In the MTSP discussion of the third chapter of Scanlon’s WWO, on well-being, I brought up the following as a case of generic normative pressure (for an agent) that does not consist in the realization or promotion of some inherent benefit (for that agent): one having reason (or it being appropriate to) to fear scary things.
My suggestion was met with vociferous protest (from Irfan and David R.). If any response is tightly connected to standards of well-being, it is the fear response! Classroom to Calvin (Calvin and Hobbes): “Bat’s aren’t bugs!” But I suspect that I was misunderstood (and was not, myself, clearly distinguishing the claim I meant to be making from other, somewhat similar claims).
I take there to be a (normatively) basic, immediate normative pressure to exhibit fear in response to scary things. Scary things are things that, among other things, threaten to harm the agent – so we have essential reference to benefits or harms here. But this, in itself, just tells us something about what sorts of things we have reason to respond to by experiencing fear. It need not tell us why (where ‘why’ points to some further normative explanation). It might tell us why, like this: when we respond to scary things with fear, this motivates (and makes more likely) behavioral responses that make the threatened harm less likely to occur. But, though there is no doubt that fearing the scary is (at least typically) instrumentally valuable (and instrumentally beneficial) to the agent in this way, “this is not the normative pressure we are looking for” (say Obi Wan). Because: even when I know that fearing this scary thing will not help me in the indicated way, the fear response is still appropriate. (Here is one way to fill in this fitting-attitudes schemata: there is a proper-functional standard that is internal to the attitude-type fear (a standard of the general form <this type of thing calls for that type of response>) and one faces (normally decisive) normative pressure to adhere to this standard. And it works precisely the same way with hope, belief, desire, wishes, contempt, admiration, etc.)
One might acknowledge this distinctive “fitting attitudes” element of normative pressure, but construe it in terms of inherent welfare-value (inherent benefit) to the agent (or to each agent). Like this: the condition of responding to the scary with fear is of inherent value and benefit to the agent (and so, in line with TV – the traditional view of value as prior to reasons – the appropriateness of appropriate fear response would be nothing more than the fear response fully realizing some bit of inherent value and benefit to the agent). Or one might say this: the condition of responding to the scary with fear is part of some larger condition that is inherently valuable and beneficial to the agent, making appropriate fear response a partial realizer of something that is inherently valuable and beneficial to the agent (the larger condition here could be filled-in as the proper functioning of the agent herself as a rational, human creature).
I’m not crazy about these two moves, but they are at least genuine alternatives to the idea that this sort of normative pressure is not a function of benefit or harm to the agent. And hence of some help to the idea that all normative pressure for or against options (in attitude and action) that an agent faces comes to (or necessarily correlates with) options being valuable and beneficial to the agent.