In David Sobel & Steven Wall (eds.), Reasons for Action
. Cambridge University Press. pp. 243-71 (2009
This paper investigates two puzzles in practical reason and proposes a solution to them. First, sometimes, when we are practically certain that neither of two alternatives is better than or as good as the other with respect to what matters in the choice between them, it nevertheless seems perfectly rational to continue to deliberate, and sometimes the result of that deliberation is a conclusion that one alternative is better, where there is no error in one’s previous judgment. Second, there are striking differences between rational agents – some rational agents have most reason to pursue careers on Wall Street while others have most reason to take up a career in teaching, or scuba diving, or working for political causes. These differences aren’t plausibly explained by ‘passive’ facts about our psychology or their causal interaction with our environment; instead, these facts seem in some sense to ‘express who we are’. But what is this sense? These puzzles disappear if we adopt a novel view about the source of the normativity of reasons – some reasons are given to us and others are reasons in virtue of an act of will. We make certain considerations reasons through an act of will and thus sometimes make it true through an act of agency that we have most reason to do one thing rather than another.