That there is a reason of strength s to do A is itself a reason of strength s to do A. Why? Well, suppose I can't see any reason to do A, but an expert (say, God) tells me that I have a reason of strength s to do A, and doesn't tell me what the reason is. Since I don't know what that reason is, I can't act on it. But I can act on the fact that I have a reason of strength s, and it's intuitively clear that this fact provides me with a reason of strength s. And, of course, the fact that there is a reason of strength s to do A is distinct from that reason.
This provides a simple counterexample to the following plausible principle:
- If I have two distinct reasons of finite strength s to do A, I have more reason to do A than if I had only one distinct reason to do A.
To fix up (1), we seem to need some notion of one reason subsuming another. Thus, the first-order reason R subsumes the second-order order reason. And then we might say that (1) is true with the qualification that the two reasons are subsumption-independent, i.e., no part of either reason is subsumed in the other reason.
Are there other examples of the phenomena above? Maybe reasons of love are like this. So, if I didn't love my son, I'd still have a reason of duty to care for him. I do love him, and this imposes on me a reason of love to care for him. But the strength of reason one has to care for a child that one loves is no greater than the strength of reason one has to care for a child that one doesn't love. (The fault is no lesser if one doesn't love the child!) So, maybe, there is a subsumption here—maybe when the love is present, it provides a different reason, but one that subsumes the reason of duty, and hence is not superadded to it strengthwise. If so, this would let one maintain two plausible theses that otherwise appear to be in tension:
- Love is a virtue.
- Love creates reasons to act for the good of the beloved.