By In Ideas Comments (33)

Normative Stance Independence and Pleasure

Descriptive reality is not made the case by our take on it. Thinking that it is so or wanting it to be so does not determine the way things are, at least in descriptive matters. Are things different in the normative realm?

Normative “Stance-independence” maintains that normative reality, like descriptive reality, is never grounded in or made the case (even in part) by our stance towards it. Normative stance independence entails that normative facts are not made true by anyone’s conative or cognitive stance. Proponents of stance-independence maintain that truths in the relevant domain, in our case reasons for action or well-being, obtain, as Shafer-Landau said in the context of morality, “independently of any preferred perspective” and are “not make true by virtue of their ratification from within any given actual or hypothetical perspective.” Of course, our stances might causally be relevant to normative truths but they are not part of what makes them true on this view.

Perhaps some are attracted to such normative stance independence because they think the Euthyphro showed the problem with thinking stuff is valuable because we value it. Examples of people who want to count blades of grass might be thought to show, just as the Euthyphro showed in the context of morality, that it is quite unattractive to grant normative authority to arbitrary favorings. Desires seem to carry authority, such people might well say, only because they typically hit on sensible stuff. But when they do not, as in the grass counting case, we see the normative impotence of such attitudes.

I am quite interested to hear why folks are attracted to normative stance independence and would love to hear if I have captured what seems attractive about it. My sense is that a great number, perhaps half, of the leading ethicists of the day who are opinionated on this topic are strongly attracted to it.

I think such stance independence is severely challenged by what I have elsewhere called “matters of mere taste” such as the choice between flavors of ice cream. The challenge is to account for the value of pleasure without ceding ground to an agent’s stances. Pleasure, notoriously, can be understood in a way that does or does not cede such ground. Bentham, for example, understood pleasure to be a kind of “flavor of sensation” or group of such flavors with some sort of phenomenological commonality. His conception ceded no ground to anyone’s stance. On his conception, one might entirely fail to like or in any way favorably respond to the flavor of sensation of pleasure. On an alternative conception of pleasure, it must in some way find favor with the stance of the agent whose pleasure it is.

Seemingly the best hope for capturing the value of pleasure in a stance-independence way must embrace something like the former Benthamite picture. But I think this picture is severely unattractive. I think that the attempt to find a conception of pleasure that fits with normative stance independence is the reason so many are now investigating Benthamite hedonism—a view that was not nearly as actively championed 20 years ago. That is, people are turning to, or interested in, such a conception of pleasure not due to its intrinsic merits but due to needing such a picture to fit with other committments.

Here I only have time to in the briefest way outline why I find such a Benthaminte conception of pleasure uncompelling. I am hoping to draw out those who disagree. First, I do not think we have been given an adequate characterization of this understanding of pleasure. Famously there is no common tone to the full range of experiences that we think of as pleasurable. What do pleasures have in common on this view? Second, I do not think it plausible that there is a flavor of sensation that, just because of what it feels like, would benefit me or provide me with reasons, regardless of whether or not I like or hate it or find it in any way salient. Pleasure must favorably resonate with me if it is to play that sort of normative role.

David Sobel

33 Responses to Normative Stance Independence and Pleasure

  1. I confess I find the whole debate about the nature of pleasure rather obscure.

    “Favourable resonation” sounds to me like a phenomenal property; there’s something it feels like when a base sensation favourably resonates with you — a positive tint to the overall experience, you might say — and that distinctive feeling of positive valence is presumably what all pleasures have in common.

    I take it that no mere desire or (non-phenomenal) attitude is enough to make a sensation pleasurable, since a self-loathing individual might adopt such an attitude towards their own pain, and that wouldn’t turn the pain into pleasure.

    On the other hand, the idea of a pleasure that the agent in no way likes does seem of questionable coherence. But perhaps that’s because the distinctive “positive tint” to a pleasurable experience just is the phenomenology essential to liking something. But then this kind of attitudinal account of pleasure is not incompatible with the idea that pleasures have a common feel, of a sort.

    Maybe that’s okay. But then what are the implications for the “stance-independence” debate? If hedonic ‘likings’ count as part of our stance, then we’re going to need to accept that at least this part of stances can ground normative reasons. But is there any reason to think it generalizes to other parts of stances, like desires? I wouldn’t think so. The grass-counting examples seem quite compelling to me. So it’s not clear to me that it really matters (for this larger debate) how we analyse pleasure.

  2. Actually, on further thought I’m not convinced that even if pleasure involves taking a stance, it necessarily follows that the value of pleasure is in the relevant sense explained by such stance-facts. More on my blog:

  3. David Sobel says:

    As I am understanding the notion of resonance here, it implies that I must have some favorable response to a sensation if that sensation is to play the normative role many assign to pleasure. I quite doubt that there is a common way that it feels to get something that you like. But that does not matter here. You agree with my central claim, that a flavor of sensation that I in no way like for its own sake cannot play the normative role many assign to pleasure. I am not here trying to generalize beyond that.

  4. David Sobel says:

    Your last line confused me. If we grant that liking is central to pleasure (of the sort that can play a normative role) then the debate about stance independence is over and stance independence is wrong. Then we could move on to try to figure out how broad the role of stance dependence is. Perhaps you think it not very broad. No matter here. The debate I am entering here need not claim that stance dependent states play a broad role (although in fact I think they do).

  5. Oh, my thought was just that no-one denies that pleasure has value, so charitable interpretation requires re-interpreting the view of the stance-independentists to simply exclude pleasure. I take it that what they really want to deny is that grass-counting, etc., could be non-instrumentally valuable just because one favours it.

    But there’s also an independent worry raised in my second comment (which seems to currently be held for moderation).

  6. David Sobel says:

    Would that this were so. In fact tons of very famous people deny exactly this. That is why there is a movement towards Benthamite hedonism.

  7. Alex Gregory says:

    These are all interesting issues! Two points:

    (1) I think you capture part of the appeal of stance-independence, but another comes into view when we think about things from the first-person. When I am uncertain about what I want, or what is good, I resolve that uncertainty by looking out into the world, and not by investigating more carefully about my own attitudes. (I remember Bond making this point well in /Reason and Value/.)

    (2) Imagine I allow that some normative properties are stance-dependent (e.g. the value of ice-cream), but add that wherever this is so, it is always explained by some further stance-independent normative fact: e.g. that it’s good for people to get what they like. That seems like a way of maintaining stance-independence, at the fundamental level, while allowing for matters of mere taste.

  8. David Sobel says:

    Thanks, I find these issues really interesting too. I’m don’t think those good points help the stance independent theorist much. The first point can be captured by the thought that aspects of the world are made salient by our concerns. Mark Schroeder has good stuff on this. Our focus is not on the desires themselves but on what they make salient. When traveling, I am focused in the morning on finding coffee. I am not focused on my concerns. But it is because of my concerns that I am focused on coffee. When I write up a list of pros and cons about where to go on vacation I don’t put info about my concerns on the list but the list is quite plausibly organized by and responsive to what I care about.

    Your second point has been a source of some frustration to me. I think that the sensible stance-dependent theorist should say that whatever stance grounds reasons, the fact that that stance grounds reasons is not itself grounded in some further stance dependent feature. These days, for example, a lot of people treat it as bad news for a desire-based view that someone might not desire that they get what they desire. But clearly if the stance dependent theoriest had to say that for any purported grounding stance dependent state that that state only grounds reasons if it itself is supported by some further stance dependent state, then the view would require an infinite number of stance dependent states to ground a reason—the view would be obviously crazy. So I don’t think that a remotely charitable interpretation of stance-dependence. So if someone says that some or all reasons are grounded in a stance dependent state but that that stance dependent state needs no ratification from any further stance dependent state, I think that it not a stance independent theory. Or if it is, then the distinction is no longer useful. I think our concerns ground all of our reasons. I think that fact itself is not made true by anyone’s concerns. If you want to say that I too am a stance independent theoriest, that is fine I guess, but I think the interesting distinctions are lost and a real fight between people who think stances can be part of what grounds reasons would be harder to state.

  9. Alex Gregory says:

    Hi David, thanks for these helpful replies.

    On the first, I agree that that move is available, and has been made by e.g. Schroeder (see also Smith and Pettit’s “Backgrounding desire”). But (as I very briefly said in my review of Schroeder’s book) I can’t see that it ultimately helps. If what you ought to do is fixed by your attitudes, then investigating your own attitudes must at least be *permissible* as *one part* of investigating what you ought to do. I’m not sure I see how the move you describe allows you to avoid committing to this claim, which seems implausible to me.

    On the second, I think I agree with most of what you said! But I’m not sure it addresses the point I was trying to make (sorry if I was unclear). I wasn’t aiming to recreate some kind of Korsgaardian argument that your view presupposes stance-independent normative truths. So far as I’m aware, such arguments fail, in roughly the way you describe. I was instead merely describing (without argument) a view that your opponent could hold which would at least be internally consistent, that would entail that all fundamental normative truths are stance-independent, but nonetheless permit that some derivative normative truths are stance-dependent. Such a view would be interestingly different from yours, and not subject to your objection above, I think. (Though of course perhaps it faces other problems.)

  10. Sergio Tenenbaum says:

    My sympathies are a bit mixed on this topic, but here is something that can be said on behalf of the SI philosopher (more or less in line with Alex’s suggestion):
    Suppose we start with the idea that pleasure has value independently of being liked. Now many philosophers agree that there is a disvalue to having an unfavourable attitude to value and a favourable attitude to disvalue. So we add to this view that there is a special disvalue to disliking your (valuable state of) pleasure that actually overrides the value of pleasure. Here we’d be able to get at least the result that, ceteris paribus, I never have all things considered reason to pursue a value I dislike, without giving up our SI view. Of course, you might complain that this doesn’t do justice to the issue, as I have no reason to pursue a pleasure I dislike (ceteris paribus). It’s hard to adjudicate these issues, but suppose we grant you that, and we make a small revision to our SI-view: the disvalue of dislike one’s pleasure actually cancels the reason I had for pursuing the pleasure (either because it cancels its value, or cancel the reason to pursue a valuable state in this case). If I understand your definition correctly, this is technically no longer a SI view. But I don’t think that the SI philosopher has abandoned anything of significance in making this move.

  11. David Sobel says:


    Oh, I was trying to make room for the sensible thought that we typically do not think about our attitudes all that much in everyday reasoning about what it makes sense to do. That seems to me something like a datum and one that the stance-dependent theorist can explain in the way I was doing. If you think it also a datum that it is impermissible to investigate (and I think you must mean “ever investigate” here) the nature of one’s own concerns, then you and I disagree quite wildly on that. I certainly was not trying to capture that thought and would not want to try to do so since I see little attractive in it.

    On the second point, so far as I can so far see, my opponent can use your strategy, I think we agree, only by offering an account of the distinction between stance dependence and stance independence that makes the distinction uninteresting and which is also uncharitable to the stance dependent theorist. Thus I do not fear such a move.

  12. David Sobel says:


    I would not be at all surprised if there were a way to mimic the results that stance dependent theorists get in a stance independent way. But the view you suggest says there is a reason to get a (stance-independent) sensation, unless you don’t like it. (Would it also allow that there is a reason to get a stance independent sensation that is not valuable simply because we like it?) Even without this latter move, this still seems to me to grant grounding authority to one’s stance. It also does not fit well with my favorite version of the thought that attitudes towards base values are themselves sources of value. Hurka had it that the value of the attitudes towards base value diminishes in significance. Otherwise, as I recall, the threat was that the most important values would all be what we like and don’t like rather than the base values. Your view would be forced to say that the attitudes are more significant than the base values and can entirely silence some seemingly important base values.

  13. Sergio Tenenbaum says:


    Just two quick comments:

    “(Would it also allow that there is a reason to get a stance independent sensation that is not valuable simply because we like it?)”. I don’t see why the view would not allow for that. You’d need to say that there is value in caring for (some?) value-neutral things.

    The Hurka point you mention was the reason why I said that we need to say that there is a special disvalue in this case. So you could accept the special disvalue about this particular case, while agreeing that in cases such as my liking/disliking for your good, etc., the attitude value/disvalue is lower than the base value. As long as in this particular case (i.e. disliking your own pleasure) it’s not implausible to say that the disvalue of the attitude can silence/override the base value, the SI theorist is not in trouble as far as I can see.

  14. David Sobel says:


    I suppose we also need to consider the case where a sensation is stance independently bad but the agent likes it. I’m guessing you also think the stance independent theorist can say that in some cases it is valuable to like the bad and so get the result that one has a reason to go for such sensations. But if the value of the stance is not seriously constrained by the stance-independent base values, and if the stance can trump the base values, then 1) such a view can get any extensional answers you like and 2) I see no important distinction between such a view and a stance dependent view.

  15. David Sobel says:


    Your comments got me thinking, which I try to avoid as much as possible, but I feel forced here. Most importantly, your example of it being valuable to love the (stance independently) valuable feels like something the objectivist can and should say. But my categories of stance dependence/independence put such values on the subjectivist side. So I need to work on my categories more. Perhaps, as something rough and ready, I want something like a distinction between views that grant a grounding role to favoring attitude whether those attitudes are merited by a stance independent value or not. Anyway, let me run with that sort of idea. So now we have SI* and SD* trying to have in mind what I was gesturing towards above.

    Now I grant that if one has a picture in which (stance-independent) base values sets the standard for what should be valued and then goes on to say that having the merited response to the base values is itself valuable, that counts in my book as SI*. I think the root idea here is that there are base values that our response can be accurate or inaccurate towards, and that it is valuable to have accurate and merited responses rather than inaccurate and unmerited responses. On that view, loving the good is good, hating the bad is bad, loving the bad is bad and hating the good is bad. On such a view one should say that being indifferent to the SI* indifferent is good because it is an accurate, merited response to the base values. This all fits well, I think, with a picture in which what is stance independently valuable comes first and is normative for what we ought to value.

    But when the view deviates from those views about what is valuable to allow a greater role for the attitudes (e.g. trumping the base values) and assigning value to valued stuff even when that valuing is inaccurate and unmerited by the base values, then I think we have lost the intuitive rationale for the assignments of value on a SI* view. I see such moves as ad hoc and suspicious and tending toward a SD* view. Clearly, I think, a view that says that anything one happens to love is valuable unless you love pain, is granting a large grounding role to the attitude and a small grounding role for the SI* base values. I see such moves as moves toward SD*. Thus, as I see things, the value of pleasure continues to put serious pressure on SI*.

  16. Alex Gregory says:

    Thanks again David. On the first point: As you rightly say in the original post, the objectivist needs to make room for matters of mere taste in *some* cases, and in those cases, self-directed deliberation seems fine: you might reasonably wonder whether chocolate or vanilla ice-cream will give you more pleasure. But it seems to me that most deliberation is not like this, and most of the time, self-directed deliberation is impermissible. If I am wondering whether to donate to Oxfam or the Red Cross, my own mental states do not seem like a proper object of that deliberation (not even as part): psychiatrists (who can uncover my deepest desires) are not amongst the experts I should consult for advice. (You might think that this is false because I am surely deciding what I want. But as I see it this is really deciding what *to* want, not a matter of self-discovery. (cf. “deciding I think”.))

    And on the second: I think I must be missing something here. As I’m imagining them, the stance-dependent theorist says that normative truths are explained by our stances, and that this truth is not itself explained by any further normative truths. In contrast, the stance-independent theorist says that normative properties are mostly stance-independent, and that other normative truths are stance-dependent only because of further stance-independent normative truths. I’m afraid I must be being slow, since I can’t understand why you want to say that there is no interesting distinction between these views, nor why you want to say that this description of your view is uncharitable. (For example, I can’t see that this description of your view would commit it to infinitely many stance-dependent truths.)

  17. David Sobel says:


    I assume you have in mind a moral prohibition against investigating one’s desires in such contexts. Certainly I grant that there are cases where it is not morally permissible to maximally satisfy one’s own desires. Perhaps you are assuming that we never have a reason to do that which morality prohibits? I don’t think that is true. Also we would need to distinguish between a decision procedure (which is what your moral prohibition seems aimed at) and an account of the truth maker in a domain.

    I was disagreeing earlier with the characterization of the difference between stance dependent/independent. If I say that all reasons are determined by one’s stance and that that fact is a stance independent truth would you think of this as in any interesting sense a stance independent theory? What would a stance dependent theory look like then?

  18. David Sobel says:


    As I am now understanding your first point, you have in mind something like the traditional argument against full-on subjectivism that it counter-intuitively misses our reasons to be decent even when we lack desires that being decent would further.

    To that I should say 1) the argument presented here is not for full on subjectivism. It is completely compatible with what I say in this post that outside the realm of matters of mere taste that morality provides trumping reasons. So your worries here are not worries against what I am saying in this post. 2) I have attempted to address the traditional worry against subjectivism that I think you perhaps have in mind in my “Subjectivism and Reasons to be Moral,” forthcoming in my From Valuing to Value (OUP). That is another interesting debate but not the one I am trying to have here.

  19. jamiedreier says:

    I thought Alex’s point was this.

    Suppose Leslie is trying to decide whether to give money to Oxfam or to the Red Cross. In order to make the decision, she asks her psychoanalyst whether she cares more about famine relief or disease relief.
    Now suppose (D) facts are reasons for a given person to act because they explain why the act best promotes satisfaction of what the person cares about. Then Leslie’s investigation is a plausible way of figuring out what reasons she has, so it makes perfectly good sense. But, it doesn’t make sense, and no reasonable person would proceed in that way. So, (D) is false.

    By the way, the idea of a stance-independent view attempting to mimic the verdicts of a desire-based reasons view seems lusciously perverse to me. It’s an example of trying to get the worst of both worlds.

  20. jamiedreier says:

    Is there any way to get WordPress to include a PREVIEW button for comments? I sometimes like to use html tags and I hate posting a comment without being able to see what the effects of my tags is going to be.

  21. David Sobel says:


    Perhaps I was thrown by Alex’s talk of this being impermissible. I think what is most clear in your case is that consulting the agent’s own desires is a poor way to determine what is morally correct to do in this case. If the agent is out to figure out what is morally correct, then there is a natural explanation for why consulting their own desires is not the place to look.

  22. David Sobel says:


    When I have time I’ll look into that.

  23. jamiedreier says:

    I should leave this to Alex, but that doesn’t sound like a satisfying answer to me.
    Maybe Leslie, like many of us, does not think about whether this is a moral decision or not. A lot of people trying to decide whether to give their money to Oxfam or the Red Cross do not have the aim of doing whichever thing is morally required; this is a familiar observation that I take it doesn’t need further elaboration.
    The point (as I see it) is not that consulting her shrink is a poor way of reaching the morally correct answer. If instead Leslie prayed for guidance, in my opinion that would also be a very poor way of reaching the morally correct answer, but it does not seem bizarre or irrational. Whereas asking her psychoanalyst what it is she most desires does make it seem like she has a completely confused idea of what she is doing.

  24. David Sobel says:


    My hunch is that your snide remark about the extensional adequacy of stance-dependent views was ignoring that the context here is one in which we are talking only about reasons of mere taste or pleasure. Or did you really mean to be saying that the stance dependent view seems poor on that particular score?

  25. Ben Bramble says:

    Hi David,

    Nice post! I’ll try to address both your worries, in turn.

    First, you write: “Famously there is no common tone to the full range of experiences that we think of as pleasurable. What do pleasures have in common on this view?”

    I think it is too quick to say that there is no common tone/feel to the full range of pleasures. As I point out in my paper “A New Defense of Hedonism about Well-Being” (2016), our knowledge of (the intrinsic features of) our own phenomenology is far from infallible (on this, see Haybron and Schwizgebel). Not only can we have false beliefs about it, there are aspects of it that can be hard or even impossible for us to have true beliefs about. If this is right, then our inability to introspect a common feel to all pleasures should not weigh all that heavily against felt-quality theories. (In my earlier paper, “The Distinctive Feeling Theory of Pleasure” (2013), I go into some detail about what ‘the feeling of pleasure itself’ would need to be like, if it existed. See Section 4.) In any case, it isn’t entirely clear to me why a Benthamite or felt-quality theorist of pleasure needs to say that there is a common feel to all pleasures. Pleasures might be related in some other way—say, by family resemblance. There are many interesting possibilities here.

    As for your second worry, I’m afraid it doesn’t resonate with me. Here’s an argument: It seems plausible that there are some pleasures that are good for us even though it is logically impossible for one to behold them clearly, and so form a fully-informed desire for them. Such pleasures might include ‘flow’ pleasures, pleasures of dreaming, background pleasures (like those I discuss in my 2013 paper), and others. If this is true, then it isn’t necessary that a particular kind of pleasure ‘resonate’ with one for it to be good for one. In this case, there seems little reason to think that any other kinds of pleasures need to resonate with one in order to be good for one. (I present this argument in full in currently unpublished work.) As for why some of us feel that what is good for us must resonate with us, I offer a diagnosis in Section 7 of my 2016 paper.


  26. David Sobel says:

    I am running so will have to be quick.

    1) I don’t like your epistemic argument here. If we lack good grounds to think there is an underlying common tone, then we should be quite hesitant to hop on a theory that requires that there is such a thing. Also, if we lack much clear acquaintance with the relevant feeling, I wonder what our grounds are for thinking that feeling is so valuable.

    2) All that is needed is to know what these states are like. I once argued that there might be probs combining different valued states in one consciousness. But if that is not the prob, then I don’t think it could be impossible to know what X would be like. You only need to have the experience that would be one possible way one’s future might go.

  27. Ben Bramble says:

    Hi again Dave,

    In response to the first part of your (1), I agree that “If we lack good grounds to think there is an underlying common tone, then we should be quite hesitant to hop on a theory that requires that there is such a thing.” But I think we *do* have good grounds to think that some felt-quality theory of pleasure is true (I mention a bunch of these grounds in my 2016 paper and in a 2015 paper). If such grounds exist, and felt-quality theories require that there be a common feel (something that, as I already noted, is not altogether clear), then I think that the epistemic stuff is extremely useful in responding to the heterogeneity worry.

    In response to the second part of your (1), I find it plausible that we know *enough* about what is happening during pleasant dreams, flow pleasures, and so on, to reasonably believe that it is very valuable for us, even if we cannot have *full* knowledge of what is going on at such times (the sort one would plausibly need to have for one’s desires concerning it to be authoritative). (Now, of course, many *other* kinds of pleasures are quite easy to introspect and note the value of. It does not follow that it should be easy to introspect the precise way—if there is one—in which they *feel alike*.)

    In your (2), you write “All that is needed is to know what these states are like.” What they are *fully* like? Or is it sufficient to have some *imperfect* knowledge of what they are like? You write: “You only need to have the experience that would be one possible way one’s future might go.” I think there is an important difference between *having* an experience and *clearly beholding* an experience that one is having, and that it is only the latter that involves the sort of knowledge of the experience that one would need to have in order for one’s desires concerning it to be authoritative.


  28. David Sobel says:

    I guess we disagree about what the most plausible version of an informed desire account requires. Most have said, like Sidgwick, one needs an accurate forecast and to “fore-feel” what it would be like. If the option one is investigating is a dreamy haze, then to accurately know what that is like in the sense relevant for informed desire accounts, one needs a dreamy haze, not some more precise experience.

  29. Ben Bramble says:

    On desire-based accounts of well-being, things are made good for us by our desires concerning them. But (as you argue in your work on this topic) not just any desires will do. One’s desires need to be informed—one needs to know about the nature of the relevant object. Now, if the object in question is some phenomenology one is having, then one needs not only to *have* this phenomenology, but to *know about it* as well. So, in the dreamy haze case, one needs to have not just the dreamy haze, but knowledge of what it is like to be in the haze. My claim is that there are some dreamy hazes/flow pleasures/background pleasures that are both (a) plausibly good for one, and (b) unknowable in the requisite way, or to the requisite degree. Being in a dreamy haze, as far as I can see, doesn’t require believing anything about being in a haze. One needs such beliefs if one’s desires here are to count for anything, on a plausible desire-based theory. But if you add enough such beliefs, then you are going to change the nature of the haze. There are some hazes such that you can’t have both the precise haze in question *and* a crystal clear understanding of what it is like to be having it. (Perhaps any haze is like this.)

  30. Alex Gregory says:

    Thanks again David, and Jamie – I broadly agree with what Jamie said. The worry was not supposed to be one about morality as such, but just one about which things are relevant in deliberation to most of the choices we make. Just as deliberation about what to believe should rarely make reference to your own beliefs, I take it that deliberation about what to do should rarely make reference to your own desires. As I said before, clearly there are *some* contexts where reference to your own mental states is ok, but these seem like non-central cases (the same applies to theoretical deliberation, I take it: reference to your own beliefs is *sometimes* relevant, but these are not the central cases).

    Back on the second issue, you write: “If I say that all reasons are determined by one’s stance and that that fact is a stance independent truth would you think of this as in any interesting sense a stance independent theory?”. I’m not 100% sure, but for the sake of argument let’s say no. But that wasn’t the view I described. The view I described says that *some* reasons are determined by one’s stance, and that fact is a stance independent truth. That view seems clearly a stance-independent theory, in an interesting sense, although it still leaves room for matters of mere taste.

  31. David Sobel says:

    Hummm, on the second issue I had thought that the case I offered should show us that a view that maintains that in some cases our desires ground reasons, and which maintains that there is a stance independent fact about which desires do, should count as partly stance dependent. That was meant to be the point of saying that a view can be stance dependent even if the cases in which stances determine reasons are not themselves thought to be in need of ratification by anyone’s stance.

  32. JEH says:

    I may be missing the mark entirely. Given that the vocabulary of independence and dependence depends strongly on what I take to be a false dichotomy between self and world, subject and object, might we not think of this question differently? Might we say that the stance — the position of our involvement — constitutes the meaning of a situation, and a great deal of what we find to be normatively relevant is constituted by this directed involvement of our stance as it relates to the situation? Why carve apart this relation?

  33. JEH, please comment under your real name or we may have to delete it. See our “comments policy.”