Canadian Journal of Philosophy 27 (1):17 - 45 (1997)

Philip Clark
University of Toronto, Mississauga
There is an idea, going back to Aristotle, that reasons for action can be understood on a parallel with reasons for belief. Not surprisingly, the idea has almost always led to some form of inferentialism about reasons for action. In this paper I argue that reasons for action can be understood on a parallel with reasons for belief, but that this requires abandoning inferentialism about reasons for action. This result will be thought paradoxical. It is generally assumed that if there is to be a useful parallel, there must be some such thing as a practical inference. As we shall see, that assumption tends to block the fruitful exploration of the real parallel. On the view I shall defend, the practical analogue of an ordinary inference is not an inference, but something I shall call a practical step. Nevertheless, the practical step will do, for a theory of reasons for action, what ordinary inference does for an inferentialist theory of reasons for belief. The result is a general characterization of reasons, practical and theoretical, in terms of the correctness conditions of the relevant sorts of step.
Keywords Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s) 0045-5091
DOI 10.1080/00455091.1997.10717472
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 69,226
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Moral Problem.James Lenman - 1994 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 1 (1):125-126.
Skepticism About Practical Reason.Christine M. Korsgaard - 1986 - Journal of Philosophy 83 (1):5-25.
Epistemology and Cognition.Alvin I. Goldman - 1986 - Behaviorism 17 (2):161-164.
The Authority of Desire.Dennis W. Stampe - 1987 - Philosophical Review 96 (July):335-81.

View all 20 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Choice and Action in Aristotle.A. W. Price - 2016 - Phronesis 61 (4):435-462.
Another Particularism: Reasons, Status and Defaults. [REVIEW]Alan Thomas - 2011 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (2):151-167.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

‘Ought’, ‘Can’, and Practical Reasons.Clayton Littlejohn - 2009 - American Philosophical Quarterly 46 (4):363-73.
Reason in Action.John Gibbons - 2009 - In Lucy O'Brien & Matthew Soteriou (eds.), Mental Actions. Oxford University Press. pp. 72.
Animal Action in the Space of Reasons.Susan Hurley - 2003 - Mind and Language 18 (3):231-256.
Practical Reasons and Moral 'Ought'.Patricia Greenspan - 2007 - In Russell Schafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, vol. II. Clarendon Press. pp. 172-194.
Reasons for Action and Reasons for Belief.Christopher Tollefsen - 2006 - Social Epistemology 20 (1):55 – 65.
Reasons, Impossibility and Efficient Steps: Reply to Heuer.Bart Streumer - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 151 (1):79 - 86.
Velleman's Autonomism.Philip Clark - 2001 - Ethics 111 (3):580–593.


Added to PP index

Total views
61 ( #185,500 of 2,499,711 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #278,202 of 2,499,711 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes