Possessing reasons: why the awareness-first approach is better than the knowledge-first approach

Synthese 199 (1-2):2925-2947 (2021)
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[Significantly updated in Chapter 6 of Awareness and the Substructure of Knowledge] In order for a reason to justify an action or attitude it must be one that is possessed by an agent. Knowledge-centric views of possession ground our possession of reasons, at least partially, either in our knowledge of them or in our being in a position to know them. On virtually all accounts, knowing P is some kind of non-accidental true belief that P. This entails that knowing P is a kind of non-accidental true representation that P. I outline a novel theory of the epistemic requirement on possession in terms of this more general state of non-accidental true representation. It is just as well placed to explain the motivations behind knowledge-centric views of possession, and it is also better placed to explain the extent of the reasons we possess in certain cases of deductive belief-updates and cases involving environmental luck. I conclude with three reflections. First, I indicate how my arguments generate a dilemma for Errol Lord’s view that possessing reasons is just a matter of being in a position to manifest one’s knowledge how to use them. Second, I explain how my view can simultaneously manage cases of environmental luck without falling prey to lottery cases. Finally, I sketch the direction for a further range of counterexamples to knowledge-centric theories of possession.

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Author's Profile

Paul Silva Jr.
University of Cologne

References found in this work

Knowledge and its limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - New York: Oxford University Press.
What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Slaves of the passions.Mark Andrew Schroeder - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Mind and World.John McDowell - 1994 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
The Contents of Visual Experience.Susanna Siegel - 2010 - , US: Oxford University Press USA.

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