and proponents who try to interpret moral terms in naturalistic terms such as "water" and the likes. Hopefully it will be taken on."
--Metapsychology Reviews Online
"T. M. Scanlon is a towering figure in moral and political philosophy...Throughout, this new book reveals the impressive creative intelligence that always characterizes Scanlon's work. It is an important work, which all metaethicists will have to come to grips with, since it defends a distinctive position about these central metaethical questions." -- The Philosophical Quarterly
"T. M. Scanlon's new book is essential reading for anybody interested in metaethics and practical rationality." -- Ethics
"It is a smooth but not quick read, being equally lucid and succinct; it can engage and inform readers without devouring too much of their time, or precluding them from pursuing its many references to the recent literature. It is more of a pleasure to read in that it leaves one time to think for oneself...one can learn from this intelligent and candid book." -- Mind