This paper concerns a prima facie tension between the claims that agents have normative reasons obtaining in virtue of the nature of the options that confront them, and there is a non-trivial connection between the grounds of normative reasons and the upshots of sound practical reasoning. Joint commitment to these claims is shown to give rise to a dilemma. I argue that the dilemma is avoidable on a response dependent account of normative reasons accommodating both and (...) by yielding as a substantial constraint on sound practical reasoning. This fact is shown to have significance for the contemporary dialectic between moral realists and their opponents. (shrink)
When one has both epistemic and practicalreasons for or against some belief, how do these reasons combine into an all-things-considered reason for or against that belief? The question might seem to presuppose the existence of practicalreasons for belief. But we can rid the question of this presupposition. Once we do, a highly general ‘Combinatorial Problem’ emerges. The problem has been thought to be intractable due to certain differences in the combinatorial properties of epistemic (...) and practicalreasons. Here we bring good news: if we accept an independently motivated version of epistemic instrumentalism—the view that epistemic reasons are a species of instrumental reasons—we can reduce The Combinatorial Problem to a relatively benign problem of how to weigh different instrumental reasons. As an added benefit, the instrumentalist account can explain the apparent intractability of The Combinatorial Problem in terms of a common tendency to think and talk about epistemic reasons in an ‘elliptical’ manner. (shrink)
Some prominent evidentialists argue that practical considerations cannot be normative reasons for belief because they can’t be motivating reasons for belief. Existing pragmatist responses turn out to depend on the assumption that it’s possible to believe in the absence of evidence. The evidentialist may deny this, at which point the debate ends in an impasse. I propose a new strategy for the pragmatist. This involves conceding that belief in the absence of evidence is impossible. We then argue (...) that evidence can play a role in bringing about belief without being a motivating reason for belief, thereby leaving room for practical considerations to serve as motivating reasons. I present two ways in which this can happen. First, agents can use evidence as a mere means by which to believe, with practical considerations serving as motivating reasons for belief, just as we use tools (e.g. a brake pedal) as mere means by which to do something (e.g. slow down) which we are motivated to do for practicalreasons. Second, evidence can make it possible for one to choose whether or not to believe – a choice one can then make for practicalreasons. These arguments push the debate between the evidentialist and the pragmatist into new territory. It is no longer enough for an evidentialist to insist that belief is impossible without evidence. Even if this is right, the outcome of the debate remains unsettled. It will hang on the ability of the evidentialist to respond to the new pragmatist strategy presented here. (shrink)
The paper has two aims. The first is to propose a general framework for organizing some central questions about normative practicalreasons in a way that separates importantly distinct issues that are often run together. Setting out this framework provides a snapshot of the leading types of view about practicalreasons as well as a deeper understanding of what are widely regarded to be some of their most serious difficulties. The second is to use the proposed (...) framework to uncover and diagnose what I believe is a structural problem that plagues the debate about practicalreasons. A common move in the debate involves a proponent of one type of view offering what she and others proposing that type consider to be a devastating criticism of an opposing type of view, only to find that her criticism is shrugged off by her opponents as easy to answer, misguided, or having little significance for their view. This isn’t due to conceptual blindness or mere slavish devotion to a theory but something fundamental about the argumentative structure of a debate over genuinely shared issues. Hence, the debate about practicalreasons suffers from argumentative gridlock. The proposed framework helps us to see why this is so, and what we might do to move beyond it. (shrink)
A common and plausible assumption about the relation between desires and practicalreasons—namely, that if øing is an optimal way (or even just a way) for a person, P, to satisfy one of his or her desires, then P has a (normative) reason to ø. This paper discusses that assumption. Although it does not deny that desires are a source of practicalreasons, it shows that in some situations, rare though not impossible, P can lack a (...) reason to ø despite having a desire that he or she could satisfy optimally by øing. (shrink)
: This paper is about the nature of practicalreasons. More specifically, my primary goal is to explore when an agent has a justifying reason for action¾that is, a reason that can be used for justifying an action that has been done or that the agent is planning to do. This concept of reason is central to ethics and to practical philosophy in general. I defend an account of reason according to which a piece of practical (...) reasoning gives an agent a reason for action if he has a reason for its premises and a warrant for holding that these premises logically support the conclusion. That is roughly to say that justifying reasons are closed under logical entailment. To achieve this aim, I shall discuss the components of such reasons. Section 2 presents a principle of closure for justifying reasons and clarifies two important clauses of this principle. In the last section, I show how my account can sidestep the regress problem in practical reasoning. (shrink)
This book investigates law's interaction with practicalreasons. What difference can legal requirements—e.g. traffic rules, tax laws, or work safety regulations—make to normative reasons relevant to our action? Do they give reasons for action that should be weighed among all other reasons? Or can they, instead, exclude and take the place of some other reasons? The book critically examines some of the existing answers and puts forward an alternative understanding of law's interaction with (...) class='Hi'>practicalreasons. -/- At the outset, two competing positions are pitted against each other: Joseph Raz's view that (legitimate) legal authorities have pre-emptive force, namely that they give reasons for action that exclude some other reasons; and an antithesis, according to which law-making institutions (even those that meet prerequisites of legitimacy) can at most provide us with reasons that compete in weight with opposing reasons for action. These two positions are examined from several perspectives, such as justified disobedience cases, law's conduct-guiding function in contexts of bounded rationality, and the phenomenology associated with authority. -/- It is found that, although each of the above positions offers insight into the conundrum at hand, both suffer from significant flaws. These observations form the basis on which an alternative position is put forward and defended. According to this position, the existence of a reasonably just and well-functioning legal system constitutes a reason that fits neither into a model of ordinary reasons for action nor into a pre-emptive paradigm—it constitutes a reason to adopt an (overridable) disposition that inclines its possessor towards compliance with the system's requirements. (shrink)
Normative reasons for action are facts or considerations that contribute to the justification of an action. Sometimes, normative reasons for action conflict: one reason may favor doing something, while another may favor not doing it. These conflicts can be so radical that it seems difficult, if not impossible, to judge which reason should ultimately guide one’s actions. According to a theory of practical rationality known as reasons pluralism, there are some radical cases of conflict among normative (...)reasons for action in which there can be no fact of the matter about what one ought to do. This is because normative reasons fall into a plurality of types, and normative reasons of different types are incommensurable with one another. However, reasons pluralism is compatible with a principle that would enable us to judge when a normative reason of one type overrides a normative reason of another type. I will argue that this “Override Principle” is a facet of practical wisdom—an intellectual virtue. Practical wisdom, as Aristotle construed it, involves the ability to order one’s ends into a coherent system that allows for the attainment of a good life. The Override Principle is sure to be one criterion by which those endowed with practical wisdom would order their ends. (shrink)
Some recent defenses of the 'ought' implies 'can' (OIC) principle try to derive that principle from uncontroversial claims about reasons for action. Reasons for action, it's said, are reasons only for 'potential' actions, which are actions that an agent can perform. Given that 'ought' implies 'reasons', it seems we have our proof of OIC. In this paper, I argue that this latest strategy for defending OIC fails.
Many meta-ethicists are alethists: they claim that practical considerations can constitute normative reasons for action, but not for belief. But the alethist owes us an account of the relevant difference between action and belief, which thereby explains this normative difference. Here, I argue that two salient strategies for discharging this burden fail. According to the first strategy, the relevant difference between action and belief is that truth is the constitutive standard of correctness for belief, but not for action, (...) while according to the second strategy, it is that practical considerations can constitute motivating reasons for action, but not for belief. But the former claim only shifts the alethist's explanatory burden, and the latter claim is wrong—we can believe for practicalreasons. Until the alethist can offer a better account, then, I argue that we should accept that there are practicalreasons for belief. (shrink)
Are there practicalreasons for and against belief? For example, do the practical benefits to oneself or others of holding a certain belief count in favor of that belief? I argue "No." My argument involves considering how practicalreasons for belief, if there were such things, would combine with other reasons for belief in order to determine all-things-considered verdicts, especially in cases involving equally balanced reasons of either a practical or an epistemic (...) sort. (shrink)
There is converging evidence that over the course of the second year children become good at various fairly sophisticated forms of pro-social activities, such as helping, informing and comforting. Not only are toddlers able to do these things, they appear to do them routinely and almost reliably. A striking feature of these interventions, emphasized in the recent literature, is that they show precocious abilities in two different domains: they reflect complex ‘ theory of mind’ abilities as well as ‘altruistic motivation’. (...) Our aim in this paper is to present a theoretical hypothesis that bears on both kinds of developments. The suggestion is that children’s ‘instrumental helping’ reflects their budding understanding of practicalreasons. We can put the basic idea in the familiar terminology of common coding : toddlers conceive of the goals of others’ actions in the same format as the goals of their own actions: in terms of features of their situation that provide us with reasons to act. (shrink)
I reject three theories of practical reason according to which a rational agent's ultimate reasons for acting must be unchanging: that one is rationally obliged in each choice (1) to be prudent--to advance all the desires one foresees ever having (the self-interest theory), rather than just those one has at the time of choice, or (2) to cause states of affairs that are good by some timeless, impersonal measure (Thomas Nagel), or (3) to obey permanent, universalizable deontic principles (...) (Kant). Whether a rational agent's reasons consist in her desires, in the goodness of certain states, or in deontic principles, her reasons now can ask her to take different, conflicting things as reasons later; and contradiction results of rationally obliging her not to take the new things for reasons. (shrink)
This is Chapter 3 of my Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality. In this chapter, I defend the teleological conception of practicalreasons, which holds that the reasons there are for and against performing a given act are wholly determined by the reasons there are for and against preferring its outcome to those of its available alternatives, such that, if S has most reason to perform x, all things considered, then, of all the outcomes that S (...) could bring about, S has most reason to desire that Ox (i.e., x’s outcome) obtains, all things considered. (shrink)
I start by explaining what attitude-related reasons are and why it is plausible to assume that, at least in the domain of practical reason, there are such reasons. Then I turn to Raz’s idea that the practice of practical reasoning commits us to what he calls exclusionary reasons. Being excluded would be a third way, additional to being outweighed and being undermined, in which a reason can be defeated. I try to show that attitude-related (...) class='Hi'>reasons can explain the phenomena Raz appeals to equally well. Attitude-related reasons, however, are weighted against other reasons and, thus, don’t determine a third relation of defeat. On this basis, I voice some doubts about Raz’s conception of exclusionary reasons. (shrink)
This paper is about how epistemic and practicalreasons for belief can be compared against one another when they conflict. It provides a model for determining what one ought to believe, all-things-considered, when there are conflicting epistemic and practicalreasons. The model is meant to supplement a form of pluralism about doxastic normativity that I call ‘Inclusivism’. According to Inclusivism, both epistemic and practical considerations can provide genuine normative reasons for belief, and both types (...) of consideration can contribute to metaphysically determining what beliefs one ought, all-things-considered, to have. (shrink)
Philosophers commonly wonder what a constructivist theory as applied to practicalreasons might look like. For the methods or procedures of reasoning familiar from moral constructivism do not clearly apply generally, to all practicalreasons. The paper argues that procedural specification is not necessary, so long as our aims are not first-order but explanatory. We can seek to explain how there could be facts of the matter about reasons for action without saying what reasons (...) we have. Explanatory constructivism must assurne constructive “norms of practical reasoning” which yield particular truths without assuming them. But philosophers often mistakenly assurne that only “formal” norms of reasoning could fulfill this role. The paper describes a further possibility: norms of reasoning can be “situation-specific” and yet retain truth-independent authority. Though we might doubt whether such norms can be independently defended, we should not doubt the possibility or coherence of constructivism about practicalreasons. (shrink)
It is through our actions that we affect the way the world goes. Whenever we face a choice of what to do, we also face a choice of which of various possible worlds to actualize. Moreover, whenever we act intentionally, we act with the aim of making the world go a certain way. It is only natural, then, to suppose that an agent's reasons for action are a function of her reasons for preferring some of these possible worlds (...) to others, such that what she has most reason to do is to bring about the possible world which, of all those available to her, is the one that she has most reason to want to obtain. This is what is known as the `teleological conception of practicalreasons'. Whether this is the correct conception of practicalreasons is important not only in its own right, but also in virtue of its potential implications for what sort of moral theory we should accept. Below, I argue that the teleological conception is indeed the correct conception of practicalreasons. (shrink)
This paper introduces constitutivism about practical reason, which is the view that we can justify certain normative claims by showing that agents become committed to these claims simply in virtue of acting. According to this view, action has a certain structural feature – a constitutive aim, principle, or standard – that both constitutes events as actions and generates a standard of assessment for action. We can use this standard of assessment to derive normative claims. In short, the authority of (...) certain normative claims arises from the bare fact that we are agents. This essay explains the constitutivst strategy, surveys the extant attempts to generate constitutivist theories, and considers the problems and prospects for the theory. (shrink)
There are a number of proposals as to exactly how reasons, ends and rationality are related. It is often thought that practicalreasons can be analyzed in terms of practical rationality, which, in turn, has something to do with the pursuit of ends. I want to argue against the conceptual priority of rationality and the pursuit of ends, and in favor of the conceptual priority of reasons. This case comes in two parts. I first argue (...) for a new conception of ends by which all ends are had under the guise of reasons. I then articulate a sense of rationality, procedural rationality, that is connected with the pursuit of ends so conceived, where one is rational to the extent that one is motivated to act in accordance with reasons as they appear to be. Unfortunately, these conceptions of ends and procedural rationality are inadequate for building an account of practicalreasons, though I try to explain why it is that the rational pursuit of ends generates intuitive but misleading accounts of genuine normative reasons. The crux of the problem is an insensitivity to an is-seems distinction, where procedural rationality concerns reasons as they appear, and what we are after is a substantive sense of rationality that concerns reasons as they are. Based on these distinct senses of rationality, and some disambiguation of what it is to have a reason, I offer a critique of internalist analyses of one’s reasons in terms of the motivational states of one’s ideal, procedurally rational self, and I offer an alternative analysis of one’s practicalreasons in terms of practical wisdom that overcomes objections to related reasons externalist views. The resulting theory is roughly Humean about procedural rationality and roughly Aristotelian about reasons, capturing the core truths of both camps. (shrink)
Morality is a source of reasons for action, what philosophers call practicalreasons. Kantians say that it ‘gives’ reasons to everyone. We can even think of moral requirements as amounting to particularly strong or stringent reasons, in an effort to demystify deontological views like Kant’s, with its insistence on inescapable or ‘binding’ moral requirements or ‘oughts.’¹ When we say that someone morally ought not to harm others, perhaps all we are saying is that he has (...) a certain kind of reason not to, one that wins out against any opposing reasons such as those touting beneﬁts to him of ignoring others’ concerns. (shrink)
Practicalreasons figure in both the justification and the causal explanation of action. It is usually assumed that the agent’s state of believing rather than what they believe must figure in the causal explanation of action. But, that the agent believes something is not a reason in the sense of being part of the justification of what they do. So it is often concluded that the justifying reason is a different sort of thing from the causally motivating reason. (...) But this means that in a causal process of acting the justifying reasons have done their work by the time the agent has the appropriate beliefs and desires. Transforming these into behaviour is not guided by reason. This conception of action in which there is no role for reason in the part of the process where anything actually gets done is not acceptable. So the original assumption that beliefs rather than the believed facts figure in the casual explanation of action should be challenged. (shrink)
In a recent paper, Selim Berker develops an abductive argument against practicalreasons for belief that exploits an alleged difference between epistemic and practicalreasons. According to Berker, epistemic reasons for belief balance to suspension. If I have equally strong epistemic reasons to believe and disbelieve some proposition, I lack sufficient reason either to believe or disbelieve it. Rather, I have decisive reason to suspend judgment. In contrast, practicalreasons balance to permission. (...) If I have equally strong practicalreasons to φ or ψ, I have sufficient reason to do either. Given this difference, Berker argues that defenders of practicalreasons for belief cannot offer a plausible explanation of how practical and epistemic reasons interact in order to yield all-things-considered normative verdicts. In this essay, I defend a non-interactionist “pure” form of pragmatism against Berker’s objection. I outline a pure pragmatist theory, recapitulate why Berker thinks it also falls prey to his objection, and explain why the objection fails to undermine pure pragmatism. Finally, I consider an additional reason Berker’s argument might seem persuasive and show that it depends on conflating Berker’s objection and a separate challenge to pure pragmatism. Once these distinct challenges are disambiguated, it is easier to see why Berker’s objection is not a significant concern for pure pragmatists. (shrink)
McNaughton and Rawling present a view on which practicalreasons are facts, such as the fact that the rubbish bin is full. This is a non-normative fact, but it is a reason for you to do something, namely take the rubbish out. They see rationality as a matter of consistency. And they see duty as neither purely a matter of rationality nor of practical reason: on the one hand, the rational sociopath is immoral; but, on the other, (...) morality does not require that we always act on the weightiest moral reasons. McNaughton and Rawling criticize various forms of internalism, including Williams’s, and they tentatively propose a view of duty that is neither purely subjective in Prichard’s sense, nor purely objective. (shrink)
In this article I reflect on the question of whether we can have reason to make transformative choices. In attempting to answer it, I do three things. First, I bring forward an internalist account of practicalreasons which entails the idea that agents should deliberate to the best of their ability. Second, I discuss L.A. Paul’s views on transformative choice, arguing that, although they present a real problem, the problem is not as profound as she believes it is. (...) Third, I argue that, given the situation in which we face transformative choices, trust is an appropriate response to transformative choices, and that when one’s trust that one’s current desires will be fulfilled in making a transformative choice is reasonable, one has a reason to make it. Thus, trust turns out to be a crucial response to a profound problem each of us will face during our lives. (shrink)
There is an explanatory constraint on practicalreasons: practicalreasons have to be the kinds of things that we can act for. Some philosophers, notably Bernard Williams, have argued that the explanatory constraint favours internalism about reasons: for an agent to have a reason to x, it is at least a necessary condition that she would, after ideal deliberation, be motivated to x. Internalism suggests that naturalism about reasons is more plausible for, in this (...) view, reasons are psychological states. However, reasons must not only be the kinds of things we can act for, at least some reasons must be good reasons, i.e. normative requirements. Derek Parfit argues that internalist, naturalist accounts cannot capture the normative aspect of reasons. He takes this to be a point in favour of his own externalist, non-naturalist account. I ask first whether Williams' account does fail to account for the normativity of reasons as Parfit argues, and second whether Parfit's externalist account can adequately meet the explanatory constraint. Although I claim that the answer to the first question is yes and the second no, the answer to both questions turns on the nature of practical rationality. My case stands if practical rationality is procedural, and falls if practical rationality is substantive. I argue, however, that the burden of proof is on those who, like Parfit, wish to defend a substantive account of practical rationality. S. Afr. J. Philos. Vol.24(2) 2005: 97-108. (shrink)
This paper refutes a common and influential thesis about the conditions under which desires provide agents with practicalreasons. That thesis is that if any agent. A, has a desire which A could satisfy by (ping, then A has a reason—a minimal reason, at least—to (p. Although this thesis comes close to stating a truth, it falls short.
This paper refutes a common and influential thesis about the conditions under which desires provide agents with practicalreasons. That thesis is that if any agent. A, has a desire which A could satisfy by (ping, then A has a reason—a minimal reason, at least—to (p. Although this thesis comes close to stating a truth, it falls short.
On a Humean account, a person's reasons for action are determined by her desires---in the broadest sense of 'desires', that is, noncognitive pro-attitudes. In four essays, I defend this account against several prominent objections. The first essay addresses the concern that the Humean cannot account for rationalizing reasons . The next three essays concern justifying reasons : reasons for action that are more fully normative than those that merely make action intelligible. Instrumental reasons, prudential (...) class='Hi'>reasons, and intrinsic reasons are three different sorts of reasons to which an agent can appeal in justifying her action. ;Each essay focuses on a specific attack against the Humean account. In the second essay I argue that the normatively of instrumental reasons is brute ; and that, contrary to the received view, this is compatible with Humeanism. In the third essay I consider prudential reasons and defend the Humean claim that all and only present concerns provide normative reasons for action. In the final essay I address the fundamental question considerations of deliberative relevance: what makes certain desires and considerations relevant to a specific decision-making context, that is, what puts them among a person's present active reasons. ;In addition to defending a broadly Humean account of practicalreasons, I am concerned to expand the components of a plausible form of Humeanism. Specifically, I argue that desires alone are not always sufficient to ground an agent's reasons, and that affective states are sometimes also necessary. I call this view "thick Humeanism". In essays one and four especially, I urge that a central place be given to affective states in determining practicalreasons. I also invoke recent studies in cognitive psychology to support my claims about the role of the emotions in practical deliberation. (shrink)
Contents Introduction 1 Chapter 1 Internalism and externalism: some terminology 1.1 Introduction 5 1.2 Falk and Frankena 5 1.3 The internalist position modified 9 1.4 The externalist position elaborated 12 1.5 Judgment internalism/externalism versus existence internalism/externalism 15 1.6 Other kinds of internalism and externalism 17 1.7 Varieties of existence internalism and externalism 19 1.8 Conclusion 26 Chapter 2 Bernard Williams on practicalreasons 2.1 Introduction 27 2.2 The internal reason theory 27 2.3 Refining the sub-Humean model 29 2.4 (...) Objections against external reasons 40 2.4.1 The no-explanatory-force objection 41 2.4.2 The no-motivational-fuel objection 44 2.4.3 The obscurity objection 55 2.5 Conclusion 59 Chapter 3 Michael Smith on practicalreasons 3.1 Introduction 60 3.2 The moral problem 60 3.3 Cognitivism, internalism, and Humean motivation 65 3.3.1 The objectivity of moral obligations 65 3.3.2 The practicality of moral judgments 67 3.3.3 The Humean theory of motivation 70 3.4 The conceptual analysis of normative reasons 73 3.4.1 Platitudes about normative reasons 73 3.4.2 The advice model 76 3.4.3 ‘If fully rational’-condition: Smith versus Williams 79 3.4.4 The analysis captures the platitudes 84 3.5 Moral rationalism: the solution to the moral problem 88 3.6 Smith’s analysis of normative reasons evaluated 91 3.6.1 The analysis trivializes convergence 92 3.6.2 Why do reasons have to be objective? 94 3.6.3 The analysis does not guarantee practicality 96 3.6.4 The analysis rests on a false platitude 98 3.6.5 Normative reasons and what I would desire if I were fully rational 100 3.6.6 The advice model is inconsistent with the convergence thesis 102 3.7 Conclusion 106 Appendix 1: Michael Smith between moral realism and moral nihilism 107 Appendix 2: Michael Smith’s fetishism objection against judgment externalism 111 Chapter 4 Derek Parfit on practicalreasons 4.1 Introduction 132 4.2 Parfit’s externalism 132 4.2.1 The obscurity objection rejected 133 4.2.2 The no-explanatory-force objection rejected 135 4.2.3 The no-motivation-fuel objection rejected 136 4.3 Parfit’s value-based reason theory 139 4.3.1 Internalism and the desire-based reason theory 139 4.3.2 Parfit’s argument against reductive desire-based reason views 143 4.3.3 Parfit’s argument against non-reductive desire-based reason views 148 4.3.4 Arguments in favour of the value-based reason theory 154 4.4 Parfit’s normative non-naturalism 161 4.4.1 Korsgaard’s criticism of realism 163 4.4.2 Korsgaard’s constructivism 166 4.4.3 Parfit’s criticism of constructivism 168 4.4.4 The non-naturalist account of normativity evaluated 174 4.5 Conclusion 179 Appendix: Varieties of moral realism 180 Chapter 5 Harry Frankfurt on practicalreasons 5.1 Introduction 194 5.2 Frankfurt’s theory of care and love 194 5.2.1 The hierarchical model 195 5.2.2 Care 200 5.2.3 Love 211 5.3 The love-based reason theory 215 5.4 The love-based reason theory evaluated 225 5.4.1 Love and desire: both motivating, both natural 225 5.4.2 The groundlessness objection 227 5.4.3 The authority of love 239 5.4.4 The objection of normative triviality 244 5.4.5 The love-based reason theory and morality 248 5.5. Conclusion 254 Bibliography 256. (shrink)
Current treatments of practical rationality understand reasons as considerations counting in favor of or against some practical option, treating the positive and the negative case as symmetrical. Typically the focus is on examples of positive reasons. However, I want to shift the spotlight to negative reasons, as making a tighter or more direct link to rationality — and ultimately to morality, which is what much of the current interest in reasons is meant to clarify. (...) Recognizing a positive/negative asymmetry in normative force will let us reconcile the view of moral or other requirements as based on reasons with the denial that reasons as such, even all-thingsconsidered reasons, yield requirements — or as I like to put it, rationally compel. (shrink)
There has been little discussion about how to act when uncertain about the existence of moral reasons in general. In this paper I will argue that despite being uncertain about the existence of moral reasons, someone can still have a practical reason to act in a particular way. This practical reason is morally relevant because it will have an impact on whether we’re making the correct moral decision. This practical reason will result from a principle (...) of decision-making that can be used when someone is agnostic about the existence of moral reasons. The aims of this paper include explicitly beginning the discussion about this topic and advocating for a principle of moral decision-making that can be used despite being metaethically agnostic. (shrink)
Can desires and actions be evaluated as responsive or unresponsive to reasons, in ways that extend beyond the instrumental implications of one's (other) desires? And does there exist any form of inference or reasoning that is practical in nature? Hume is generally supposed to have given an unambiguously negative reply to both of these questions. In particular, he is often taken to have held that no desire, passion, or action may ever be said to be opposed to (...) class='Hi'>reasons, except (perhaps) in so far as it is based on a false belief or confused piece of means-ends reasoning. And he is generally taken to have held that the existence of some sort of peculiarly practical form of inference or reasoning is fundamentally .. (shrink)
Christoph Hanisch | : I discuss and compare Joseph Raz’s and Christine Korsgaard’s accounts of reasons for action. One fundamental disagreement separating the two approaches is the role that they assign to two central features of practical deliberation: Korsgaard assigns priority to identity-constituting practical principles, whereas for Raz reasons are the fundamental normative units. In the course of this comparison, two claims are defended: Taking-up a realist stance vis-à-vis one’s reasons is a non-optional feature of (...) one’s first-personal deliberative standpoint. This remains true even if this renders the workings of an agent’s reasons analogous to a placebo. The motivational aspect of an agent’s reasons should not be conceived along causalist lines. Exploiting a thought by Hegel, I discuss an alternative conception of reasons’ temporal genesis and force—i.e., one that allows reasons for a particular action to emerge at a later point. | : Cet article résume et compare les théories de Joseph Raz et de Christine Korsgaard sur les raisons qui supportent l’action. Un désaccord fondamental séparant ces deux approches tient au rôle qu’elles attribuent à deux caractéristiques essentielles de la délibération pratique : Korsgaard accorde un primat normatif à l’identité constituant les principes pratiques, alors que Raz accorde ce primat aux raisons comme unités normatives. Au fil de cette comparaison, deux revendications sont défendues : 1) L’adoption d’une position réaliste quant aux raisons de quelqu’un est une caractéristique non facultative de son point de vue délibératif à la première personne. Cela reste vrai même si cela rend le fonctionnement des motifs d’un.e agent.e analogue à celui d’un placebo. 2) L’aspect motivationnel des raisons d’un.e agent.e ne doit pas être conçu selon une perspective causaliste. Exploitant une idée de Hegel, je discute d’une autre conception possible de la genèse temporelle et de la force des raisons d’agir, ce qui permet d’envisager qu’elles peuvent aussi apparaître après coup. (shrink)
A number of philosophers have accepted the thesis that reasons for action are 'universalizable' in the sense that every such reason commits one to a universal prescription or practical judgment. The purpose of the present paper is to refute this thesis. The author presents and defends counterexamples to both strong and weak versions of the thesis, And shows that the thesis can be given up without denying the general contention that 'reason'-Statements imply universals.
Jonathan Dancy, in his 1994 Aristotelian Society Presidential Address, set out to show ''why there is really no such thing as the theory of motivation''. In this paper I want to agree that there is no such thing, and to offer reasons of a different kind for that conclusion. I shall suggest that the so-called theory of motivation misconstrues the question which it purports to answer, and that when we properly analyse the question and distinguish it clearly from other (...) questions with which it should not be confused, we do not need a theory of motivation at all. (shrink)
As Socrates famously noted, there is perhaps no more important question than how we ought to live. And the answer to this question depends on how the reasons that we have for living in various different ways combine and compete. To illustrate, suppose that I’ve just received a substantial raise from my employer. What should I do with the extra money? It seems that I have most moral reason to donate it to effective charities but most self-interested reason to (...) spend it on luxuries for myself. So, whether I should live my life as I have most moral reason to live it or as I have most self-interested reason to live it depends on how these and other sorts of reasons combine and compete to determine what I have most reason to do, all things considered. This short book seeks to figure out how different sorts of reasons—and, in particular, moral reasons and non-moral reasons—combine and compete to determine how we ought to live. (shrink)
We often say that one reason is stronger, or weightier, than another. These are metaphors. What does normative strength or weight really consist in? Scanlon (2014) offers a novel answer to this question. His answer appeals to counterfactuals of various kinds. I argue that appealing to counterfactuals leads to deep problems for his view.
In discussions of practical reason we often encounter the view that a fact is a reason for an agent to act only if the fact is capable of moving the agent to act. This view figures centrally in many philosophical controversies, and while taken for granted by some, it is vigorously disputed by others. In this essay I show that if the disputed position is correctly interpreted, it is well armored against stock objections and implied by a premise that (...) is not only plausible, but generally accepted by the position's critics. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that Hume accepts two claims. The first is that it is not possible for a human agent, having adopted an end, to remain committed to it, have it in view, and be indifferent to what he or she acknowledges as the proper means of realizing it, where indifference is the absence of a favoring attitude.1 The second is that, other things being equal, an agent who fails through weak resolve to take the acknowledged means to (...) an acknowledged end violates a norm of practical agency akin to Kant’s hypothetical imperative understood as a command to take the means—that is, to do what has the prospect of realizing the ends one happens to have adopted. I begin with the first claim because some.. (shrink)
Despite its title, this is an extremely useful book: the first four of its five chapters expound the standard range of theories of practical reasoning more clearly and accurately than one might have thought possible. A measure of Schaubroeck’s authoritative handling of her material is her ability to navigate the peaks, troughs and crevasses of the myriad variations of ‘internalism’ and ‘externalism’ without inducing either vertigo or fury. Thus she patiently guides the reader through the stupefying obstacles along the (...) route of post-Bernard Williams usages of the terminology as well, it seems to me, as anyone could possibly do. Her specific focus, furthermore, on what she terms—albeit in my view somewhat misleadingly—Humean , Kantian and Platonic variations on a theme enables the reader to see very clearly just what is at stake in the tangled literature on practical reasoning and why it matters. As a guide for the perplexed, then, or for t .. (shrink)
The paper argues that normative reasons are of two fundamental kinds, practical which are value related, and adaptive, which are not related to any value, but indicate how our beliefs and emotions should adjust to fit how things are in the world. The distinction is applied and defended, in part through an additional distinction between standard and non-standard reasons (for actions, intentions, emotions or belief).
I am writing a mediocre paper on a topic you are not particularly interested in. You don't have, it seems safe to assume, a (normative) reason to read my draft. I then ask whether you would be willing to have a look and tell me what you think. Suddenly you do have a (normative) reason to read my draft. By my asking, I managed to give you the reason to read the draft. What does such reason-giving consist in? And how (...) is it that we can do it? In this paper, I characterize what I call robust reason giving, the kind present in requests. I distinguish it from epistemic and merely triggering reason-giving, I discuss in detail the phenomenology of robust reason-giving, and I offer an analysis of robust reason-giving in terms of the complex intentions of the reason-giver and of the normative background. (shrink)