About this topic
Summary Discussions of moral reasons and reasoning occur in action theory, moral epistemology, meta-ethics, and normative ethics. The papers listed here as laying claim to this categorization therefore represent a broad array of ongoing conversations in philosophy. They ask questions like the following: how do agents apprehend and respond to (weigh, sort, disregard) moral reasons when deliberating about what to do? What is the best way of modeling reasoning in situations of moral conflict? Does moral reasoning include learning from experience, inculcating habits, or changing one's mind? Are moral reasons and their uptake meaningfully distinct from other sorts of practical reasons, and if so, how might this matter?
Key works Some of the most important conversations about moral reasons have been initiated and continued by the work of Joseph Raz, especially (Raz 1975Raz 1999, and Raz 2001).
Introductions The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Moral Reasoning (Richardson 2013) provides an overview of some key issues.
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  1. David Alm (2011). Defending Fundamental Requirements of Practical Reason. Journal of Philosophical Research 36:77-102.
    In this paper I offer a partial defense of a constitutivist view according to which it is possible to defend fundamental requirements of practical reason by appeal to facts about what is constitutive of rational agency. I show how it is possible for that approach to circumvent the ‘is’/’ought’ problem as well as the requirement that it be possible to act contrary to practical reason. But I do not attempt to establish any particular fundamental requirement. The key ideas are that (...)
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  2. Vuko Andrić & Attila Tanyi (2016). Multi-Dimensional Consequentialism and Degrees of Rightness. Philosophical Studies 173 (3):711-731.
    In his recent book, The Dimensions of Consequentialism, Martin Peterson puts forward a new version of consequentialism that he dubs ‘multidimensional consequentialism’. The defining thesis of the new theory is that there are irreducible moral aspects that jointly determine the deontic status of an act. In defending his particular version of multidimensional consequentialism, Peterson advocates the thesis—he calls it DEGREE—that if two or more moral aspects clash, the act under consideration is right to some non-extreme degree. This goes against the (...)
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  3. Jonny Anomaly (2013). Review of Derek Parfit, On What Matters. [REVIEW] Journal of Moral Philosophy 10 (3):358-360.
  4. Jonny Anomaly (2008). Internal Reasons and the Ought-Implies-Can Principle. Philosophical Forum 39 (4):469-483.
  5. Alfred Archer (2014). Moral Rationalism Without Overridingness. Ratio 27 (1):100-114.
    Moral Rationalism is the view that if an act is morally required then it is what there is most reason to do. It is often assumed that the truth of Moral Rationalism is dependent on some version of The Overridingness Thesis, the view that moral reasons override nonmoral reasons. However, as Douglas Portmore has pointed out, the two can come apart; we can accept Moral Rationalism without accepting any version of The Overridingness Thesis. Nevertheless, The Overridingness Thesis serves as one (...)
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  6. Steven Arkonovich (2013). Varieties of Reasons/Motives Internalism. Philosophy Compass 8 (3):210-219.
    Under what conditions do you have a reason to perform some action? Do you only have reason to do what you want to do? Reasons-motives internalism is the appealingly simple view that unless an agent is, or could be, motivated to act in a certain way, he has no normative reason to act in that way. Thus, according to reasons-motives internalism, facts about an individual’s motivational psychology constrain what is rational for that agent to do. This article canvasses several ways (...)
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  7. Carla Bagnoli (forthcoming). Vulnerability and the Incompleteness of Practical Reason. In Christine Strahele (ed.), Vulnerability, Autonomy and Applied Ethics. Routledge. pp. 13-32.
    In this chapter, I examine the concept of vulnerability as a complex constitutive feature of human agency and argue that it is both a constraint on and a resource for practical reasoning. When discussed as an ontological feature of human agency, vulnerability is primarily understood as an aspect of embodiment, which is problematic in different respects. First, in relation to the situatedness of human agency, vulnerability indicates that human agents are subjected to contextual contingencies. Second, in relation to temporality, vulnerability (...)
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  8. Peter Baumann & Monika Betzler (eds.) (2004). Practical Conflicts: New Philosophical Essays. Cambridge University Press.
    Practical conflicts pervade human life. Agents have many different desires, goals, and commitments, all of which can come into conflict with each other. How can practical reasoning help to resolve these practical conflicts? In this collection of essays a distinguished roster of philosophers analyse the diverse forms of practical conflict. Their aim is to establish an understanding of the sources of these conflicts, to investigate the challenge they pose to an adequate conception of practical reasoning, and to assess the degree (...)
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  9. Selim Berker (2007). Particular Reasons. Ethics 118 (1):109-139.
    Moral particularists argue that because reasons for action are irreducibly context-dependent, the traditional quest in ethics for true and exceptionless moral principles is hopelessly misguided. In making this claim, particularists assume a general framework according to which reasons are the ground floor normative units undergirding all other normative properties and relations. They then argue that there is no cashing out in finite terms either (i) when a given non-normative feature gives rise to a reason for or against action, or (ii) (...)
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  10. Scott Berman (2003). A Defense of Psychological Egoism. In Naomi Reshotko (ed.), Desire, Identity and Existence. Academic Printing and Publishing.
    The purpose of this paper is to argue for psychological egoism, i.e., the view that the ultimate motivation for all human action is the agent’s self-interest. Two principal opponents to psychological egoism are considered. These two views are shown to make human action inexplicable. Since the reason for putting forward these views is to explain human action, these views fail. If psychological egoism is the best explanation of human action, then humans will not differ as regards their motivations for their (...)
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  11. Lorraine Besser-Jones (2012). The Role of Practical Reason in an Empirically Informed Moral Theory. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 15 (2):203-220.
    Empirical research paints a dismal portrayal of the role of reason in morality. It suggests that reason plays no substantive role in how we make moral judgments or are motivated to act on them. This paper explores how it is that an empirically oriented philosopher, committed to methodological naturalism, ought to respond to the skeptical challenge presented by this research. While many think taking this challenge seriously requires revising, sometimes dramatically, how we think about moral agency, this paper will defend (...)
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  12. Noell Birondo (2016). Virtue and Prejudice: Giving and Taking Reasons. The Monist 99 (2):212-223.
    The most long-standing criticism of virtue ethics in its traditional, eudaimonistic variety centers on its apparently foundational appeal to nature in order to provide a source of normativity. This paper argues that a failure to appreciate both the giving and taking of reasons in sustaining an ethical outlook can distort a proper understanding of the available options for this traditional version of virtue ethics. To insist only on giving reasons, without also taking (maybe even considering) the reasons provided by others, (...)
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  13. Noell Birondo (2013). Rationalism in Ethics. In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 4329-4338.
    The word 'rationalism,' as it appears in philosophical discussions of ethics and morality, signifies at least one of a cluster of theses, each of which connects some aspect of ethical experience to reason or rationality. The most provocative rationalist thesis arises in contemporary discussions in metaethics; and it is this thesis that remains the most likely referent, in contemporary discussions, of the phrase 'moral rationalism.' The thesis is more accurately referred to, however, as metaethical rationalism, since it concerns the provenance (...)
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  14. Noell Birondo (2007). Kantian Reasons for Reasons. Ratio 20 (3):264–277.
    Rüdiger Bittner has recently argued against a Kantian ‘maxims account’ of reasons for action. In this paper I argue—against Bittner—that Kantian maxims are not to be understood as reasons for action, but rather as reasons for reasons. On the interpretation presented here, Kantian maxims are the reasons for an agent’s being motivated by whatever more immediate reasons actually motivate her. This understanding of Kantian maxims suggests a recognizably realist Kantian position in ethics.
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  15. Noell Birondo (2006). Moral Realism Without Values. Journal of Philosophical Research 31:81-102.
    In this paper I draw on some of the work of John McDowell in order to develop a realist account of normative reasons for action. On the view defended here, there can be correct moral judgments that capture the reasons there are for acting in certain ways; and the reasons themselves are just some of the morally relevant facts of the situation about which the judgment is made. Establishing this account relies crucially, I argue, on an appeal to substantive ethical (...)
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  16. Noell Birondo & S. Stewart Braun (eds.) (2017). Virtue’s Reasons: New Essays on Virtue, Character, and Reasons. Routledge.
    Virtues and reasons are two of the most fruitful and important concepts in contemporary moral philosophy. Many writers have commented upon the close connection between virtues and reasons, but no one has done full justice to the complexity of this connection. It is generally recognized that the virtues not only depend upon reasons, but also sometimes provide them. The essays in this volume shed light on precisely how virtues and reasons are related to each other and what can be learned (...)
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  17. Gunnar Björnsson, Caj Strandberg, Ragnar Francén Olinder, John Eriksson & Fredrik Björklund (2015). Motivational Internalism: Contemporary Debates. In Gunnar Björnsson, Caj Strandberg, Ragnar Francén Olinder, John Eriksson & Fredrik Björklund (eds.), Motivational Internalism. Oxford University Press. pp. 1–20.
    Motivational internalism—the idea that moral judgments are intrinsically or necessarily connected to motivation—has played a central role in metaethical debates. In conjunction with a Humean picture of motivation, internalism has provided a challenge for theories that take moral judgments to concern objective aspects of reality, and versions of internalism have been seen as having implications for moral absolutism, realism, and rationalism. But internalism is a controversial thesis, and the apparent possibility of amoralists and the rejection of strong forms of internalism (...)
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  18. Sam Black & Evan Tiffany (eds.) (2010). Reasons to Be Moral Revisted: Canadian Journal of Philosophy Supplementary Volume 33. University of Calgary Press.
    H.A. Prichard argued that the “why should I be moral?” question is the central subject matter of moral theory. Prichard famously claimed to have proved that all efforts to answer that question are doomed. Many contributors to this volume of contemporary papers attempt to reconstruct Prichard’s argument. They claim either explicitly or implicitly that Prichard was mistaken, and philosophy can contribute to meaningful engagement with the ‘why be moral?’ question. A theme to emerge from these papers is that arguments like (...)
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  19. Charles Blattberg (2009). Patriotic Elaborations: Essays in Practical Philosophy. McGill-Queen's University Press.
    How might we mend the world? Charles Blattberg suggests a "new patriotism," one that reconciles conflict through a form of dialogue that prioritizes conversation over negotiation and the common good over victory. This patriotism can be global as well as local, left as well as right. Blattberg's is a genuinely original philosophical voice. The essays collected here discuss how to re-conceive the political spectrum, where "deliberative deomocrats" go wrong, why human rights language is tragically counterproductive, how nationalism is not really (...)
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  20. Curtis Brown (1986). Overriding Reasons and Reasons to Be Moral. Southern Journal of Philosophy 24 (2):173-187.
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  21. G. Cavallo (forthcoming). Genealogical Inquiry and Universal Moral Values. Dialegesthai. Rivista Telematica di Filosofia 2017.
    Inspired by american pragmatism and Hans Joas' proposal of an affirmative genealogy, I argue in this paper that a genealogical inquiry (both on the biografical and on the historical level) can explain what motivates individuals to moral agency better than Kantian moral philosophy, without renouncing an historically-informed conception of universal moral values.
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  22. Hugh Chandler, Some Remarks on Hills's The Beloved Self.
    Here are a few remarks in regard to the first section of Alison Hills’s The Beloved Self. The topic is various forms of ‘Egoism.’ These are taken to be theories of practical reason – alternative answers to the question ‘what have I reason to do?’.
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  23. Ruth Chang (2004). All Things Considered. Philosophical Perspectives 18 (1):1–22.
    One of the most common judgments of normative life takes the following form: With respect to some things that matter, one item is better than the other, with respect to other things that matter, the other item is better, but all things considered – that is, taking into account all the things that matter – the one item is better than the other. In this paper, I explore how all-things-considered judgments are possible, assuming that they are. In particular, I examine (...)
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  24. Ruth Chang (2001). Against Constitutive Incommensurability or Buying and Selling Friends. Noûs 35 (s1):33 - 60.
    Recently, some of the leading proponents of the view that there is widespread incommensurability among goods have suggested that the incommensurability of some goods is a constitutive feature of the goods themselves. So, for example, a friendship and a million dollars are incommensurable because it is part of what it is to be a friendship that it be incommensurable with money. According to these ‘constitutive incommensurabilists’ incommensurability follows from the very nature of certain goods. In this paper, I examine this (...)
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  25. Ruth Chang (2001). Making Comparisons Count. Routledge.
    The central aim of this book is to answer two questions: Are alternatives for choice ever incomparable? and, In what ways can items be compared? The arguments offered suggest that alternatives for choice no matter how different are never incomparable, and that the ways in which items can be compared are richer and more varied than commonly supposed. This work is the first book length treatment of the topics of incomparability, value, and practical reason.
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  26. Vangelis Chiotis (2015). The Morality of Economic Behaviour. Journal of Global Ethics 11 (2):188-204.
    One approach to moral economy wishes to show that it is rational to be moral. As rational morality has received little attention from economics, as opposed to political philosophy, this article examines it in an economics framework. Rational morality refers primarily to individual behaviour so that one may also speak of it as moral microeconomics. When a group of agents are disposed to constrain their maximisation, that behaviour may be considered rational. However, this relies on ‘moralised’ assumptions about individual behaviour. (...)
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  27. Wayne Christensen & John Sutton (2012). Reflections on Emotions, Imagination, and Moral Reasoning Toward an Integrated, Multidisciplinary Approach to Moral Cognition. In Robyn Langdon & Catriona Mackenzie (eds.), Emotions, Imagination, and Moral Reasoning. Psychology Press. pp. 327-347.
    B eginning with the problem of integrating diverse disciplinary perspectives on moral cognition, we argue that the various disciplines have an interest in developing a common conceptual framework for moral cognition research. We discuss issues arising in the other chapters in this volume that might serve as focal points for future investigation and as the basis for the eventual development of such a framework. These include the role of theory in binding together diverse phenomena and the role of philosophy in (...)
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  28. Philip Clark (2001). Velleman's Autonomism. Ethics 111 (3):580–593.
    People sometimes think they have reasons for action. On a certain naive view, what makes them true is a connection between the action and the agent’s good life. In a recent article, David Velleman argues for replacing this view with a more Kantian line, on which reasons are reasons in virtue of their connection with autonomy. The aim in what follows is to defend the naive view. I shall first raise some problems for Velleman's proposal and then fend off the (...)
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  29. Earl Conee (2016). A Mysterious Case of Missing Value. Philosophic Exchange 45 (1):1-22.
    Sometimes there are conflicts about what we ought to do according to differing evaluative dimensions, like morality and self-interest. After sketching an interpretation of "ought" claims of all sorts, it is argued that there is no overriding evaluation that authoritatively resolves the conflicts. It is further argued that this is not altogether disappointing.
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  30. David Copp & David Sobel (2002). Desires, Motives, and Reasons: Scanlon's Rationalistic Moral Psychology. Social Theory and Practice 28 (2):243-76.
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  31. Roger Crisp (2006). Reasons and the Good. Clarendon Press.
    In Reasons and the Good Roger Crisp answers some of the oldest questions in moral philosophy. Fundamental to ethics, he claims, is the idea of ultimate reasons for action; and he argues controversially that these reasons do not depend on moral concepts. He investigates the nature of reasons themselves, and how we come to know them. He defends a hedonistic theory of well-being and an account of practical reason according to which we can give some, though not overriding, priority to (...)
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  32. Jonathan Dancy (2000). Practical Reality. Oxford University Press.
    Practical Reality is a lucid original study of the relation between the reasons why we do things and the reasons why we should. Jonathan Dancy maintains that current philosophical orthodoxy bowdlerizes this relation, making it impossible to understand how anyone can act for a good reason. By giving a fresh account of values and reasons, he finds a place for normativity in philosophy of mind and action, and strengthens the connection between these areas and ethics.
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  33. Jonathan Dancy (1993). Moral Reasons. Blackwell.
    This book attempts to place a realist view of ethics (the claim that there are facts of the matter in ethics as elsewhere) within a broader context. It starts with a discussion of why we should mind about the difference between right and wrong, asks what account we should give of our ability to learn from our moral experience, and looks in some detail at the different sorts of ways in which moral reasons can combine to show us what we (...)
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  34. Stephen L. Darwall (2006). The Second-Person Standpoint: Morality, Respect, and Accountability. Harvard University Press.
    The result is nothing less than a fundamental reorientation of moral theory that enables it at last to account for morality's supreme authority--an account that ...
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  35. Stephen L. Darwall (1983). Impartial Reason. Cornell University Press.
  36. Benjamin De Mesel (2015). Do Moral Questions Ask for Answers? Philosophia 43 (1):43-61.
    It is often assumed that moral questions ask for answers in the way other questions do. In this article, moral and non-moral versions of the question ‘Should I do x or y?’ are compared. While non-moral questions of that form typically ask for answers of the form ‘You should do x/y’, so-called ‘narrow answers’, moral questions often do not ask for such narrow answers. Rather, they ask for answers recognizing their delicacy, the need for a deeper understanding of the meaning (...)
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  37. de Vries Gerard (2004). Stijlen Van ethisch argumenteren in de laat-moderne tijd. Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 66 (4):649-665.
    A cursory view of the history of ethical thinking shows the presence of a limited variety of 'styles of ethical reasoning', a term used in analogy of Crombie's 'styles of scientific reasoning' for systems of thought that set their own standards and techniques for providing evidence. Each style of reasoning tends to suggest a specific role for ethicists. Styles are appropriate relative to particular contexts of problems and require special institutions to flourish. Herman De Dijn's discussion in Taboes, monsters en (...)
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  38. Katerina Deligiorgi (2012). Joseph Raz , From Normativity to Responsibility . Reviewed By. [REVIEW] Philosophy in Review 32 (6):514-517.
  39. Janice Dowell, J. L. (2012). Contextualist Solutions to Three Puzzles About Practical Conditionals. In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, volume 7. Oxford University Press.
  40. James Dreier (2015). Another World. In Robert Johnson & Michael Smith (eds.), Passions and Projections Themes from the Philosophy of Simon Blackburn. Oxford University Press. pp. 155-171.
    The metaethics and metametaethics of Scanlon's "Reasons Fundamentalism".
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  41. Gerald Dworkin (2006). Theory, Practice, and Moral Reasoning. In David Copp (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory. Oxford University Press. pp. 624--644.
    The chapter discusses the various ways in which ethical theory and moral practice relate to one another. Various proposals are discussed and evaluated, such as that the relation is a deductive one, that the relation is one of norm-specification, or that the theory provides multiple moral principles that must be balanced against one another. The author makes some suggestions on how the relation between theory and practice should be understood.
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  42. Daan Evers (2013). Weight for Stephen Finlay. Philosophical Studies 163 (3):737-749.
    According to Stephen Finlay, ‘A ought to X’ means that X-ing is more conducive to contextually salient ends than relevant alternatives. This in turn is analysed in terms of probability. I show why this theory of ‘ought’ is hard to square with a theory of a reason’s weight which could explain why ‘A ought to X’ logically entails that the balance of reasons favours that A X-es. I develop two theories of weight to illustrate my point. I first look at (...)
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  43. Daan Evers (2009). Humean Agent-Neutral Reasons? Philosophical Explorations 12 (1):55 – 67.
    In his recent book Slaves of the Passions , Mark Schroeder defends a Humean account of practical reasons ( hypotheticalism ). He argues that it is compatible with 'genuinely agent-neutral reasons'. These are reasons that any agent whatsoever has. According to Schroeder, they may well include moral reasons. Furthermore, he proposes a novel account of a reason's weight, which is supposed to vindicate the claim that agent-neutral reasons ( if they exist), would be weighty irrespective of anyone's desires. If the (...)
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  44. Iskra Fileva (2009). Kieran Setiya, Reasons Without Rationalism. Journal of Value Inquiry 43 (4):521-530.
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  45. William J. Fitzpatrick (2007). Satisficing and Maximizing: Moral Theorists on Practical Reason - Edited by Michael Byron. Philosophical Books 48 (3):281-283.
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  46. Matteo Galletti (ed.) (2015). La mente morale. Persone, ragioni, virtù. Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.
    In this book, the authors provide a detailed discussion of some problematic of some critical issues of the philosophical research field known as “moral psychology”. The common thread that ideally combines the eight essays concerns the definition and demarcation of the “moral mind”, as a set of cognitive and affective capabilities, attitudes, psychological mechanisms that have practical relevance when we wonder how to act or we evaluate the of action of others. The subtitle (persons, reasons, virtues) means to focus on (...)
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  47. Ernesto V. Garcia (2004). Value Realism and the Internalism/Externalism Debate. Philosophical Studies 117 (1-2):231-258.
  48. Joshua Gert (2004). Brute Rationality: Normativity and Human Action. Cambridge University Press.
    This book presents an account of normative practical reasons and the way in which they contribute to the rationality of action. Rather than simply 'counting in favour of' actions, normative reasons play two logically distinct roles: requiring action and justifying action. The distinction between these two roles explains why some reasons do not seem relevant to the rational status of an action unless the agent cares about them, while other reasons retain all their force regardless of the agent's attitude. It (...)
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  49. Joshua Gert (2000). Practical Rationality, Morality, and Purely Justificatory Reasons. American Philosophical Quarterly 37 (3):227 - 243.
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  50. Anca Gheaus (2011). Love, Hate and Moral Inclusion. In Joseph Carlisle, James Carter & Daniel Whistler (eds.), Moral Powers, Fragile Beliefs: Essays in Moral and Religious Philosophy. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 29.
    Drawing upon feminist work on partiality and on the philosophy of Raimond Gaita, I argue that love for particular people can serve as a basis for including strangers in the sphere of ethically relevant individuals. While partiality for some can hinder proper treatment of others, it is also constitutive of our ability to determine the scope of morality. My line of reasoning invites the worry that hatred is as powerful in hindering moral recognition as love is in creating it. I (...)
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