chapter  3
3 Pages

The elusiveness of the second-person: where has‘you’ gone?

Here briefly is Darwall: ‘Call the second-person standpoint the perspective you and I take up when we make and acknowledge claims on one another’s conduct and will’ (2006, 3). An illustrative case: Smith has a gouty toe. Jones is standing on it. Smith says, ‘You have to remove your foot from my toe.’ How to interpret this? Smith is not merely informing Jones of something, calling her attention to some fact, as when Smith draws her attention to the fact that good manners require moving one’s foot knowing Jones to be someone who goes in for that sort of thing, nor is Smith expressing any kind of instrumental necessity ‘You must remove it if I am to make it to class on time’ or ‘if the best state of affairs is to be realized’. Another example of making and acknowledging claims: promising. In exchange for Jones’ delivery of 10 guns yesterday, Smith promised to deliver 10 pounds of butter tomorrow. Smith now has a reason to bring Jones the butter, indeed, he must. That he must does not simply consist in having decisive reason to deliver but in Jones’ ‘authority to demand compliance’ – Smith is accountable to Jones for doing so. That is what his ‘having to’ consists in. Any injustice whether murder or breaking a promise or trespass on a toe is not just wrong, but wrongs someone; it does not just violate a binding norm, it ‘violates’ another person; it does not just go against ‘what’s right’ it goes against someone’s ‘right’. This dimension of practical reason relates agents to each other in pairs such as promisor and promisee, debtor and creditor. In such connections, one party is obliged to recognize the demand of another upon him (whether to fulfill his promise, pay back the debt, respond to his complaint, etc.).