Against all reason? : scepticism about the instrumental norm

In Charles R. Pigden (ed.), Hume on Motivation and Virtue. Palgrave Macmillan (2010)
A naturalistic project descended from Hume seeks to explain „ought‟ and normativity as a product of motivational states such as desires and aversions.2 Following Kant, rationalists reject this thesis, holding that „ought‟ rather expresses a command of reason or intellect independent of desires. On Hume‟s view the only genuine form of practical reason is theoretical reason operating in the service of desire, as in calculation of means to ends. Reason at most discovers normative requirements, which exist through the interrelation of subjective desires and objective world. The Humean desiredependence view of the source of normativity is commonly associated with instrumentalism, an influential theory of normative content according to which agents ought always and only to act so as to optimize satisfaction of their own desires. But rationalists (including Thomas Nagel, Jean Hampton, and Christine Korsgaard) have recently argued that proponents of desire-dependence are not entitled even to this instrumentalist „ought.‟3 Instrumentalism holds that all normativity derives from the instrumental norm: approximately, the principle that one ought to take the means to one‟s ends, or..
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