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The Retrieval of Ethics$
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Talbot Brewer

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199557882

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199557882.001.0001

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The Primacy of Good

The Primacy of Good

(p.151) 5 The Primacy of Good
The Retrieval of Ethics

Talbot Brewer (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

How should we characterize the quarry of practical thought? Some hold that practical thinking must ultimately find some non‐evaluative fact to be a reason for action. Some have affirmed a ‘buck‐passing’ view of the good, according to which talk of goodness or value can be reduced to talk of the reason‐giving force of non‐evaluative facts. In this book, it has been argued that practical thinking must sometimes apprehend the intrinsic goodness or value of an activity, where this cannot be reduced to the reason‐giving force of any non‐evaluative fact. The task of this chapter is to show that this latter, recognizably Ancient understanding of value‐talk remains implicit in a great deal of our talk about value, and that we cannot consistently renounce it without incurring a steep cost in the metric of articulacy about value. Nor can we sequester off a subset of the things we care about, under the heading of the moral, and reduce our talk of values to talk of reasons in this domain. Our actual sense of the moral value of human beings cannot plausibly be characterized in terms of the reason‐giving force of non‐evaluative facts about them.

Keywords:   buck‐passing, reasons, value, thick concepts, irreplaceability, love, naturalism, non‐naturalism, fact/value divide, Gaita, Darwall, Scanlon

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