Might there be legal reasons?

Res Publica 10 (4):425-447 (2004)
In this paper, I consider and question an influential position in Anglo-American philosophy of action which suggests that reasons for action must be internal, in other words that statements about reasons for actions must make reference to some fact or set of facts about the agent and her desires. I do so by asking whether legal requirements could be considered as reasons for actions and if in so considering them one must translate statements about legal requirements into statements about the psychological state of the agent fulfilling those requirements. Since such a process of translation seems neither necessary nor desirable, I suggest that the crudest forms of the internalist position are found wanting. I discuss a more sophisticated form of internalism put forward by Bernard Williams and criticised by John McDowell. I extend McDowells argument to cover legal reasons and suggest that Williams argument fails to recognise that reasons for action entail standards of correctness that are irreducible to facts about individual character and motivation. I conclude with a brief description of the justificatory status of legal requirements.
Keywords external reasons  internal reasons  legal obligation  McDowell  Williams
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DOI 10.1007/s11158-004-2330-x
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