Practical reasoning, the first person and impartialism about reasons
This paper considers the problem posed for impartialism about reasons by the claim that practical reasoning is essentially first personal. This argument, first put forward by Bernard Williams, has an obscure rationale. Barry Stroud has suggested that in the only sense in which it is true it is misrepresents the issue which is that substituting in a particular identity to a conclusion true of anyone can change the degree of support for a practical conclusion. This paper develops a complementary line of argument. Developing Stroud’s point and interpreting it as highlighting the non-monotonicity of practical reasoning, it is argued that the distinguishing feature of practical reasoning is that it terminates in an action as its conclusion. Actions are the expression of one’s all things considered judgement and the expression of intentional states in action. The obvious rejoinders to this view are canvassed and deflected; this Aristotelian thesis is independently motivated as making best sense of the fact that practical questions may “turn out variously”.
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