According to the fitting-attitudes account of value, for X to be good is for it to be fitting to value X. But what is it for an attitude to be fitting? A popular recent view is that it is for there to be sufficient reason for the attitude. In this paper we argue that proponents of the fitting-attitudes account should reject this view and instead take fittingness as basic. In this way they avoid the notorious ‘wrong kind of reason’ problem, (...) and can offer attractive accounts of reasons and good reasoning in terms of fittingness. (shrink)
Many philosophers have been attracted to the view that reasons are premises of good reasoning – that reasons to φ are premises of good reasoning towards φ-ing. However, while this reasoning view is indeed attractive, it faces a problem accommodating outweighed reasons. In this article, I argue that the standard solution to this problem is unsuccessful and propose an alternative, which draws on the idea that good patterns of reasoning can be defeasible. I conclude by drawing out implications for the (...) debate over pragmatic reasons for belief and other attitudes and for one influential form of reductionism about the normative. (shrink)
Reasoning is a certain kind of attitude-revision. What kind? The aim of this paper is to introduce and defend a new answer to this question, based on the idea that reasoning is a goodness-fixing kind. Our central claim is that reasoning is a functional kind: it has a constitutive point or aim that fixes the standards for good reasoning. We claim, further, that this aim is to get fitting attitudes. We start by considering recent accounts of reasoning due to Ralph (...) Wedgwood and John Broome, and argue that, while these accounts contain important insights, they are not satisfactory: Wedgwood’s rules out too much, and Broome’s too little. We then introduce and defend our alternative account, discuss some of its implications and attractions, and, finally, consider objections. (shrink)
What makes the difference between good and bad reasoning? In this paper we defend a novel account of good reasoning—both theoretical and practical—according to which it preserves fittingness or correctness: good reasoning is reasoning which is such as to take you from fitting attitudes to further fitting attitudes, other things equal. This account, we argue, is preferable to two others that feature in the recent literature. The first, which has been made prominent by John Broome, holds that the standards of (...) good reasoning derive from rational requirements. The second holds that these standards derive from reasons. We argue that these accounts face serious difficulties in correctly distinguishing good from bad reasoning, and in explaining what's worthwhile about good reasoning. We then propose our alternative account and argue that it performs better on these counts. In the final section, we develop certain elements of the account in response to some possible objections. (shrink)
According to fitting-attitudes accounts of value, the valuable is what there is sufficient reason to value. Such accounts face the famous wrong kind of reason problem. For example, if an evil demon threatens to kill you unless you value him, it may appear that you have sufficient reason to value the demon, although he is not valuable. One solution to this problem is to deny that the demon’s threat is a reason to value him. It is instead a reason to (...) want to value the demon, and to bring it about that you value him. However, many proponents of the wrong kind of reason problem find this solution unmotivated. This paper thus offers a new argument for this solution. The argument turns on the ‘transmission’ of reasons – the familiar fact that there is often reason for one action or attitude because there is reason for another. I observe that putative reasons of the wrong kind transmit in a very different way to other reasons. I then argue that this difference is best explained by the hypothesis that putative reasons of the wrong kind are not reasons for the attitude in question, but are instead reasons to want and bring about that attitude. (shrink)
According to Paul Boghossian and others, inference is subject to the taking condition: it necessarily involves the thinker taking his premises to support his conclusion, and drawing the conclusion because of that fact. Boghossian argues that this condition vindicates the idea that inference is an expression of agency, and that it has several other important implications too. However, we argue in this paper that the taking condition should be rejected. The condition gives rise to several serious prima facie problems and (...) the reasons which have been offered in favour of it fail to convince. (shrink)
As rational agents, we are governed by reasons. The fact that there’s beer at the pub might be a reason to go there and a reason to believe you’ll enjoy it. As this example illustrates, there are reasons for both action and for belief. There are also many other responses for which there seem to be reasons – for example, desire, regret, admiration, and blame. This diversity raises questions about how reasons for different responses relate to each other. Might certain (...) such reasons be more fundamental than others? Should certain reasons and not others be treated as paradigmatic? At least implicitly, many philosophers treat reasons for action as the fundamental or paradigmatic case. In contrast, this paper articulates and defends an alternative approach, on which reasons for attitudes are fundamental, and reasons for action are both derivative and, in certain ways, idiosyncratic. After outlining this approach, we focus on defending its most contentious thesis, that reasons for action are fundamentally reasons for intention. We offer two arguments for this thesis, which turn on central roles of reasons: that reasons can be responded to, and that reasons can feature as premises of good reasoning. We then examine objections to the thesis and argue that none succeed. We conclude by sketching some ways in which our approach is significant for theorising about reasons. (shrink)
Evidentialism is the thesis that all reasons to believe p are evidence for p. Pragmatists hold that pragmatic considerations – incentives for believing – can also be reasons to believe. Nishi Shah, Thomas Kelly and others have argued for evidentialism on the grounds that incentives for belief fail a ‘reasoning constraint’ on reasons: roughly, reasons must be considerations we can reason from, but we cannot reason from incentives to belief. In the first half of the paper, I show that this (...) argument fails: the claim that we cannot reason from incentives is either false or does not combine with the reasoning constraint to support evidentialism. However, the failure of this argument suggests an alternative route to evidentialism. Roughly, reasons must be premises of good reasoning, but it is not good reasoning to reason from incentives to belief. The second half of the paper develops and defends this argument for evidentialism. (shrink)
Many philosophers accept a response constraint on normative reasons: that p is a reason for you to φ only if you are able to φ for the reason that p. This constraint offers a natural way to cash out the familiar and intuitive thought that reasons must be able to guide us, and has been put to work as a premise in a range of influential arguments in ethics and epistemology. However, the constraint requires interpretation and faces putative counter-examples due (...) to Julia Markovits, Mark Schroeder, and others. This paper develops and motivates an interpretation of the response constraint that avoids the putative counter-examples. (shrink)
In this paper, we claim that, if you justifiably believe that you ought to perform some act, it follows that you ought to perform that act. In the first half, we argue for this claim by reflection on what makes for correct reasoning from beliefs about what you ought to do. In the second half, we consider a number of objections to this argument and its conclusion. In doing so, we arrive at another argument for the view that justified beliefs (...) about what you ought to do must be true, based in part on the idea that the epistemic and practical domains are uniform, in a sense we spell out. We conclude by sketching possible implications of our discussion for the debates over what is wrong with akrasia and pragmatic encroachment on justified belief and knowledge. (shrink)
This paper defends a 'fitting attitudes' view of value on which what it is for something to be good is for there to be reasons to favour that thing. The first section of the paper defends a 'linking principle' connecting reasons and value. The second and third sections argue that this principle is better explained by a fitting-attitudes view than by 'value-first' views on which reasons are explained in terms of value.
The Wide-Scope approach to instrumental reason holds that the requirement to intend the necessary means to your ends should be understood as a requirement to either intend the means, or else not intend the end. In this paper I explain and defend a neglected version of this approach. I argue that three serious objections to Wide-Scope accounts turn on a certain assumption about the nature of the reasons that ground the Wide-Scope requirement. The version of the Wide-Scope approach defended here (...) allows us to reject this assumption, and so defuse the objections. (shrink)
Perspectivists hold that what you ought to do is determined by your perspective, that is, your epistemic position. Objectivists hold that what you ought to do is determined by the facts irrespective of your perspective. This paper explores an influential argument for perspectivism which appeals to the thought that the normative is action guiding. The crucial premise of the argument is that you ought to φ only if you are able to φ for the reasons which determine that you ought (...) to φ. We show that this premise can be understood in different ways. On one reading, it provides no support for perspectivism. On another reading, the premise lacks support. So, the argument fails. An important upshot of the paper is that the objectivist can embrace the thought about guidance. (shrink)
The Wide-Scope view of instrumental reason holds that you should not intend an end without also intending what you believe to be the necessary means. This, the Wide-Scoper claims, provides the best account of why failing to intend the believed means to your end is a rational failing. But Wide-Scopers have struggled to meet a simple Explanatory Challenge: why shouldn't you intend an end without intending the necessary means? What reason is there not to do so? In the first half (...) of this paper, I argue that the Wide-Scope view struggles to meet this challenge because it takes the principles of instrumental reason to have unlimited application—to apply to all agents, in all circumstances. I then go on to offer a new account of these principles. The new account is very much in the spirit of the Wide-Scope view, and shares its central advantages, but lacks its unlimited application. This view should, therefore, find the Explanatory Challenge more tractable. In the second half of the paper, I argue that this prediction is confirmed. If the requirements of instrumental reason apply only when a means is, or is believed to be, necessary for your end, then plausible independent claims, about reasons, rationality, and intentions, explain why failing to intend the necessary means to your ends is a rational failing. (shrink)
This article is an introduction to the recent debate about whether rationality is normative – that is, very roughly, about whether we should have attitudes which fit together in a coherent way. I begin by explaining an initial problem – the “detaching problem” – that arises on the assumption that we should have coherent attitudes. I then explain the prominent “wide-scope” solution to this problem, and some of the central objections to it. I end by considering the options that arise (...) if we reject the wide-scope solution. (shrink)
Some irrational states can be avoided in more than one way. For example, if you believe that you ought to A you can avoid akrasia by intending to A or by dropping the belief that you ought to A. This supports the claim that some rational requirements are wide-scope. For instance, the requirement against akrasia is a requirement to intend to A or not believe that you ought to A. But some writers object that this Wide-Scope view ignores asymmetries between (...) the different ways of avoiding irrationality. In this paper I defend the Wide-Scope view against recent objections of this sort from Mark Schroeder and Niko Kolodny. I argue that once we are clear about what the Wide-Scope view is committed to—and, importantly, what it is not—we can see that Schroeder and Kolodny’s objections fail. (shrink)
This article gives an overview of some recent debates about the relationship between reasons and rational requirements of coherence - e.g. the requirements to be consistent in our beliefs and intentions, and to intend what we take to be the necessary means to our ends.
Recent views of reasons and rationality make it plausible that it can sometimes be rational to do what you have no reason to do. A number of writers have concluded that if this is so, rationality is not normative. But this is a mistake. Even if we assume a tight connection between reasons and normativity, the normativity of rationality does not require that there is always reason to be rational. The first half of this paper illustrates this point with reference (...) to the subjective reasons account of rationality. The second half suggest that this point may have been missed because of certain similarities between the subjective reasons account and the importantly different transparency account. On the transparency account, rationality seems not to be normative. I think it is often assumed that what goes for the transparency account goes for the subjective reasons account as well. But I argue that this is a mistake. A corollary is that the subjective reasons account has an important advantage over the transparency account, given how plausible it is that rationality is normative. (shrink)
You are creditworthy for φ-ing only if φ-ing is the right thing to do. Famously though, further conditions are needed too – Kant’s shopkeeper did the right thing, but is not creditworthy for doing so. This case shows that creditworthiness requires that there be a certain kind of explanation of why you did the right thing. The reasons for which you act – your motivating reasons – must meet some further conditions. In this paper, I defend a new account of (...) these conditions. On this account, creditworthiness requires that your motivating reasons be normative reasons, and that the principles from which you act match normative principles. (shrink)
Enkratic reasoning—reasoning from believing that you ought to do something to an intention to do that thing—seems good. But there is a puzzle about how it could be. Good reasoning preserves correctness, other things equal. But enkratic reasoning does not preserve correctness. This is because what you ought to do depends on your epistemic position, but what it is correct to intend does not. In this paper, I motivate these claims and thus show that there is a puzzle. I then (...) argue that the best solution is to deny that correctness is always independent of your epistemic position. As I explain, a notable upshot is that a central epistemic norm directs us to believe, not simply what is true, but what we are in a position to know. (shrink)
Norm-attitude accounts of value say that for something to be valuable is for there to be norms that support valuing that thing. For example, according to fitting-attitude accounts, something is of value if it is fitting to value, and according to buck-passing accounts, something is of value if the reasons support valuing it. Norm-attitude accounts face the partiality problem: in cases of partiality, what it is fitting to value, and what the reasons support valuing, may not line up with what’s (...) valuable. Buck-passers have a solution to this problem and may claim that this gives them an advantage over fitting-attitude accounts. In this paper, we show how fitting-attitudes accounts can offer a broadly analogous, and equally attractive, solution to the problem. (shrink)
This book has two main aims. First, it develops and defends a constitutive account of normative reasons as premises of good reasoning. This account says, roughly, that to be a normative reason for a response (such as a belief or intention) is to be premise of good reasoning, from fitting responses, to that response. Second, building on the account of reasons, it develops and defends a fittingness-first account of the structure of the normative domain. This account says that there is (...) a single normative property, fittingness, which is normatively basic, and on which all other normative properties depend. On this view, reasons, oughts, value, and other normative phenomena all ultimately depend on fittingness. The account of normative reasons is a part of this general view of the normative domain. The book begins, in chapter 1, by motivating the account of reasons as premises of good reasoning. Chapter 2 argues that good reasoning is, roughly, reasoning that preserves fittingness. Chapter 3 addresses the question of what fittingness is. Chapter 4 defends constitutive accounts of evaluative properties, like goodness, in terms of fitting attitudes. Chapters 5 and 6 shows how the view provides an attractive account of how reasons determine the deontic status of a response – whether you ought or may so respond. Chapter 7 addresses some challenges concerning certain reasons for belief, the relationship between reasons for action and reasons for intention, and reasons for emotion. (shrink)
A number of recent accounts of our first-person knowledge of our attitudes give a central role to transparency - our capacity to answer the question of whether we have an attitude by answering the question of whether to have it. In this paper I raise a problem for such accounts, by showing that there are clear cases of first-person knowledge of attitudes which are not transparent.
Among the many important contributions of John Broome’s Rationality Through Reasoning is an account of what reasoning is and what makes reasoning correct. In this paper we raise some problems for both of these accounts and recommend an alternative approach.
Central to Errol Lord’s The Importance of Being Rational is the notion of a possessed (objective, normative) reason. For Lord, rationality is a matter of correctly responding to possessed reasons, what rationality requires and permits is that we react in ways that are appropriate given our possessed reasons, and we ought – full stop – to react in ways that are decisively supported by our possessed reasons. Thus for Lord, possessed (objective, normative) reasons are very important indeed. This paper raises (...) some challenges about this picture. In §1, I offer objections to Lord’s accounts of rational requirements. In §2, I offer objections to a central argument for his view of what we ought to do. If successful, these objections suggest that possessed reasons are not as important as Lord thinks. In §3, I consider his account of possessed reasons itself. (shrink)
What should I do? What should I think? Traditionally, ethicists tackle the first question, while epistemologists tackle the second. Philosophers have tended to investigate the issue of what to do independently of the issue of what to think, that is, to do ethics independently of epistemology, and vice versa. This collection of new essays by leading philosophers focuses on a central concern of both epistemology and ethics: normativity. Normativity is a matter of what one should or may do or think, (...) what one has reason or justification to do or to think, what it is right or wrong to do or to think, and so on. The volume is innovative in drawing together issues from epistemology and ethics and in exploring neglected connections between epistemic and practical normativity. It represents a burgeoning research programme in which epistemic and practical normativity are seen as two aspects of a single topic, deeply interdependent and raising parallel questions. (shrink)
This is a short introductory article. I focus on three questions: What is instrumental rationality? What are the principles of instrumental rationality? Could instrumental rationality be all of practical rationality?
This book has two main aims. First, it develops and defends a constitutive account of normative reasons as premises of good reasoning. This account says, roughly, that to be a normative reason for a response (such as a belief or intention) is to be premise of good reasoning, from fitting responses, to that response. Second, building on the account of reasons, it develops and defends a fittingness-first account of the structure of the normative domain. This account says that there is (...) a single normative property, fittingness, which is normatively basic, and on which all other normative properties depend. On this view, reasons, oughts, value, and other normative phenomena all ultimately depend on fittingness. The account of normative reasons is a part of this general view of the normative domain. The book begins, in Chapter 1, by motivating the account of reasons as premises of good reasoning. Chapter 2 argues that good reasoning is, roughly, reasoning that preserves fittingness. Chapter 3 addresses the question of what fittingness is. Chapter 4 defends constitutive accounts of evaluative properties, like goodness, in terms of fitting attitudes. Chapters 5 and 6 shows how the view provides an attractive account of how reasons determine the deontic status of a response—whether you ought or may so respond. Chapter 7 addresses some challenges concerning certain reasons for belief, the relationship between reasons for action and reasons for intention, and reasons for emotion. (shrink)
Epistemology, like ethics, is normative. Just as ethics addresses questions about how we ought to act, so epistemology addresses questions about how we ought to believe and enquire. We can also ask metanormative questions. What does it mean to claim that someone ought to do or believe something? Do such claims express beliefs about independently existing facts, or only attitudes of approval and disapproval towards certain pieces of conduct? How do putative facts about what people ought to do or believe (...) fit in to the natural world? In the case of ethics, such questions have been subject to extensive and systematic investigation, yielding the thriving subdiscipline of metaethics. Yet the corresponding questions have been largely ignored in epistemology; there is no serious subdiscipline of metaepistemology. This surprising state of affairs reflects a more general tendency for ethics and epistemology to be carried out largely in isolation from each other, despite the important substantive and structural connections between them. A movement to overturn the general tendency has only recently gained serious momentum, and has yet to tackle metanormative questions in a sustained way. This edited collection aims to stimulate this project and thus advance the new subdiscipline of metaepistemology. Its original essays draw on the sophisticated theories and frameworks that have been developed in metaethics concerning practical normativity, examine whether they can be applied to epistemic normativity, and consider what this might tell us about both. (shrink)