Reasons and psychological causes

Philosophical Studies 122 (1):51 - 101 (2005)

The causal theory of reasons holds that acting for a reason entails that the agents action was caused by his or her beliefs and desires. While Donald Davidson (1963) and others effectively silenced the first objections to the theory, a new round has emerged. The most important recent attack is presented by Jonathan Dancy in Practical Reality (2000) and subsequent work. This paper will defend the causal theory against Dancy and others, including Schueler (1995), Stoutland (1999, 2001), and Ginet (2002).Dancy observes that our reasons are neither psychological states nor causes, and that our reasons can be both motivating and normative. I argue that these observations are fully compatible with the causal theory. According to the reductive version I develop for both cognitive and optative reasons, what it is for an action to be done for a reason is for certain beliefs and desires to cause the action in a particular way. Our reasons for action are the objects of some of those beliefs and desires. The causal process has two stages. This theory explains not only Dancys observations, but also many other facts about reasons that alternative theories leave unexplained. I argue against Schueler and others that the non-appetitive desires entailed by acting for reasons are no less distinct and independent causal factors than the beliefs entailed. I go on to rebut arguments that the relation between psychological states and actions cannot be causal because it is non-empirical, rational, normative, or non-deterministic, and that explanations in terms of psychological causes are incompatible with explanations in terms of reasons.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Logic   Philosophy of Mind   Philosophy of Religion
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-005-7249-3
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References found in this work BETA

Practical Reality.Jonathan Dancy - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
Actions, Reasons, and Causes.Donald Davidson - 1963 - Journal of Philosophy 60 (23):685.
A Theory of Human Action.Alvin I. Goldman - 1970 - Princeton University Press.
Intention.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1957 - Harvard University Press.
The Possibility of Altruism.Thomas Nagel - 1970 - Oxford Clarendon Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Motivation in Agents.Christian Miller - 2008 - Noûs 42 (2):222–266.
Identifying with Our Desires.Christian Miller - 2013 - Theoria 79 (2):127-154.
Reasons and Causes.Kieran Setiya - 2011 - European Journal of Philosophy 19 (1):129-157.
Occurrent States.Gary Bartlett - 2018 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 48 (1):1-17.
Are All Reasons Causes?Christina H. Dietz - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (5):1179-1190.

View all 12 citations / Add more citations

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