Argues that, for Anscombe, ‘practical knowledge’ is not essentially ‘the cause of what it understands’ and that she does not restrict such knowledge to propositions with imperfective aspect. On each count, her view is more puzzling than some have made it seem.
Argues from the planning theory of intention – as an account of means-end coherence – to a comprehensive form of ethical rationalism. Having raised objections to this result, the paper ends by sketching a way out.
Argues for a deflationary account of epistemic agency. We believe things for reasons and our beliefs change over time, but there is no further sense in which we are active in judgement, inference, or belief.
Argues for an interpretation of Iris Murdoch on which her account of moral reasons has Platonic roots, and on which she gives an ontological proof of the reality of the Good. This reading explains the structure of Sovereignty, how Murdoch's claims differ from a focus on "thick moral concepts," and how to find coherent arguments in her book.
Argues that "internalism about reasons" owes its appeal to a function argument from the nature of agency. Internalism is thus revealed as a species of ethical rationalism. (This paper introduces a volume of recent work on internal and external reasons.).
Argues from the possibility of basic intentional action to a non-propositional theory of knowing how. The argument supports a broadly Anscombean conception of the will as a capacity for practical knowledge.
Argues that doubts about the inference from 'p' to 'I believe that p' do not support reflective theories of self-knowledge over an inferential or rule-following view. (This note is a reply to Matthew Boyle, "Transparent Self-Knowledge," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume 85: 223-241.).
Argues that it is not by inference from intention that I know what I am doing intentionally. Instead, the reverse is true: groundless knowledge of intention rests on the will as a capacity for non-perceptual, non-inferential knowledge of action. The argument adapts and clarifies considerations of "transparency" more familiar in connection with belief.
Argues for a causal-psychological account of acting for reasons. This view is distinguished from a more ambitious causal theory of action, clarified as far as possible, and motivated—against non-reductive, teleological, and behaviourist alternatives—on broadly metaphysical grounds.
Argues that the answer is yes. The epistemic assumptions of moral theory deprive us of resources needed to resist the challenge of moral disagreement, which its practice at the same time makes vivid. The paper ends by sketching a kind of epistemology that can respond to disagreement without skepticism: one in which the fundamental standards of justification for moral belief are biased toward the truth.
Argues against "the guise of the good" as a claim about rational agency, conceding that it may hold true as a principle of human nature. Themes discussed along the way – extending the argument of "Reasons without Rationalism" (Princeton, 2007) – include: desires as appearances of the good, the intelligibility of vice, and the kind of essentialist claim that permits exceptions.
Philosophical perplexity about intention begins with its appearance in three guises: intention for the future, as when I intend to complete this entry by the end of the month; the intention with which someone acts, as I am typing with the further intention of writing an introductory sentence; and intentional action, as in the fact that I am typing these words intentionally. As Elizabeth Anscombe wrote in a similar context, ‘it is implausible to say that the word is equivocal as (...) it occurs in these different cases’ and from the fact that ‘we are tempted to speak of “different senses” of a word which is clearly not equivocal, we may infer that we are pretty much in the dark about the character of the concept which it represents’ (Anscombe 1963, p. 1). (shrink)
Argues that the view propounded in "Practical Knowledge" (Ethics 118: 388-409) survives objections made by Sarah Paul ("Intention, Belief, and Wishful Thinking," Ethics 119: 546-557). The response gives more explicit treatment to the nature and epistemology of knowing how.
Argues that we cannot form beliefs at will without failure of attention or logical confusion. The explanation builds on Williams' argument in "Deciding to Believe," attempting to resolve some well-known difficulties. The paper ends with tentative doubts about the idea of judgement as intentional action.
Argues that we know without observation or inference at least some of what we are doing intentionally and that this possibility must be explained in terms of knowledge-how. It is a consequence of the argument that knowing how to do something cannot be identified with knowledge of a proposition.
Argues for a "cognitivist" account of the instrumental principle, on which it is the application of theoretical reason to the beliefs that figure in our intentions. This doctrine is put to work in solving a puzzle about instrumental reason that plagues alternative views.
Modern philosophy has been vexed by the question "Why should I be moral?" and by doubts about the rational authority of moral virtue. In Reasons without Rationalism, Kieran Setiya shows that these doubts rest on a mistake.
Argues against the form of instrumentalism on which being practically rational is being efficient in the pursuit of one's ends. The trait of means-end efficiency turns out to be a defect of character, and therefore cannot be identified with practical reason at its best.
Argues that practical irrationality is akin to moral culpability: it is defective practical thought which one could legitimately have been expected to avoid. It is thus a mistake to draw too tight a connection between failure to be moved by reasons and practical irrationality (as in a certain kind of "internalism"): one's failure may be genuine, but not culpable, and therefore not irrational.
In the "Transcendental Aesthetic" of the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant offers an argument for transcendental idealism. This argument is one focus of the longstanding controversy between "one-world" and "two-world" interpretations of the distinction between things in themselves and things as they appear. I present an interpretation of the argument of the "Aesthetic" that supports a novel "one-world" interpretation. On this interpretation, Kant is concerned with the mind-dependence of spatial and temporal properties; and with the idea that space and time (...) can be identified with mental objects. I end by arguing that, for Kant, even on a "one-world" interpretation, we do not know the nature or even the existence of mind-independent things. (shrink)
Argues that, in acting for a reason, one takes that reason to explain one's action, not to justify it: reasons for acting need not be seen "under the guise of the good". The argument turns on the need to explain the place of "practical knowledge" - knowing what one is doing - in intentional action. A revised and expanded version of this material appears in Part One of "Reasons without Rationalism" (Princeton, 2007).