One of the dividing lines in writings in theoretical ethics today is between those who think that practical reasons are provided by universal, and therefore, impersonal values (the value-based approach, as I shall call it), and those who find reasons, or at least moral reasons, personal or inter-personal in ways which are incompatible with the thought that they are all provided by values. I think of recent criticism by Kamm (Intricate Ethics) and Darwall (Second-Personal Reasons) of my accounts of rights and of authority as belonging with this critique of aspects of the value-based approach, which I pursue. In Sections 3 to 5 of a new paper, still in an early draft, on ‘The Possibility of Partiality’ I attempt a reply to these criticisms. Those interested will find it on my website (, in the unpublished papers page.

Most writers think that there are two fundamentally different concepts of reasons, though some maintain that there is only one concept and the appearance of duality is misleading, and is due to a failure to properly analyse the role of reasons in our thought. Among those who accept the duality thesis, there are disagreement about the nature and relations between the concepts. It is not always easy to tell where terminological differences end and substantive ones begin.

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