The Ring Of Gyges : Overridingness And The Unity Of Reason Essay

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Sometimes agents are forced to choose between the morally right action and that which would be in their self-interest. When conflicting demands are imposed on a person, how are they to determine the best course of action? In “The Ring of Gyges: Overridingness and the Unity of Reason,” David Copp argues that neither morality nor self-interest overrides the other, and so there is “never an overall verdict as to which action is required simpliciter” in “conflict cases” (86-87). Furthermore, he denies that there is any normatively supreme standard (87). This paper will first expound Copp 's definitions of normative properties and standards. Secondly, his account of overridingness and his arguments against the supremacy of the standards of morality, self-interest, and personal excellence will be explicated. Finally, his claim that any standard which is posited as the answer to the overridingness question will result in circularity will be analyzed. It will be argued that his definition of an “authoritative” standard forces him to either accept that a normatively supreme standard does exist or, otherwise, that there is no non-arbitrary way to attribute normative significance to any standards at all.

Copp thinks that when we attribute normative properties to actions, like “right” or “wrong,” we are just determining whether or not these actions successfully meet some set of criteria. For instance, an action is morally “right” if it satisfies the criteria laid out by the standard

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