Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Davidson on the Objectivity of Values and Reasons [Special Issue]

Topics: Ethics, History of Analytic Philosophy, Moral Philosophy, Theoretical philosophy
Keywords: Davidson, emotions, moral realism, objectivity, reasons, values


Although he did not write on ethics, Davidson wrote a few papers on the objectivity of values. His argument rests on his holistic conception of interpretation of desires. I examine whether this argument can be sufficient for his objectivism about values. And supposing that the argument were correct, would it entail a form of realism about normativity and reasons? I argue that it falls short of giving us a genuine form of moral realism. My case will rest on an examination of Davidson’s conception of value in relation to what he had to say about emotions and their relations to values.

Davidson’s views on ethics have received much less attention than his views on meaning, mind and action. This is understandable, since he did not write much on ethics, although he often said that for him the most fundamental  issues in philosophy are those of ethics. This concern surfaces in many of his writings, for instance in his early interest in Plato’s Philebus, in his essay on weakness of the will, in his discussions of self-deception and in his late discussion of Spinoza (Davidson 1999)


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