Stefan Fischer: Moral obligations without moral reasons

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Proponents of the reasons-first approach typically emphasize a central virtue of their approach: the unification of all normative phenomena in terms of reasons. In this talk, I focus on moral obligation and present two challenges for the attempt to understand obligation in terms of reasons. My first challenge is methodological: In order to understand obligation and its features (e.g., its categoricity) in terms of reasons, we need to say something about the nature of reasons. But, I argue, once we turn to the nature of reasons (and all the respective metanormative issues), the supposed explanatory merits of the reasons-first approach vanish. My second challenge is phenomenological: It seems that one central function of obligation is to cut off wrong actions from the options we may legitimately consider before deliberation even starts. However, by definition, reasons do their work in practical deliberation — they are the pros and cons we weigh against each other when deciding what to do. This, I claim, suggests that obligation cannot be understood in terms of reasons.

ERC Grant “The Structure of Normativity”

Prof. Dr. Benjamin Kiesewetter
Chair of Practical Philosophy
Department of Philosophy

Bielefeld University
P/O 100131, 33501 Bielefeld
Email: normativity(at)uni-bielefeld(dot)de

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