Against All Reason? Scepticism about the Instrumental Norm

In Charles R. Pigden (ed.), Hume on Motivation and Virtue. Palgrave Macmillan (2009)
Abstract
Some of the opponents of desire-based views of normativity seek to undermine them by arguing that even the existence of instrumental normativity (reasons to pursue the means to your ends) entails the existence of a desire-independent rational norm, the instrumental norm. Once we grant the existence of one such norm, there seems to be no principled reason for not allowing others. I clarify this alleged norm, identifying two criteria that any satisfactory candidate must meet: reasonable expectation and possible violation. Some interpretations meet the first criterion and others meet the second, but there are no interpretations that meet both. After surveying the interpretations of Sidgwick, Hampton, and Korsgaard, I suggest that there is no instrumental norm of reason. The final section offers an alternative, desire-based account of instrumental normativity, on which individual normative requirements to pursue means derives from each individual desire for an end.
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