I have a question regarding Buck-Passing about good — two questions, really — and Doug kindly gave me guest poster status so I could ask here. If this goes well, maybe I’ll
leech off industrious readers contribute again soon.
Here is the Buck-Passing account of good that I got from Tim Scanlon’s What We Owe to Each Other:
For something to be good is for it to have properties that provide reasons for behaving in certain ways with regard to it.
Scanlon himself does not quite say this. He says almost this about value, and then proceeds as if he has given an account of both value and good. So, I’m assuming what I’ve written is the intended Buck-Passing account of good.
But if so, it has an obvious problem. Here’s a counterexample to illustrate.
Marsha is a corrupt, selfish, and sadistic government official who uses her position to enrich herself, punish her enemies, and cheat the public. However, she would never rat on a friend. Marsha therefore has a property — loyalty to friends — that provides a reason for admiring her. But, she is not good.
Here’s my first question: has nobody noticed this difficulty? I have looked in a few obvious places but not scoured the literature.
The malady doesn’t look terribly serious. I can think of three ways to fix this particular problem with the Buck-Passing account of good.
- For a feature to be good is for it to provide reasons for behaving in certain ways with regard to its bearers.
- For something to be good-in-a-respect is for it to have properties that provide reasons for behaving in certain ways with regard to it.
- For something to be good is for it to have properties that provide sufficient reasons for behaving in certain ways with regard to it.
One could also go for an ‘ought’ formulation instead of a ‘reasons’ formulation, but that seems not to be in the Scanlonian spirit.
Here’s my second question: what fix (one of mine or some other) seems to you best?