Internalism and accidie

Philosophical Studies 129 (3):517 - 543 (2006)
Abstract
Bernard Williams has famously argued that there are only “internal” reasons for action. Although Williams has produced several, slightly different versions of internalism over the years, one core idea has remained the same: the reasons a person has for acting must be essentially linked to, derived from, or in some other way connected to, that person’s “subjective motivational set”. I have two aims in this paper. First, after having cleared up some initial ambiguities, I try to show that Williams’s internalism admits of two rather different interpretations. Second, I will argue that both these interpretations are inadequate. The first interpretation is incompatible with certain claims that supposedly provide the reasons why we should accept internalism in the first place. The second interpretation faces other problems: given the essential link between reasons and motivation, this interpretation cannot adequately deal with the phenomenon of accidie. Furthermore, those who subscribe to this interpretation of internalism are, on pain of inconsistency, forced to accept an implausible account of reasonable regret.
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