Reasons and ideals

Philosophical Studies 151 (3):433-444 (2010)
This paper contributes to the debate on whether we can have reason to do what we are unable to do. I take as my starting point two papers recently published in Philosophical Studies , by Bart Streumer and Ulrike Heuer, which defend the two dominant opposing positions on this issue. Briefly, whereas Streumer argues that we cannot have reason to do what we are unable to do, Heuer argues that we can have reason to do what we are unable to do when we can get closer to success but cannot have reason to try to do what we are unable to do when we cannot get closer to success. In this paper, I reject both positions as they are presented, on the grounds that neither can accommodate an important category of reasons, which are the reasons to realise and to try to realise dimensions of value that lie at the boundary of what is realisable, specifically, genuinely valuable ideals. I defend a third view that we can have reason to do and to try to do what we are unable to do even when we cannot, in Heuer’s sense, get closer to success. Moreover, I argue that we can have reason to realise and to try to realise genuinely valuable ideals for their own sake and not simply for the sake of achieving mundane, realisable ends.
Keywords Practical reason  Reasons to try  Ideals  Impossibility  Bart Streumer  Ulrike Heuer
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References found in this work BETA
A. Macintyre (1984). After Virtue. Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 46 (1):169-171.
Joseph Raz (2005). The Myth of Instrumental Rationality. Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 1 (1):28.
Bart Streumer (2007). Reasons and Impossibility. Philosophical Studies 136 (3):351-384.

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