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Value, Fitting-Attitude Account of
Wlodek Rabinowicz
According to an influential tradition in value analysis, to be valuable is to be a fitting
object of a pro-attitude – a fitting object of favoring (see pro-attitudes). If it is
fitting to favor an object for its own sake, then, in this view, the object has final value.
If it is fitting to favor an object for the sake of its effects, then its value is instrumental
(see instrumental value). Disvalue is connected in the analogous way to
disfavoring, i.e., to con-attitudes. For a history of this fitting-attitudes analysis, or
FA-analysis for short, see the following text. The label itself was coined rather
recently, though, in Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen (2004).
Apart from the suggested conceptual linkage between value and attitudes, what is
distinctive for this approach is that it treats deontic concepts as prior to the axiological
ones (see evaluative vs. deontic concepts): value is explicated in terms of the
stance that ought to be taken toward the object. That it is fitting to have a proattitude, that there are reasons to have it, or that the attitude in question is appropriate,
required, or called for are different ways of expressing the deontic component in
FA-analysis (see ought; reasons). On some versions, FA-approach is meant to be a
meaning analysis of “valuable” or “good”; on other versions, it is rather a real
definition: an account of what value or goodness consists of.
It is often left unspecified who the subjects of the deontic requirement are, with
the implication being that the requirement applies to anyone. Some versions of the
analysis restrict the scope of “ought” to those who are familiar with the object under
consideration (Broad 1930) or to subjects who are “like us” (Wiggins 1987).
FA-format can also be applied to various concepts of relative value. Thus, an
object x can be said to be valuable for P if it is fitting to favor x for P’s sake (Darwall
2004; Rønnow-Rasmussen 2007; see good and good for). Value-for in this sense
should be distinguished from value-relative-to: x is valuable relative to P if it is fitting
for P (but not necessarily for others) to favor x. (For some difficulties with this
suggestion, see Schroeder 2007.) It is unclear whether FA-analysis can also be used
to deal with the attributive uses of “valuable” and “good,” as in “this is a good watch”
(for a positive answer, cf. Rawls’ proposal in the following text; for criticism, see
Brännmark 2008; see goodness, varieties of).
One of the advantages of FA-analysis is that it, to some extent, demystifies values
(Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen 2004). It makes their normative authority
unproblematic (see normativity), and thereby solves the problem that was
especially troublesome for G. E. Moore’s treatment of value as a primitive concept
(see moore, g. e.). Moore was taken to task on this very issue by William Frankena
(1942) and, more recently, by Stephen Darwall (2003; see frankena, william k.).

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Edited by Hugh LaFollette, print pages 5282–5291.
© 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Published 2013 by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
DOI: 10.1002/ 9781444367072.wbiee311

protected. queerness. incommensurable in value if the degrees of favoring that are fitting for each of them are incomparable in strength (see incommensurability [and incomparability]). In this sense. and analyze value in terms of this particular kind of response (see desire.. awe-inspiring. it is also possible for an FA-analyst to be a monist about value. and so on (Anderson 1993. equally valuable if it is fitting to favor both equally. but that they are supposed to be objective at the same time.2 On FA-account. desirable. If the deontic component in the analysis can be assumed to either consist in a requirement or in a permission. etc. persons. Pluralism about kinds of value goes hand in hand with pluralism about value bearers. We can distinguish between different kinds of value in terms of different kinds of proattitudes or pro-responses that are fitting with respect to different objects. preference). the analysis is orthogonal to the main metaethical controversies (see metaethics). It should be noted that an object might call for a combination of different pro-attitudes and pro-responses (say. you can rejoice in a state but you cannot rejoice in a person. argument from). insofar as it is fitting to have pro-attitudes toward these different objects. social institutions. moral) or between nonnaturalists and naturalists (see nonnaturalism. One object can be said to be more valuable than another if it is fitting to favor it more. with respect to an object of another kind. A further advantage has to do with the versatility of this format of analysis. 2). FA-approach easily lends itself to value pluralism (see value pluralism). Another advantage of the analysis lies in its metaethical neutrality.). then. You can admire a person but not a state of affairs. One might try to find a common component in different kinds of pro-attitudes and analyze value in terms of this common core. desired. It is arguable that value accrues to objects belonging to different ontological categories (states of affairs. What makes values queer on his view is not just that they are essentially prescriptive. pleasurable. on the other hand. Cognitivists and non-cognitivists alike can adopt the view that the evaluative is reducible to the deontic. as the case may be. things. ethical). this undermines Mackie’s famous “argument from queerness” is another matter (see mackie.). the set of possible types of value relations . cared for. non-cognitivism). etc. Swanton 2003: Ch.” to use Mackie’s terminology (1977: 35). The latter can be admirable. To what extent. However. l. if at all. Or. there is no mystery in values being “intrinsically prescriptive. on desire or pursuit). as long as they are free to interpret deontic utterances in different ways (see cognitivism. The same applies to the conflicts between moral realists and anti-realists (see realism. one might fix on one of the many kinds of pro-attitudes or responses (say. a social institution might deserve to be promoted. but there is still room for value heterogeneity if such combinations of appropriate responses can significantly differ for different objects. The versatility of FA-analysis also shows up in how easy it is to extend it to value relations. An object’s value simply consists in it being such that one ought to take an appropriate stance toward it. The kinds of positive responses that are appropriate with respect to one kind of object need not be appropriate. and might even be impossible. j.

If pro-responses might considerably vary for different kinds of valuable objects.). then analyzing the latter concept by reference to pro-attitudes becomes circular (see ross. Ross has suggested (see the following text). is willing to admit the circularity. Prinz 2004: Ch.” the positive responses from the negative ones? We need to draw a line between value and disvalue. Circularity would only arise if the evaluative language were necessary for the analytic characterization of the relevant attitudes. 4). as things stand. Wiggins. It is not obvious. for example. The hope would be that some of the value differences could then be accounted for in terms of these “value-making” properties. whether the relevant attitudes must be essentially evaluative (cf. due to its “detour through sentiments. w. there are several competing theories in this area. And. Thus.” the analysis nevertheless is informative (1987: 189). pro-attitudes essentially involve evaluations and if the concept of a proattitude for this reason cannot be understood if you lack the concept of value. An example might be grace and delicacy – closely similar and yet different values.3 increases. d. 2009. it seems. However. If. in its deontic component or in the attitudinal component. always be cashed out in terms of different kinds of fitting responses. the following text for Ewing’s response to Ross. what distinguishes positive and negative responses from those that are neither? How should the line be drawn between the realm of value/disvalue and the rest of the world? Enlisting psychological theories of positive and negative valence might be of some help. This latter problem of the common denominator becomes especially pressing if one opts for a pluralist version of FA-account. as for instance W. Whether this circularity is vicious depends on what the analysis is supposed to achieve. One concerns discriminatory deficit of the FA-format of analysis. or for the characterization of what these different attitudes have in common. objects x and y can be said to be on a par if it is permissible to favor x more than y and also permissible to favor y more than x. Conceptual analysis is not the same as a real definition. (For FA-style  modelings of different types of value relations. Responses that fit objects that exhibit these values do not seem to differ. One might try to deal with this difficulty by suggesting that the analysis of thick values should specify not only the fitting responses but also the properties of objects that make those responses fitting. it might be impossible to disentangle value-making properties . but argues that. when it comes to closely similar values. see Gert 2004 and Rabinowicz 2008. for one. one group of criticisms has to do with potential circularities of this account. see also D’Arms and Jacobson [2003] for a discussion of this issue). Differences between “thick” kinds of value cannot.) Moving now to objections against FA-analysis. however. None of these theories of valence fully squares with our commonsense intuitions (cf. Nor is it obvious that a satisfactory analysis of the concept of X must specify the essential features of X. D. Two other important objections are both originally due to Roger Crisp (2005). then what is it that they all have in common? What distinguishes the “pro” from the “con. based on different general approaches to psychology. However.

In The Origin of Our Knowledge of Right and Wrong from 1889. Or. it is “pleasing in virtue of what it brings about or preserves or makes probable” (1969 [1889]: 18). History This section draws on Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen (2004). In the third edition of The Methods of Ethics. Brentano states that “[i]n the broadest sense of the term. Henry Sidgwick and Franz Brentano may have been the first to put forward versions of FA-analysis (see sidgwick. that which can be loved with a love that is correct [das mit richtiger Liebe zu Liebende]” (1969 [1889]: 18). brentano. Crisp 2000 and D’Arms and Jacobson 2000a. one might argue that reasons of the wrong kind do not exist: the apparent candidates are not reasons for pro-attitudes toward the object but only reasons for proattitudes and pro-responses toward these pro-attitudes. However. which in turn draws on Dancy (2000). To dissolve the problem. Suggested Readings). “the solitary goods problem” and “the distance problem” in Bykvist 2009).. the object is “pleasing in itself. drawing the distinction between reasons of the right and the wrong kind. This list of objections to FA-analysis is incomplete (cf. The suggested analysis applies both to what is good in itself and what is good in virtue of something else: in the former case. franz). they might come from deontological constraints on our attitudes and responses. Such reasons obviously are of the “wrong kind” from the point of view of the FA-analysis (however good they might be otherwise). These reasons might have to do with the value of the attitude itself.. 2000b. Whether this is true is debatable. cf.4 enough to make them fit to function as differentiae specificae in the analysis (see thick and thin concepts). It is neither instinctive nor blind and consists in “the natural feeling of pleasure [Gefallen] … that is experienced as being correct [als richtig charakterisierte]” (1969 [1889]:  22). e. has proved to be difficult. where “greater . from 1884. henry. the good is that which is worthy of love [das Liebwerte]. Love in the relevant sense is a “higher mode” (1969 [1889]: 21) of taking pleasure in an object. the analysis is extendable to value comparisons: “one might take the better to be that which is worthy of a greater love” (1969 [1889]: 25). Another objection is the wrong kind of reasons problem. and even if it is we would still need to know how to draw the distinction (see wrong kind of reasons problem.” and in the latter. Furthermore. the difficulty is that there might exist reasons for proattitudes toward objects that are not related to their value. (This label was coined in Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen 2004. Similar formulations appear in later editions.g. as opposed to that of its object. There is a “dictate of Reason” implanted in our notion of the good (1907: 112).) Essentially. Sidgwick defines “the ultimately good or desirable” as “that of which we should desire the existence if our desire were in harmony with reason” (1884: 108). since their presence does not make the objects valuable. for references. without assuming the notion of value as given. but it mentions those that have been most discussed. cf.

A. but as a dyadic attitude of preference (1969 [1889]: 26). It is noteworthy. a. approval. which he takes to show that “good”  can have different senses (1947: 166f).5 love” is interpreted not as one that is more intensive. he argues that: the reason why it is proper to admire anything must be constituted by the qualities which make the object of admiration good. are fitting objects of “satisfaction” (ibid. The foremost exponent of the FA-analysis in the twentieth century. Broad. 278). Ross 1939: 276. Findlay 1970: 25f. In response to Ross’s objections. it is an emotion accompanied by the thought that that which is admired is good. C.”). while the paraphrase in terms of satisfaction could be construed as an analysis of “good. along with purely mental states and dispositions. What is intrinsically good is a suitable object of a pro-attitude for its own sake. on the other hand. It would be absurd to say that a thing is good only in the sense that it is worthy of being thought to be good. who suggests “X is good” might be definable “as meaning that X is such that it would be a fitting object of desire to any mind which had an adequate idea of its non-ethical characteristics” (1930: 283). Thus. for a modern Brentano-inspired approach to FA-analysis. This would make any analysis of goodness in terms of admiration circular (if the analysis of admiration requires reference to the purported judgmental component of this attitude). rejects both these objections (see ewing. W. he defines “good” as “fitting object of a pro attitude” (1947: 152). Ewing stresses that different pro-attitudes or combinations of such  attitudes fit different kinds of valuable objects. but it does not follow that the thought that . that Brentano regards preference as a species of emotion (ibid. desire. see Mulligan 1998).” such as “choice. rather than as a purely conative state (cf. (Ross 1939: 278f. The FA-analysis makes a brief reappearance in the writings of C. Pleasant objects.). “worthy of greater love” can also be rendered as “preferable” [Vorzügliche]. the attitude of admiration involves a judgment that the admired object is good. First. the goodness of an object cannot consist in its being worthy of admiration. The notion of an attitude is here interpreted very broadly: it includes responses with strong behavioral components. with “pro attitude” being intended to cover “any favourable attitude to something.” if x is an action or a moral disposition (cf. c. However.).” the same does not apply to admiration: [A]dmiration is not a mere emotion. namely that it is good. liking. Ewing. D. his emphasis) Ross’s reasons for rejecting FA-analysis thus seem to be twofold. D. since goodness is the very feature that makes the object worthy to be admired. for our definition of “good” would then include the very word “good” which we were seeking to define. what is evil a suitable object of anti-attitudes. And if we ask on what ground a thing is worthy of being thought to be good.). Second. He agrees that statements of the form “x is good” can be paraphrased as saying that x is a “worthy” or “fit” “object of admiration. also Ewing 1939: 9: “What is good is a suitable object of pro-attitudes. admiration” (1947: 149) (cf. pursuit. only one answer is possible. In The Definition of Good. Ross opposes the idea. though.

(1947: 158) [T]he ground [for a pro attitude being fitting] lies not in … goodness. is not the “ought” of moral obligation. factual characteristics of what we pronounce good. It is not obvious that we are morally required to have a pro-attitude toward. However. even though pleasure is a thing of value. Chisholm (1986: 52). or expected to do. pleasure. Wiggins (1987: 206. It did get a short mention in Rawls’s A Theory of Justice. Ewing argues that there are two primitive deontic concepts: the ought of fittingness and the moral ought. (i) admiration is a fitting response because of the object’s “good-making” qualities and not because of its goodness. and the like (whichever rider is appropriate)” (1971: 399. While Scanlon does not refer to Ewing. Terms such as “fitting” or “worthy” might invite an evaluative reading. see rawls. to be good or valuable is to have other properties that constitute such reasons. but in the concrete. but not until T. Rather. he suggests that some senses of “good” should be analyzed in terms of the moral ought. It is the former that should be used in FA-analysis. and that is all there is to it. After Ewing. we would get a new circularity: x is valuable = it is valuable to have a pro-attitude toward x. Ewing takes this deontic notion to be primitive. Ewing modifies his view. In contrast to G. He now interprets the ought of fittingness as the ought of “reasonableness” (Ewing 1959: 86. it was also adopted by McDowell (1985: 118). or valuable is not a property that itself provides a reason to respond to a thing in certain ways. that an attitude is fitting means that it is an attitude one ought to take.6 it is good must. like . In Second Thoughts in Moral Philosophy from 1959. FA-analysis disappeared from the center of debate for several decades. M. where it was applied to the attributive usage of “good”: “A is a good X if and only if A has the properties (to a higher degree than the average or standard X) which it is rational to want in an X. 90): that a pro-attitude is fitting with regard to an object means that the object justifies that attitude or provides reasons for it. Anderson (1993: 2. 202f). there are clear similarities between their views. 17). and Lemos (1994: 12). 1998: 241). Since the claim that some property constitutes a reason is a normative claim.” however. while for other senses the ought of reasonableness is appropriate (1959: 98f). Certain characteristics are such that the fitting response to what possesses them is a pro attitude.. Gibbard (1990: 51. even though the version Scanlon puts forward is cast in terms of reasons rather than in terms of “fittingness” or “ought”: [Contrary to Moore. Second. say. if the admiration is to be justifiable. (ii) the attitude of admiration need not involve or presuppose any judgment that the object admired is good. Falk (1986: 117f). on that reading. According to Ewing. Moore. intervene between the perception of the factual qualities admired and the feeling of admiration. The relevant “ought. Scanlon’s influential What We Owe to Each Other from 1998 did FA-analysis experience a true revival in the philosophical community. E. this account also [i. john). This short list is by no means complete.e. I believe that] being good. For this reason. Later on. (1947: 172) Thus. given what X’s are used for.

Brentano. nonnaturalism. this buck-passing account of value (see buck-passing accounts) can already be found in Ewing: “[T]he ground [for a pro attitude being fitting] lies not in … goodness. e... .7 Moore’s] takes goodness and value to be non-natural properties. buck-passing accounts. For this reason. C. but it still is evidence that we ought. instrumental value. franz. argument from. queerness. varieties of. incommensurability (and incomparability). as the standard use would have it. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. thick and thin concepts. but in the concrete. william k. It is not. moore. the features on which the object’s value supervenes make the object fitting to be favored. ewing. M. Still. Value in Ethics and Economics. epistemic sense. trans. desire. pro-attitudes. Schroeder 2009). any additional reason. See also: brentano. I call it a buck-passing account. cognitivism. i. as such. Five Types of Ethical Theory. ethical. normativity. Broad. it is tempting for the FA-analysts to accept the negative claim as well. The positive part of this account is implied by FA-analysis combined with the thesis of value supervenience: given FA-analysis. which is the buck-passing account’s differentia specifica: FA-analysis. non-cognitivism. c. provide reasons for favoring it. D. One might put his proposal roughly as follows: x is valuable = x has properties that provide reasons for favoring x. that make the object valuable (cf.e. g. to favor the object. MA: Harvard University Press. even a buck-passer can treat value as a reason-provider in a secondary. By a “higher-order property. preference. metaethics. need not exclude the possibility of value itself also being a reason-provider for pro-attitudes and pro-responses. Elisabeth 1993. higher-order properties of having some lower-order properties that provide reasons of the relevant kind. factual characteristics of what we pronounce good” (1947: 172). However. john. Cambridge. London and Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul.. 1930. henry. ought. The Origin of Our Knowledge of Right and Wrong. value pluralism. w. l.. That an object has properties that are reasons for favoring it (which is what it is for it to be valuable) does not explain why we ought to favor it. frankena. (1998: 97). a.. It is different with the negative part. d. wrong kind of reasons problem REFERENCES Anderson.” Scanlon does not mean the property of a property. moral. ross. rawls. Chisholm. over and above the properties. namely the purely formal. good and good for. goodness. deontic concepts. but the property of an object consisting in its having other properties that have a certain feature. reasons. and to that extent itself is a reason. evaluative vs. however. R.. mackie. … it is not goodness or value itself that provides reasons but rather other properties that do so. As we have seen. j. realism. Franz 1969 [1889]. sidgwick.

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