I’m currently reading Roger Crisp’s new book Reasons and the
Good. For the most part it is admirably clear and bound to create critical
reactions against many of the controversial views and arguments it introduces.
Occasionally I wonder though whether I’m just disagreeing too much or missing
something obvious. Just now I’m having big difficulties with how he introduced
debates about realism about normative reasons. Here’s the three sentences where
this is done:
(1) ‘[N]ormative reasons are properties of actions that
count, for the agent, in favour of their performance’.
That’s slightly odd view about what reasons are. Not
everyone would want to say that the favourers are properties of actions but let
(2) ‘These properties are ‘real’ in the sense that they are
not to be understood entirely in terms of, say, human projection or
This is supposed to be the statement of realism about
(3) ‘This kind of realism has in recent years been attacked
on two fronts – one Humean, the other Kantian’.
And, so the debate starts. But, wait. What would be
instances of properties of actions that would favour carrying out them? Crisp
believes that there is just one such property – being conducive to well-being.
Other people might be more liberal and accept that things like being keeping of
a promise, being kind, being enjoyable, being desire satisfying, being funny,
and so on can favour actions too. Whatever you think about this, I just can’t
see how the reason-realism debates would be about whether these properties are
real and independent of projection as (2) claims. Most people in the
reasons-realism debates accept that things like well-being, promise-keeping,
kindness, and so on, are very real properties and things. The debate is not
about that. Maybe the other skeptical debates concerning brains in the vats are
about the realness of these properties. However, the reasons-realism debate
must rather be about the counting in favour part in (1) and whether it is a metaphysically robust relation
in the world or a result of our projection or expression. Is Crisp being just
sloppy or am I misunderstanding him that badly? He goes on to say next very odd
things about the judgment-internalism debate too but that is for another posting.