Emotions and practical reason: Rethinking evaluation and motivation

Noûs 35 (2):190–213 (2001)
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The motivational problem is the problem of understanding how we can have rational control over what we do. In the face of phenomena like weakness of the will, it is commonly thought that evaluation and reason can always remain intact even as we sever their connection with motivation; consequently, solving the motivational problem is thought to be a matter of figuring out how to bridge this inevitable gap between evaluation and motivation. I argue that this is fundamentally mistaken and results in a conception of practical reason that is motivationally impotent. Instead, I argue, a proper understanding of evaluation and practical reason must include not only evaluative judgments but emotions as well. By analyzing the role of emotions in evaluation and the rational interconnections among emotions, desires, and evaluative judgments, I articulate a new conception of evaluation and motivation according to which there is a conceptual connection between them, albeit one that allows for the possibility of weakness of the will.



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Bennett W. Helm
Franklin and Marshall College

Citations of this work

Motivation in agents.Christian Miller - 2008 - Noûs 42 (2):222–266.
Pleasure.Leonard D. Katz - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Practical unreason.Philip Pettit & Michael Smith - 1993 - Mind 102 (405):53-79.
Philosophy and Commonsense: The Case of Weakness of Will.Jeanette Kennett & Michael Smith - 1996 - In Michaelis Michael & John O'Leary-Hawthorne (eds.), The Place of Philosophy in the Study of Mind. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 141-157.

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