Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 9–20 | Cite as

How to Overcome Strawson’s Point: Defending a Value-Oriented Foundation for Contractualism

  • Douglas Paletta


In The Second Person Standpoint, Darwall charges that all value-oriented foundations for ethics make a category mistake. Calling it Strawson’s point, he argues these foundations explain moral authority, which concerns whether someone has standing to hold another accountable, in terms of a value, which essentially concerns what makes the world go best. However, whether it would be good for me to blame you simply asks a different question than whether I have standing to blame you. I defend a valueoriented foundation for contractualism by identifying one way to overcome Strawson’s point. At bottom, Darwall’s objection relies on the assumption that all values are worldregarding. I argue that another class of values exists: second-personal values. Grounding morality in one of these values does not make the category mistake at the heart of Strawson’s point. In particular, I argue that grounding morality on one secondpersonal value, the ideal of acting justifiably towards others, better captures traditional contractualist ideals than Darwall’s formal foundation.


Contractualism Darwall Strawson’s point Ethics Authority Values 



I extend special thanks to the members of Penn’s moral philosophy reading group, especially Adrienne Martin, Jeppe von Platz and Chris Melenovsky, for their helpful comments and to Stephen Darwall for a stimulating evening of conversation. I would further like to thanks those who attended the presentation of an earlier version of the paper at the 2010 Central Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, including Daniel Groll for his comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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