Prudence and the reasons of rational persons

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 79 (3):346 – 365 (2001)
Duncan MacIntosh
Dalhousie University
Hume said that the reasons that determine the rationality of one's actions are the desires one has when acting: one's actions are rational iff they advance these desires. Thomas Nagel says this entails calling rational, actions absurdly conflicting in aims over time. For one might have reason, in one's current desires, to begin trying to cause states one foresees having reason, in one's foreseen desires, to prevent. Instead, then, real reasons must be timeless, so that current and foreseen reasons cannot conflict. I say the desire theory does not have absurd consequences. A rational agent's desires would rationally evolve, never requiring actions conflicting in aims over time, except where it was instrumentally rational for her to change in her desires, whence such conflicts are rationally appropriate. Further, whatever sorts of things count as real reasons, since reasons can rationally require their own revision, they cannot be necessarily timeless.
Keywords Hume  Nagel  prudence  preferences  rationality  reasons  desires  the desire theory
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 35,898
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The Trouble with Prudence.Anthony Simon Laden - 2009 - Philosophical Explorations 12 (1):19 – 40.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Is There a Nexus Between Reasons and Rationality?Michael Smith - 2007 - Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 94 (1):279-298.
Desire-Based Theories of Reasons, Pleasure, and Welfare.Chris Heathwood - 2011 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 6:79-106.
Reason Internalism.Alan H. Goldman - 2005 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 71 (3):505 - 533.
The Desires of Others.Berislav Marušić - 2010 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91 (3):385-400.
Desires, Reasons, and Causes. [REVIEW]Stephen Darwall - 2003 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67 (2):436–443.
Irrational Desires.Donald C. Hubin - 1991 - Philosophical Studies 62 (1):23 - 44.
Prudence and the Temporal Structure of Practical Reasons.Duncan MacIntosh - 2003 - In Sarah Stroud & Christine Tappolet (eds.), Weakness of Will and Practical Irrationality. Oxford University Press. pp. 230--250.
Can Virtuous Actions Be Both Habitual and Rational?Bill Pollard - 2003 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 6 (4):411-425.


Added to PP index

Total downloads
87 ( #74,907 of 2,293,852 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #182,717 of 2,293,852 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature