Dylan Murray
University of California, Berkeley (PhD)
Lara Buchak
University of California, Berkeley
Within philosophy of action, there are three broad views about what, in addition to beliefs, answer the question of “what to do?” and so determine an agent’s motivation: desires, judgments about values/reasons, or states of the will, such as intentions. We argue that recent work in decision theory vindicates the volitionalist. “What to do?” isn’t settled by “what do I value” or “what reasons are there?” Rational motivation further requires determining how to trade off the possibility of a good outcome against the possibility of a bad one—i.e., determining how much of a risk to take. The risk attitudes that embody this tradeoff seem best understood as intentions: as self-governing policies to weight desires or reasons in certain ways. That we need to settle our risk attitudes before making most decisions corroborates Bratman’s claim that self-governing policies are required for resolving impasses of evaluative and normative underdetermination. Moreover, far from being rare or confined to tie-breakings, cases that are underdetermined but for one’s risk attitudes are typical of everyday decision-making. The will is required for most rational action.
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