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Professor Philip Pettit from Princeton University gave a talk entitled “the Second Person Frame” this past Monday at Oxford’s Moral Philosophy Seminar. In a nutshell (if I understood him correctly), he argues that Stephen Darwall’s idea of the second person demands in The Second Person Standpoint, is plausible and similar to what he (Pettit) and Michael Smith have elsewhere called ‘co-reasoning.’ Pace Darwall though, Pettit argues that consequentialists can also explain the second person demands. A copy of his powerpoint presentation is here. He would welcome any comments/suggestions.


  1. 1. Posted by Jussi Suikkanen | November 21, 2007 7:58 pm

    I have say how thoroughly I enjoyed the talk. It was brilliant so a big thank you! I do have a still a small question about the consequentialist justification for the co-reasoning practice. I’m not sure whether that practice stands in a need of external justification or whether it could stand on its own feet.

    It might be true, as a matter of actual fact given how our circumstances are, that having this practice has the best consequences. So, in this situation, it is hard to figure out what justification, if any, the best consequences can give. But, that the practice has the best consequences doesn’t seem like a necessary truth. Maybe we could think of a God-like figure who would give enough manna from heaven to us if we stopped the practice of co-reasoning so that this option would have slightly better consequences than keeping the practice.

    I guess I have two thoughts about this situation. First, it does seem to me like, even though the consequences go the other way, there is something to be said for keeping the practice nevertheless. This suggests that the legitimacy of the practice is not exhausted by its consequences.

    Second (and in contradiction to the first point…), I find it difficult to imagine what it would be like not to have the practice of asking and giving reasons as a part of our life. But, if it is a necessary feature of our way of life, then I’m not sure it can require justification from an external point of view. Wouldn’t ought imply cannot? And, in starting to ask and give reasons (like ‘that it has the best consequences) for the co-reasoning practice, aren’t we just assuming the justification for this practice and its demands by taking part in it?

    Sorry that this wasn’t probably the clearest of comments but I really liked the presentation.

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