As Kant claimed in the Groundwork , and as the idea has been developed (in markedly different ways) by Korsgaard 1997, Bratman 1987, and Broome 2002. This formulation is agnostic on whether reasons for ends derive from our desiring those ends, or from the relation of those ends to things of independent value. However, desire-based theorists may deny, against Hubin 1999, that their theory is a combination of a principle of instrumental transmission and the principle that reasons for (...) ends are provided by desires. Instead, they may say, there is just one principle, a principle of, if you will, instrumental transmutation: if one desires the end, then one has reason to take the means. See the discussion of General Production, in section 8, for a doubt about this. (shrink)
I explain what teleological reasons are, distinguish between direct and indirect teleological reasons, and discuss both whether all practical reasons are teleological and whether all teleological reasons are direct.
There has been a considerable amount of debate about the norms of belief, but little discussion to date about what the reasons associated with these norms demand from us. By working out an account of what reasons demand, we can better understand the nature of justification.
In virtue of what does a consideration provide a practical reason? Suppose the fact that an experience is painful provides you with a reason to avoid it. In virtue of what does the fact that it’s painful have the normativity of a reason – where, in other words, does its normativity come from? As some philosophers put the question, what is the source of a reason’s normativity?
Although we can try to explain why we love, we can never justify our love. Love is neither based on reasons, nor responsive to reasons, nor can it be assessed for normative reasons. Love can be odd, unfortunate, fortuitous, or even sadly lacking, but it can never be appropriate or inappropriate. We may have reasons to act on our love, but we cannot justify our loving feelings. Shakespeare's Bottom is right: "Reason and love keep little company (...) together now-a-days." Indeed, they keep none and they never kept any: there are no justifying reasons for love. (shrink)
Some recent defenses of the 'ought' implies 'can' (OIC) principle try to derive that principle from uncontroversial claims about reasons for action. Reasons for action, it's said, are reasons only for 'potential' actions, which are actions that an agent can perform. Given that 'ought' implies 'reasons', it seems we have our proof of OIC. In this paper, I argue that this latest strategy for defending OIC fails.
When we have a normative reason, and we act for that reason, it becomes our motivating reason. But we can have either kind of reason without having the other. Thus, if I jump into the canal, my motivating reason was provided by my belief; but I had no normative reason to jump. I merely thought I did. And, if I failed to notice that the canal was frozen, I had a reason not to jump that, because it was unknown to (...) me, did not motivate me. Though we can have normative reasons without being motivated, and vice versa, such reasons are closely related to our motivation. There are, however, very different views about what this relation is. This disagreement raises wider questions about what normative reasons are, and about which reasons there are. After sketching some of these views, I shall discuss some arguments by Williams, and then say where, in my opinion, the truth lies. [...] I [will] suggest why, as I believe, we should be non-reductive normative realists, and should regard all reasons as external. (shrink)
In this paper, we argue for a particular informative and unified analysis of normative reasons. According to this analysis, a fact F is a reason to act in a certain way just in case it is evidence that one ought to act in that way. Similarly, F is a reason to believe a certain proposition just in case it is evidence for the truth of this proposition. Putting the relatively uncontroversial claim about reasons for belief to one side, (...) we present several arguments in favor of our analysis of reasons for action. We then turn to consider a series of objections to the analysis. We conclude that there are good reasons to accept the analysis and that the objections do not succeed. (shrink)
This paper is a discussion of Jonathan Dancy's book Ethics Without Principles (2004). Holism about reasons is distinguished into a weak version, which allows for invariant reasons, and a strong, which doesn't. Four problems with Dancy's arguments for strong holism are identified. (1) A plausible particularism based on it will be close to generalism. (2) Dancy rests his case on common-sense morality, without justifying it. (3) His examples are of non-ultimate reasons. (4) There are certain universal principles (...) it is hard not to see as invariant, such as that the fact that some action causes of suffering to a non-rational being always counts against it. The main difficulty with weak holism is that justification can be seen as analogous to explanation, which will give us an atomistic and generalist conception of a normative reason. Key Words: Dancy generalism holism particularism reasons. (shrink)
Abstract: In this article I consider Bernard Williams's argument against the possibility of external reasons for action and his claim that the only reasons for action are therefore internal. Williams's argument appeals to David Hume's claim that reason is the slave of the passions, and to the idea that reasons are capable of motivating the agent who has them. I consider two responses to Williams's argument, by John McDowell and by Stephen Finlay. McDowell claims that even if (...) Hume is right, there might nevertheless be external reasons. Finlay also claims that external reasons exist but, rejecting the connection between reasons and motivation, claims that they don't matter—that is, aren't motivationally significant for the agent whose reasons they are. Although I reject aspects of McDowell's and Finlay's arguments, I argue that external reasons do exist and in particular that any agent has an external reason to satisfy the preconditions of his or her agency. (shrink)
One of the most important disputes in the foundations of ethics concerns the source of practical reasons. On the desire-based view, only one’s desires provide one with reasons to act. On the value-based view, reasons are instead provided by the objective evaluative facts, and never by our desires. Similarly, there are desire-based and non-desired-based theories about two other issues: pleasure and welfare. It has been argued, and is natural to think, that holding a desire-based theory about either (...) pleasure or welfare commits one to recognizing that desires do provide reasons for action – i.e., commits one to abandoning the value-based theory of reasons. The purpose of this paper is to show that this is not so. All of the following can be true: pleasure and welfare provide reasons; pleasure and welfare are to be understood in terms of desire; desires never provide reasons, in the relevant way. (shrink)
Beliefs can be evaluated from a number of perspectives. Epistemic evaluation involves epistemic standards and appropriate epistemic goals. On a truthconducive account of epistemic justification, a justified belief is one that serves the goal of believing truths and avoiding falsehoods. Beliefs are also prompted by nonepistemic reasons. This raises the question of whether, say, the pragmatic benefits of a belief are able to rationalize it. In this paper, after criticizing certain responses to this question, I shall argue that, as (...) far as beliefs are concerned, justification has an essentially epistemic character. This conclusion is then qualified by considering the conditions under which pragmatic consequences of a belief can be epistemically relevant. (shrink)
This paper argues for a novel interpretation of Hume's account of motivation, according to which beliefs can (alone) motivate action though not by standing as reasons which normatively favour it. It si then suggested that a number of contemporary debates about concerning the nature of reasons for action could benefit from such an approach.
Historically, the most persuasive argument against external reasons proceeds through a rationalist restriction: For all agents A, and all actions Φ, there is a reason for A to Φ only if Φing is rationally accessible from A's actual motivational states. Here I distinguish conceptions of rationality, show which one the internalist must rely on to argue against external reasons, and argue that a rationalist restriction that features that conception of rationality is extremely implausible. Other conceptions of rationality can (...) render the restriction true, but then the restriction simply fails to rule out external reasons. (shrink)
How do reasons combine? How is it that several reasons taken together can have a combined weight which exceeds the weight of any one alone? I propose an answer in mereological terms: reasons combine by composing a further, complex reason of which they are parts. Their combined weight is the weight of their combination. I develop a mereological framework, and use this to investigate some structural views about reasons, the main two being "Atomism" and "Holism". Atomism (...) is the view that atomic reasons are fundamental: all reasons reduce to atomic reasons. Holism is the view that whole reasons are fundamental. I argue for Holism, and against Atomism. I also consider whether reasons might be "context-sensitive". (shrink)
Stephen Finlay analyses ‘ought’ in terms of probability. According to him, normative ‘ought's are statements about the likelihood that an act will realize some (contextually supplied) end. I raise a problem for this theory. It concerns the relation between ‘ought’ and the balance of reasons. ‘A ought to Φ’ seems to entail that the balance of reasons favours that A Φ-es, and vice versa. Given Finlay's semantics for ‘ought’, it also makes sense to think of reasons and (...) their weight in terms of probability. In this paper, I develop such a theory of weight. It turns out, however, that it cannot explain the entailments. This leaves Finlay with a challenge: to explain these entailments in some other way consistent with his theory, or to show why the appearances deceive and there are no such entailments. (shrink)
Epistemic reasons are mental states. They are not propositions or non-mental facts. The discussion proceeds as follows. Section 1 introduces the topic. Section 2 gives two concrete examples of how our topic directly affects the internalism/externalism debate in normative epistemology. Section 3 responds to an argument against the view that reasons are mental states. Section 4 presents two problems for the view that reasons are propositions. Section 5 presents two problems for the view that reasons are (...) non-mental facts. Section 6 argues that reasons are mental states. Section 7 responds to objections. (shrink)
This paper argues that the recent metaethical turn to reasons as the fundamental units of normativity offers no special advantage in explaining a variety of other normative and evaluative phenomena, unless perhaps a form of reductionism about reasons is adopted which is rejected by many of those who advocate turning to reasons.
I defend the view that we should not overintellectualize the mind. Nonhuman animals can occupy islands of practical rationality: they can have contextbound reasons for action even though they lack full conceptual abilities. Holism and the possibility of mistake are required for such reasons to be the agent's reasons, but these requirements can be met in the absence of inferential promiscuity. Empirical work with animals is used to illustrate the possibility that reasons for action could be (...) bound to symbolic or social contexts, and connections are made to simulationist accounts of cognitive skills. (shrink)
Is the thought that having a reason for action can also be the cause of the action for which it is the reason coherent? This is an attempt to say exactly what is involved in such a thought, with special reference to the case of con-reasons, reasons that count against the action the agent eventually choses.
This paper is about the relationship between two widely accepted and apparently conflicting claims about how we should understand the notion of ‘reason giving’ invoked in theorising about reasons for action. According to the first claim, reasons are given by facts about the situation of agents. According to the second claim, reasons are given by ends. I argue that the apparent conflict between these two claims is less deep than is generally recognised.
In this article, I will defend the so-called buck-passing theory of value. According to this theory, claims about the value of an object refer to the reason-providing properties of the object. The concept of value can thus be analyzed in terms of reasons and the properties of objects that provide them for us. Reasons in this context are considerations that count in favour of certain attitudes. There are four other possibilities of how the connection between reasons and (...) value might be formulated. For example, we can claim that value is a property that provides us with reasons to choose an option that has this property. I argue that none of these four other options can ultimately be defended, and therefore the buck-passing account is the one we ought to accept as the correct one. The case for the buck-passing account becomes even stronger, when we examine the weak points of the most pressing criticism against this account thus far. (shrink)
In this paper I defend what I call the argument from epistemic reasons against the moral error theory. I argue that the moral error theory entails that there are no epistemic reasons for belief and that this is bad news for the moral error theory since, if there are no epistemic reasons for belief, no one knows anything. If no one knows anything, then no one knows that there is thought when they are thinking, and no one (...) knows that they do not know everything. And it could not be the case that we do not know that there is thought when we believe that there is thought and that we do not know that we do not know everything. I address several objections to the claim that the moral error theory entails that there are no epistemic reasons for belief. It might seem that arguing against the error theory on the grounds that it entails that no one knows anything is just providing a Moorean argument against the moral error theory. I show that even if my argument against the error theory is indeed a Moorean one, it avoids Streumer's, McPherson's and Olson's objections to previous Moorean arguments against the error theory and is a more powerful argument against the error theory than Moore's argument against external world skepticism is against external world skepticism. (shrink)
This paper argues that there is a particular kind of ‘internal’ commitment typically made in the context of romantic love relationships that has striking meta-normative implications for how we understand the role of the will in practical normativity. Internal commitments cannot plausibly explain the reasons we have in committed relationships on the usual model – as triggering reasons that are already there, in the way that making a promise triggers a reason via a pre-existing norm of the form (...) ‘If you make a promise to x, then you have a reason to x’. Instead, internal commitments are that in virtue of which one has the special reasons of committed relationships; they are the grounds of such reasons. In this way, the will is a source of practical normativity. (shrink)
In his important recent book Schroeder proposes a Humean theory of reasons that he calls hypotheticalism. His rigourous account of the weight of reasons is crucial to his theory, both as an element of the theory and constituting his defence to powerful standard objections to Humean theories of reasons. In this paper I examine that rigourous account and show it to face problems of vacuity and consonance. There are technical resources that may be brought to bear on (...) the problem of vacuity but implementation is not simple and philosophical motivation a further difficulty. Even supposing vacuity is fixed, the problems of consonance bring to light a different obstruction lying in Schroeder’s path. There is a difference between the general weighing of reasons and the context specificity of the correct placing of weight on them in deliberation and this difference cannot be fixed by the resources in the account. For these reasons we are still waiting for a plausible Humean theory of reasons. (shrink)
Contrastivism about reasons is the view that ‘reason’ expresses a relation with an argument place for a set of alternatives. This is in opposition to a more traditional theory on which reasons are reasons for things simpliciter. I argue that contrastivism provides a solution to a puzzle involving reason claims that explicitly employ ‘rather than’. Contrastivism solves the puzzle by allowing that some fact might be a reason for an action out of one set of alternatives without (...) being a reason for that action out of a different set of alternatives. (shrink)
There are a number of proposals as to exactly how reasons, ends and rationality are related. It is often thought that practical reasons can be analyzed in terms of practical rationality, which, in turn, has something to do with the pursuit of ends. I want to argue against the conceptual priority of rationality and the pursuit of ends, and in favor of the conceptual priority of reasons. This case comes in two parts. I first argue for a (...) new conception of ends by which all ends are had under the guise of reasons. I then articulate a sense of rationality, procedural rationality, that is connected with the pursuit of ends so conceived, where one is rational to the extent that one is motivated to act in accordance with reasons as they appear to be. Unfortunately, these conceptions of ends and procedural rationality are inadequate for building an account of practical reasons, though I try to explain why it is that the rational pursuit of ends generates intuitive but misleading accounts of genuine normative reasons. The crux of the problem is an insensitivity to an is-seems distinction, where procedural rationality concerns reasons as they appear, and what we are after is a substantive sense of rationality that concerns reasons as they are. Based on these distinct senses of rationality, and some disambiguation of what it is to have a reason, I offer a critique of internalist analyses of one’s reasons in terms of the motivational states of one’s ideal, procedurally rational self, and I offer an alternative analysis of one’s practical reasons in terms of practical wisdom that overcomes objections to related reasons externalist views. The resulting theory is roughly Humean about procedural rationality and roughly Aristotelian about reasons, capturing the core truths of both camps. (shrink)
The paper has two aims. The first is to propose a general framework for organizing some central questions about normative practical reasons in a way that separates importantly distinct issues that are often run together. Setting out this framework provides a snapshot of the leading types of view about practical reasons as well as a deeper understanding of what are widely regarded to be some of their most serious difficulties. The second is to use the proposed framework to (...) uncover and diagnose what I believe is a structural problem that plagues the debate about practical reasons. A common move in the debate involves a proponent of one type of view offering what she and others proposing that type consider to be a devastating criticism of an opposing type of view, only to find that her criticism is shrugged off by her opponents as easy to answer, misguided, or having little significance for their view. This isn’t due to conceptual blindness or mere slavish devotion to a theory but something fundamental about the argumentative structure of a debate over genuinely shared issues. Hence, the debate about practical reasons suffers from argumentative gridlock. The proposed framework helps us to see why this is so, and what we might do to move beyond it. (shrink)
The dissertation argues against the view that normative reasons for action are grounded in desires. It first works out the different versions of the Model. After this, in the next three chapters, it presents and discusses three arguments against the Model, on the basis of which, it concludes that the Model gives us the wrong account of normative practical reasons.
In this paper I grant the Humean premise that some reasons for action are grounded in the desires of the agents whose reasons they are. I then consider the question of the relation between the reasons and the desires that ground them. According to promotionalism , a desire that p grounds a reason to φ insofar as A’s φing helps promote p . According to motivationalism a desire that p grounds a reason to φ insofar as it (...) explains why, in certain circumstances, A would be motivated to φ. I then give an argument favouring motivationalism, namely that promotionalism entails that agents have reasons to perform physically impossible actions, whereas motivationalism entails that there are no such reasons. Although this is a version of the ‘Too Many Reasons’ objection to promotionalism, I show that existing responses to that problem do not transfer to the case of reasons to perform physically impossible actions. In the penultimate section I consider and reject some objections to motivationalism made by promotionalists. The conclusion is that Humeans about reasons for action should prefer motivationalism. (shrink)
Is the wrongness of an action a reason not to perform it? Of course it is, you may answer. That an action is wrong both explains and justifies not doing it. Yet, there are doubts. Thinking that wrongness is a reason is confused, so an argument by Jonathan Dancy. There can’t be such a reason if ‘ϕ-ing is wrong’ is verdictive, and an all things considered judgment about what (not) to do in a certain situation. Such judgments are based on (...) all the relevant reasons for and against ϕ-ing. If that ϕ-ing is wrong, while being an all things considered verdict, would itself be a reason, it would upset the balance of reasons: it would be a further reason which has not yet been considered in reaching the verdict. Hence, the judgment wasn’t ‘all things considered' after all. I show that the argument against wrongness being a reason is unsuccessful, because its main assumption is false. Is main assumption is that a consideration which necessarily does not affect the balance of reasons is not a reason. I also argue that there can be no deontic buck-passing account. (shrink)
In recent years, the notion of a reason has come to occupy a central place in both metaethics and normative theory more broadly. Indeed, many philosophers have come to view reasons as providing the basis of normativity itself . The common conception is that reasons are facts that count in favor of some act or attitude. More recently, philosophers have begun to appreciate a distinction between objective and subjective reasons, where (roughly) objective reasons are determined by (...) the facts, while subjective reasons are determined by one's beliefs. My goal in this paper is to offer a plausible theory of subjective reasons. Although much attention has been focused on theories of objective reasons, very little has been offered in the literature regarding what sort of account of subjective reasons we should adopt; and what has been offered is rather perfunctory, and requires filling-out. Taking what has been said thus far as a starting point, I will consider several putative theories of subjective reasons, offering objections and amendments along the way, will settle on what I take to be a highly plausible account, and will defend that account against objections. (shrink)
We focus on the recent non-causal theory of reasons explanationsof free action proffered by a proponent of the agency theory, Timothy O'Connor. We argue that the conditions O'Connor offersare neither necessary nor sufficient for a person to act for a reason. Finally, we note that the role O'Connor assigns toreasons in the etiology of actions results in further conceptual difficulties for agent-causalism.
Subjects appear to take only evidential considerations to provide reason or justification for believing. That is to say that subjects do not take practical considerations—the kind of considerations which might speak in favour of or justify an action or decision—to speak in favour of or justify believing. This is puzzling; after all, practical considerations often seem far more important than matters of truth and falsity. In this paper, I suggest that one cannot explain this, as many have tried, merely by (...) appeal to the idea that belief aims only at the truth. I appeal instead to the idea that the aim of belief is to provide only practical reasons which might form the basis on which to act and to make decisions, an aim which is in turn dictated by the aim of action. This, I argue, explains why subjects take only evidential considerations to favour of or justify believing. Surprisingly, then, it turns out that it is practical reason itself which demands that there be no practical reasons for belief. (shrink)
This paper defends my claim in earlier work that certain non-causal conditions are sufficient for the truth of some reasons explanations of actions, against the critique of this claim given by Randolph Clarke in his book, Libertarian Accounts of Free Will.
The ‘buck-passing’ account equates the value of an object with the existence of reasons to favour it. As we argued in an earlier paper, this analysis faces the ‘wrong kind of reasons’ problem: there may be reasons for pro-attitudes towards worthless objects, in particular if it is the pro-attitudes, rather than their objects, that are valuable. Jonas Olson has recently suggested how to resolve this difficulty: a reason to favour an object is of the right kind only (...) if its formulation does not involve any reference to the attitudes for which it provides a reason. We argue that despite its merits, Olson's solution is unsatisfactory. We go on to suggest that the buck-passing account might be acceptable even if the problem in question turns out to be insoluble. (shrink)
Most moral philosophers agree that if a moral agent is incapable of performing some act ϕ because of a physical incapacity, then they do not have a reason to ϕ. Most also claim that if an agent is incapable of ϕ-ing due to a psychological incapacity, brought about by, for example, an obsession or phobia, then this does not preclude them from having a reason to ϕ. This is because the 'ought implies can' principle is usually interpreted as a claim (...) about physical, rather than psychological, capacities. In this paper I argue for an opposing view: if we don't have reasons to do things that we are physically incapable of doing, then neither do we have reasons to do things we are psychologically incapable of doing. I also argue that extending the 'ought implies can' principle to psychological capacities makes the principle more attractive. (shrink)
John McDowell and Bill Brewer famously defend the view that one can only have empirical beliefs if one’s perceptual experiences serve as reasons for such beliefs, where reasons are understood in terms of subject’s reasons. In this paper I show, first, that it is a consequence of the adoption of such a requirement for one to have empirical beliefs that children as old as 3 years of age have to considered as not having genuine empirical beliefs at (...) all. But we have strong reasons to think that 3-year-old children have empirical beliefs, or so I argue. If this is the case, McDowell and Brewer’s requirement for one to have empirical beliefs faces a strong challenge. After showing this, I propose an alternative requirement for one to have empirical beliefs, and argue that it should be favoured over McDowell and Brewer’s requirement. (shrink)
Internalists about reasons generally insist that if a putative reason, R, is to count as a genuine normative reason for a particular agent to do something, then R must make a rational connection to some desire or interest of the agent in question. If internalism is true, but moral reasons purport to apply to agents independently of the particular desires, interests, and commitments they have, then we may be forced to conclude that moral reasons are incoherent. Richard (...) Joyce (2001) develops an argument along these lines. Against this view, I argue that we can make sense of moral reasons as reasons that apply to, and are capable of motivating, agents independently of their prior interests and desires. More specifically, I argue that moral agents, in virtue of their capacities for empathy and shared intentionality, are sensitive to reasons that do not directly link up with their pre-existing ends. In particular, they are sensitive to, and hence can be motivated by, reasons grounded in the desires, projects, commitments, concerns, and interests of others. Moral reasons are a subset of this class of reasons to which moral agents are sensitive. Thus, moral agents can be motivated by moral reasons, even where such reasons fail to link up to their own pre-existing ends. (shrink)
connection to the action, or alternately, the idea that an agent must be in some sense responsive to reasons.1 Indeed, we might even understand much of the past couple of decades of philosophical work on moral responsibility as concerned with investigating which of these two approaches offers the most viable account of moral responsibility. Here, I wish to revisit an idea basic to all of this work. That is, I consider whether there is even a fundamental distinction between these (...) approaches. I will argue that the relationship between these two approaches to moral responsibility is much more complicated than is ordinarily assumed. I shall argue that there are reasons to think that one of these views may ultimately collapse into the other, and if not, that there is nevertheless reason to think one of these views has misidentiﬁed the features of agency relevant to moral responsibility. The view that follows is one that we might call the primacy of reasons. In the second half of the article I consider whether recent experimental work speaks in favor of the alternative to the primacy of reasons. Its proponents argue that it does. I argue that it does not. (shrink)
Hume said that the reasons that determine the rationality of one's actions are the desires one has when acting: one's actions are rational iff they advance these desires. Thomas Nagel says this entails calling rational, actions absurdly conflicting in aims over time. For one might have reason, in one's current desires, to begin trying to cause states one foresees having reason, in one's foreseen desires, to prevent. Instead, then, real reasons must be timeless, so that current and foreseen (...)reasons cannot conflict. I say the desire theory does not have absurd consequences. A rational agent's desires would rationally evolve, never requiring actions conflicting in aims over time, except where it was instrumentally rational for her to change in her desires, whence such conflicts are rationally appropriate. Further, whatever sorts of things count as real reasons, since reasons can rationally require their own revision, they cannot be necessarily timeless. (shrink)
This paper addresses a recent suggestion that moral particularists can extend their view to countenance default reasons (at a first stab, reasons that are pro tanto unless undermined) by relying on certain background expectations of normality. I first argue that normality must be understood non-extensionally. Thus if default reasons rest on normality claims, those claims won't bestow upon default reasons any definite degree of extensional generality. Their generality depends rather on the contingent distributional aspects of the (...) world, which no theory of reasons should purport to settle. Appeals to default reasons cannot therefore uniquely support particularism. But this argument also implies that if moral generalism entailed that moral reasons by necessity have invariant valence (in the natural extensional sense), it would be a non-starter. Since generalism is not a non-starter, my argument forces us to rethink the parameters of the generalism-particularism debate. Here I propose to clarify the debate by focusing on its modal rather than extensional aspects. In closing, I outline the sort of generalism that I think is motivated by my discussion, and then articulate some worries this view raises about the theoretical usefulness of the label ‘default reason’. (shrink)
This article argues for the view that statements about normative reasons are context-sensitive. Specifically, they are sensitive to a contextual parameter specifying a relevant person's or group's body of information. The argument for normative reasons contextualism starts from the context-sensitivity of the normative “ought” and the further premise that reasons must be aligned with oughts. It is incoherent, I maintain, to suppose that someone normatively ought to φ but has most reason not to φ. So given that (...) oughts depend on context, a parallel view about normative reasons is needed. It is shown that the resulting view solves notorious puzzles involving apparently conflicting but equally plausible claims about reasons. These puzzles arise especially in cases where agents have limited information or false beliefs. In these cases, we feel torn between reasons claims that take into account the limitations of the agent's perspective and apparently conflicting claims that are made from a more objective point of view. The contextualist account developed here accommodates both objectivist and subjectivist intuitions. It shows that all of the claims in question can be true, provided that they are relativized to different values of the relevant information parameter. Also, contextualism yields a fruitful approach to the debate about having reasons and the alleged failure of the so-called “factoring account”. (shrink)
I argue that rule consequentialism sometimes requires us to act in ways that we lack sufficient reason to act. And this presents a dilemma for Parfit. Either Parfit should concede that we should reject rule consequentialism (and, hence, Triple Theory, which implies it) despite the putatively strong reasons that he believes we have for accepting the view or he should deny that morality has the importance he attributes to it. For if morality is such that we sometimes have decisive (...) reason to act wrongly, then what we should be concerned with, practically speaking, is not with the morality of our actions, but with whether our actions are supported by sufficient reasons. We could, then, for all intents and purposes just ignore morality and focus on what we have sufficient reason to do, all things considered. So if my arguments are cogent, they show that Parfit’s Triple Theory is either false or relatively unimportant in that we can, for all intents and purposes, simply ignore its requirements and just do whatever it is that we have sufficient reason to do, all things considered. (shrink)
A common view of the relation between oughts and reasons is that you ought to do something if and only if that is what you have most reason to do. One challenge to this comes from what Jonathan Dancy calls ‘enticing reasons.’ Dancy argues that enticing reasons never contribute to oughts and that it is false that if the only reasons in play are enticing reasons then you ought to do what you have most reason (...) to do. After explaining how enticing reasons supposedly work and why accepting them may appear attractive, I firstly show why we are not committed to accepting them into our conceptual framework and then argue that no reasons work in the way enticing reasons are claimed to. Thus we should reject the category of enticing reasons entirely. (shrink)
What kind of thing is a reason for action? Are reasons for action subjective states of the agent, such as desires and/or beliefs? Or are they, rather, objective features of situations that favor certain actions? The suggestion offered in this article is that neither strategy satisfies. What is needed is a third category for classifying reasons which makes them out to be neither purely subjective nor purely objective. In brief: a reason for action is a feature of the (...) situation that matters to the agent. On this proposal, subjective states of the agent are indeed indispensable in characterizing reasons for action. Precisely which set of situational features matter to an agent—precisely what shape the agent experiences the situation as having—depends on the agent's psychological makeup. Those features themselves are not psychological states, however, and it is precisely those features that constitute the agent's reasons for action. (shrink)