As Kant claimed in the Groundwork, and as the idea has been developed by Korsgaard 1997, Bratman 1987, and Broome 2002. This formulation is agnostic on whether reasons for ends derive from our desiring those ends, or from the relation of those ends to things of independent value. However, desire-based theorists may deny, against Hubin 1999, that their theory is a combination of a principle of instrumental transmission and the principle that reasons for ends are provided by desires. (...) Instead, they may say, there is just one principle, a principle of, if you will, instrumental transmutation: if one desires the end, then one has reason to take the means. See the discussion of General Production, in section 8, for a doubt about this. (shrink)
It is often claimed that irreducibly normative truths would have unacceptable metaphysical implications, and are incompatible with a scientific view of the world. The book argues, on the basis of a general account of the relevance of ontological questions, that this claim is mistaken. It is also a mistake to think that interpreting normative judgments as beliefs would make it impossible to explain their connection with action. An agent’s acceptance of a normative judgment can explain that agent’s subsequent action because (...) it is part of being a rational agent that such an agent’s beliefs about reasons normally, but not invariably, make a difference to the agent’s subsequent behavior. Because facts about reasons are not entities existing apart from us, there is no epistemological problem of how we can “be in touch with” such facts. There are serious worries about normative knowledge, but the problems involved are internal to the normative domain itself. The best solution to these problems would be an overall account of the domain of reasons in normative terms, supported by an argument from reflective equilibrium. But no existing account, constructivist, or based on desires or on an idea of rationality, is plausible, and no alternative is likely to succeed. Conclusions about reasons for action must rest on more piecemeal applications of the method of reflective equilibrium. (shrink)
This paper explores various subtleties in our ordinary thought and talk about normative reasons—subtleties which, if taken seriously, have various upshots, both substantive and methodological. I focus on two subtleties in particular. The first concerns the use of reason (in its normative sense) as both a count noun and as a mass noun, and the second concerns the context-sensitivity of normative reasons-claims. The more carefully we look at the language of reasons, I argue, the clearer its limitations (...) and liabilities become. The cumulative upshot is that although talk of reasons is intelligible and useful for the purposes of communication, we should be wary of placing much weight on it when engaging in substantive normative inquiry. By way of illustration, I consider some potential pitfalls of taking our talk of reasons too seriously, explaining how careful attention to the language of reasons undermines the main argument for moral particularism, Mark Schroeder’s recent defense of Humeanism about practical reasons, and the “reasons-first” program in metanormativity. (shrink)
This paper investigates two puzzles in practical reason and proposes a solution to them. First, sometimes, when we are practically certain that neither of two alternatives is better than or as good as the other with respect to what matters in the choice between them, it nevertheless seems perfectly rational to continue to deliberate, and sometimes the result of that deliberation is a conclusion that one alternative is better, where there is no error in one’s previous judgment. Second, there are (...) striking differences between rational agents – some rational agents have most reason to pursue careers on Wall Street while others have most reason to take up a career in teaching, or scuba diving, or working for political causes. These differences aren’t plausibly explained by ‘passive’ facts about our psychology or their causal interaction with our environment; instead, these facts seem in some sense to ‘express who we are’. But what is this sense? These puzzles disappear if we adopt a novel view about the source of the normativity of reasons – some reasons are given to us and others are reasons in virtue of an act of will. We make certain considerations reasons through an act of will and thus sometimes make it true through an act of agency that we have most reason to do one thing rather than another. (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)
I defend the view that a reason for someone to do something is just a reason why she ought to do it. This simple view has been thought incompatible with the existence of reasons to do things that we may refrain from doing or even ought not to do. For it is widely assumed that there are reasons why we ought to do something only if we ought to do it. I present several counterexamples to this principle and (...) reject some ways of understanding "ought" so that the principle is compatible with my examples. I conclude with a hypothesis for when and why the principle should be expected to fail. (shrink)
In this paper, we argue for a particular informative and unified analysis of normative reasons. According to this analysis, a fact F is a reason to act in a certain way just in case it is evidence that one ought to act in that way. Similarly, F is a reason to believe a certain proposition just in case it is evidence for the truth of this proposition. Putting the relatively uncontroversial claim about reasons for belief to one side, (...) we present several arguments in favor of our analysis of reasons for action. We then turn to consider a series of objections to the analysis. We conclude that there are good reasons to accept the analysis and that the objections do not succeed. (shrink)
One leading approach to justification comes from the reliabilist tradition, which maintains that a belief is justified provided that it is reliably formed. Another comes from the ‘Reasons First’ tradition, which claims that a belief is justified provided that it is based on reasons that support it. These two approaches are typically developed in isolation from each other; this essay motivates and defends a synthesis. On the view proposed here, justification is understood in terms of an agent’s (...) class='Hi'>reasons for belief, which are in turn analyzed along reliabilist lines: an agent's reasons for belief are the states that serve as inputs to their reliable processes. I show that this synthesis allows each tradition to profit from the other's explanatory resources. In particular, it enables reliabilists to explain epistemic defeat without abandoning their naturalistic ambitions. I go on to compare my proposed synthesis with other hybrid versions of reliabilism that have been proposed in the literature. (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.
A discussion of epistemic reasons, theoretical rationality, and the relationship between them. Discusses the ontology of reasons and evidence, the relationship between reasons (motivating, normative, possessed, apparent, genuine, etc.) and rationality, the relationship between epistemic reasons and evidence, the relationship between rationality, justification, and knowledge, and many other related topics.
This chapter is organized around four central questions about the role of reasons in the epistemology of perception. The 'whether?' question: does perception provide us with reasons for belief about the external world? The 'how?' question: how does perception provide us with reasons for belief about the external world? The 'when?' question: when does perception provide us with reasons for belief about the external world? The 'what?' question: what are the reasons that perception provides us (...) with for belief about the external world? (shrink)
What is involved in weighing normative reasons against each other? One attractive answer offers us the following Simple Picture: a fact is a reason for action when it bears to an action the normative relation of counting in its favour; this relation comes in different strengths or weights; the weights of the reasons for and against an action can be summed; the reasons for performing the action are sufficient when no other action is more strongly supported, overall; (...) the reasons are decisive when it is most strongly supported; one ought to perform the action there is most reason to perform; rational deliberation is weighing reasons correctly; and acting rationally is doing what one has sufficient reasons to do. This chapter investigates various ways in which, on examination, this Simple Picture appears to require modification and refinement. It examines some of the ways in which talk of the weight of a reason may need improvement, looks more closely at the relationship between reasons and rationality, and asks whether there are ways in which a reason can be defeated which are not kinds of outweighing. The conclusion is that while in some respects the Simple Picture does need to be corrected, in others the jury is out. (shrink)
Over the past thirty years or so, virtues and reasons have emerged as two of the most fruitful and important concepts in contemporary moral philosophy. Virtue theory and moral psychology, for instance, are currently two burgeoning areas of philosophical investigation that involve different, but clearly related, focuses on individual agents’ responsiveness to reasons. The virtues themselves are major components of current ethical theories whose approaches to substantive or normative issues remain remarkably divergent in other respects. The virtues are (...) also increasingly important in a variety of new approaches to epistemology. ... (shrink)
John Broome argues that rationality cannot consist in reasons-responsiveness since rationality supervenes on the mind, while reasons-responsiveness does not supervene on the mind. I here defend this conception of rationality by way of defending the assumption that reasons-responsiveness supervenes on the mind. Given the many advantages of an analysis of rationality in terms of reasons-responsiveness, and in light of independent considerations in favour of the view that reasons-responsiveness supervenes on the mind, we should take seriously (...) the backup view, a hypothesis that explains why reasons-responsiveness supervenes on the mind even though paradigmatic reasons are external facts. I argue that Broome’s objections to the backup view, as well as his more general objection to the thesis that reasons-responsiveness supervenes on the mind, do not succeed. (shrink)
I argue that Davidson's conception of motivating reasons as belief-desire pairs suggests a model of normative reasons for action that is superior to the orthodox conception according to which normative reasons are propositions, facts, or the truth-makers of such facts.
There has been a considerable amount of debate about the norms of belief, but little discussion to date about what the reasons associated with these norms demand from us. By working out an account of what reasons demand, we can better understand the nature of justification.
Many meta-ethicists have thought that rationality requires us to heed apparent normative reasons, not objective normative reasons. But what are apparent reasons? There are two kinds of standard answers. On de dicto views, R is an apparent reason for S to \ when it appears to S that R is an objective reason to \ . On de re views, R is an apparent reason for S to \ when R’s truth would constitute an objective reason for (...) S to \ , and it appears to S that R. De re views are currently more popular because they avoid overintellectualizing rationality. But they face problems owing to the way in which they do so. Some assume that we can escape these problems by requiring more information to be apparent or by appealing to defeat. But these strategies fail. So, I defend a new view: apparent reasons are apparent facts that agents are competently attracted to treat like objective reasons, where competence is indirectly defined in terms of objective reasons and a competence/performance distinction is honored. Since one can treat X like an F without having the concept of an F, the view does not overintellectualize rationality. But it is also strong enough to dodge the pitfalls of de re views. (shrink)
In a number of recent philosophical debates, it has become common to distinguish between two kinds of normative reasons, often called the right kind of reasons (henceforth: RKR) and the wrong kind of reasons (henceforth: WKR). The distinction was first introduced in discussions of the so-called buck-passing account of value, which aims to analyze value properties in terms of reasons for pro-attitudes and has been argued to face the wrong kind of reasons problem. But nowadays (...) it also gets applied in other philosophical contexts and to reasons for other responses than pro-attitudes, for example in recent debates about evidentialism and pragmatism about reasons for belief. While there seems to be wide agreement that there is a general and uniform distinction that applies to reasons for different responses, there is little agreement about the scope, relevance and nature of this distinction. Our aim in this article is to shed some light on this issue by surveying the RKR/WKR distinction as it has been drawn with respect to different responses, and by examining how it can be understood as a uniform distinction across different contexts. We start by considering reasons for pro-attitudes and emotions in the context of the buck-passing account of value (§1). Subsequently we address the distinction that philosophers have drawn with respect to reasons for other attitudes, such as beliefs and intentions (§2), as well as with respect to reasons for action (§3). We discuss the similarities and differences between the ways in which philosophers have drawn the RKR/WKR distinction in these areas and offer different interpretations of the idea of a general, uniform distinction. The major upshot is that there is at least one interesting way of substantiating a general RKR/WKR distinction with respect to a broad range of attitudes as well as actions. We argue that this has important implications for the proper scope of buck-passing accounts and the status of the wrong kind of reasons problem (§4). (shrink)
This paper champions the view (REG) that the concept of a normative reason for an agent S to perform an action A is that of an explanation why it would be good (in some way, to some degree) for S to do A. REG has numerous virtues, but faces some significant challenges which prompt many philosophers to be skeptical that it can correctly account for all our reasons. I demonstrate how five different puzzles about normative reasons can be (...) solved by attention to the concept of goodness, and in particular observing the ways in which it—and consequently, talk about reasons—is sensitive to context (ends and information). Rather than asking simply whether or not certain facts are reasons for S to do A, we need to explore the contexts in which it is and is not correct to describe a certain fact as “a reason” for S to do A. These five puzzles concern: (1) reasons for attitudes of the “right kind”, (2) evidence as reasons, (3) normative facts as reasons, (4) subjective reasons, and (5) attitudes as reasons. (shrink)
Moral discourse contains judgements of two prominent kinds. It contains deontic judgements about rightness and wrongness, obligation and duty, and what a person ought to do. As I understand them, these deontic judgements are normative: they express conclusions about the bearing of normative reasons on the actions and other responses that are available to us. And it contains evaluative judgements about goodness and badness. Prominent among these are the judgements that evaluate the quality of our responsiveness to morally relevant (...)reasons. We have a rich vocabulary for making such evaluations – our vocabulary of aretaic terms. Aretaic terms are those which can be used to attribute virtues: terms such as “kind”, “honest”, “fair”, “tolerant” and “reliable”. However, while they can be used to attribute virtues, they have other uses too; and they can be applied not only to persons but also to various states of persons, to actions and other responses, and to patterns of response. In this paper, I offer an account of the relationship between some of the principal uses of aretaic terms; and I show how a useful taxonomy of moral virtues can be generated from the thought that these are ways of being well oriented to morally relevant reasons. (shrink)
I explain what teleological reasons are, distinguish between direct and indirect teleological reasons, and discuss both whether all practical reasons are teleological and whether all teleological reasons are direct.
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 (...) class='Hi'>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)
This paper looks at whether it is possible to unify the requirements of rationality with the demands of normative reasons. It might seem impossible to do because one depends upon the agent’s perspective and the other upon features of the situation. Enter Reasons Perspectivism. Reasons perspectivists think they can show that rationality does consist in responding correctly to reasons by placing epistemic constraints on these reasons. They think that if normative reasons are subject to (...) the right epistemic constraints, rational requirements will correspond to the demands generated by normative reasons. While this proposal is prima facie plausible, it cannot ultimately unify reasons and rationality. There is no epistemic constraint that can do what reasons perspectivists would need it to do. Some constraints are too strict. The rest are too slack. This points to a general problem with the reasons-first program. Once we recognize that the agent’s epistemic position helps determine what she should do, we have to reject the idea that the features of the agent’s situation can help determine what we should do. Either rationality crowds out reasons and their demands or the reasons will make unreasonable demands. (shrink)
Objective reasons are given by the facts. Subjective reasons are given by one’s perspective on the facts. Subjective reasons, not objective reasons, determine what it is rational to do. In this paper, I argue against a prominent account of subjective reasons. The problem with that account, I suggest, is that it makes what one has subjective reason to do, and hence what it is rational to do, turn on matters outside or independent of one’s perspective. (...) After explaining and establishing this point, I offer a novel account of subjective reasons which avoids the problem. (shrink)
Epistemic reasons are mental states. They are not propositions or non-mental facts. The discussion proceeds as follows. Section 1 introduces the topic. Section 2 gives two concrete examples of how our topic directly affects the internalism/externalism debate in normative epistemology. Section 3 responds to an argument against the view that reasons are mental states. Section 4 presents two problems for the view that reasons are propositions. Section 5 presents two problems for the view that reasons are (...) non-mental facts. Section 6 argues that reasons are mental states. Section 7 responds to objections. (shrink)
Internalists about reasons following Bernard Williams claim that an agent’s normative reasons for action are constrained in some interesting way by her desires or motivations. In this paper, I offer a new argument for such a position—although one that resonates, I believe, with certain key elements of Williams’ original view. I initially draw on P.F. Strawson’s famous distinction between the interpersonal and the objective stances that we can take to other people, from the second-person point of view. I (...) suggest that we should accept Strawson’s contention that the activity of reasoning with someone about what she ought to do naturally belongs to the interpersonal mode of interaction. I also suggest that reasons for an agent to perform some action are considerations which would be apt to be cited in favor of that action, within an idealized version of this advisory social practice. I then go on to argue that one would take leave of the interpersonal stance towards someone—thus crossing the line, so to speak—in suggesting that she do something one knows she wouldn’t want to do, even following an exhaustive attempt to hash it out with her. An internalist necessity constraint on reasons is defended on this basis. (shrink)
In this paper I argue against the stronger of the two views concerning the right and wrong kind of reasons for belief, i.e. the view that the only genuine normative reasons for belief are evidential. The project in this paper is primarily negative, but with an ultimately positive aim. That aim is to leave room for the possibility that there are genuine pragmatic reasons for belief. Work is required to make room for this view, because evidentialism of (...) a strict variety remains the default view in much of the debate concerning normative reasons for belief. Strict versions of evidentialism are inconsistent with the view that there are genuine pragmatic reasons for belief. (shrink)
What does the aesthetic ask of us? What claims do the aesthetic features of the objects and events in our environment make on us? My answer in this paper is: that depends. Aesthetic reasons can only justify feelings – they cannot demand them. A corollary of this is that there are no aesthetic obligations to feel, only permissions. However, I argue, aesthetic reasons can demand actions – they do not merely justify them. A corollary of this is that (...) there are aesthetic obligations to act, not only permissions. So, I conclude, the aesthetic asks little of us as patients and much of as agents. (shrink)
When we have a normative reason, and we act for that reason, it becomes our motivating reason. But we can have either kind of reason without having the other. Thus, if I jump into the canal, my motivating reason was provided by my belief; but I had no normative reason to jump. I merely thought I did. And, if I failed to notice that the canal was frozen, I had a reason not to jump that, because it was unknown to (...) me, did not motivate me. Though we can have normative reasons without being motivated, and vice versa, such reasons are closely related to our motivation. There are, however, very different views about what this relation is. This disagreement raises wider questions about what normative reasons are, and about which reasons there are. After sketching some of these views, I shall discuss some arguments by Williams, and then say where, in my opinion, the truth lies. [...] I [will] suggest why, as I believe, we should be non-reductive normative realists, and should regard all reasons as external. (shrink)
Which principles govern the transmission of reasons from ends to means? Some philosophers have suggested a liberal transmission principle, according to which agents have an instrumental reason for an action whenever this action is a means for them to do what they have non-instrumental reason to do. In this paper, we (i) discuss the merits and demerits of the liberal transmission principle, (ii) argue that there are good reasons to reject it, and (iii) present an alternative, less liberal (...) transmission principle, which allows us to accommodate those phenomena that seem to support the liberal transmission principle while avoiding its problems. (shrink)
Bernard Williams's motivational reasons-internalism fails to capture our first-order reasons judgements, while Derek Parfit's nonnaturalistic reasons-externalism cannot explain the nature or normative authority of reasons. This paper offers an intermediary view, reformulating scepticism about external reasons as the claim not that they don't exist but rather that they don't matter. The end-relational theory of normative reasons is proposed, according to which a reason for an action is a fact that explains why the action would (...) be good relative to some end, where the relevant end for any ascription of reasons is determined by the speaker's conversational context. Because these ends need not be the agent's ends, Williams is wrong to reject the existence of external reasons. But contra Parfit, a reason for action is only important for an agent if it is motivationally internal to that agent. (shrink)
In this paper I defend what I call the argument from epistemic reasons against the moral error theory. I argue that the moral error theory entails that there are no epistemic reasons for belief and that this is bad news for the moral error theory since, if there are no epistemic reasons for belief, no one knows anything. If no one knows anything, then no one knows that there is thought when they are thinking, and no one (...) knows that they do not know everything. And it could not be the case that we do not know that there is thought when we believe that there is thought and that we do not know that we do not know everything. I address several objections to the claim that the moral error theory entails that there are no epistemic reasons for belief. It might seem that arguing against the error theory on the grounds that it entails that no one knows anything is just providing a Moorean argument against the moral error theory. I show that even if my argument against the error theory is indeed a Moorean one, it avoids Streumer's, McPherson's and Olson's objections to previous Moorean arguments against the error theory and is a more powerful argument against the error theory than Moore's argument against external world skepticism is against external world skepticism. (shrink)
This paper is a response to two sets of published criticisms of the 'Reasons as Evidence’ thesis concerning normative reasons, proposed and defended in earlier papers. According to this thesis, a fact is a normative reason for an agent to Φ just in case this fact is evidence that this agent ought to Φ. John Broome and John Brunero have presented a number of challenging criticisms of this thesis which focus, for the most part, on problems that it (...) appears to confront when it comes to the topic of the weighing of reasons. Our paper responds to all of the criticisms that these critics have provided, shedding fresh light on this interesting topic in the process. (shrink)
The standard view says that epistemic normativity is normativity of belief. If you’re an evidentialist, for example, you’ll think that all epistemic reasons are reasons to believe what your evidence supports. Here we present a line of argument that pushes back against this standard view. If the argument is right, there are epistemic reasons for things other than belief. The argument starts with evidentialist commitments and proceeds by a series of cases, each containing a reason. As the (...) cases progress, the reasons change from counting in favor of things like having a belief to things like performing ordinary actions. We argue that each of those reasons is epistemic. If the argument succeeds, we should think there are epistemic reasons to consider hypotheses, conduct thought and physical experiments, extend one’s evidence, and perform mundane tasks like eating a sandwich, just as there are epistemic reasons to believe what one’s evidence supports. (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 fact that someone is generous is a reason to admire them. The fact that someone will pay you to admire them is also a reason to admire them. But there is a difference in kind between these two reasons: the former seems to be the ‘right’ kind of reason to admire, whereas the latter seems to be the ‘wrong’ kind of reason to admire. The Wrong Kind of Reasons Problem is the problem of explaining the difference between (...) the ‘right’ and the ‘wrong’ kind of reasons wherever it appears. In this article I argue that two recent proposals for solving the Wrong Kind of Reasons Problem do not work. I then offer an alternative solution that provides a unified, systematic explanation of the difference between the two kinds of reasons. (shrink)
A normative reason for a person to? is a consideration which favours?ing. A motivating reason is a reason for which or on the basis of which a person?s. This paper explores a connection between normative and motivating reasons. More specifically, it explores the idea that there are second-order normative reasons to? for or on the basis of certain first-order normative reasons. In this paper, I challenge the view that there are second-order reasons so understood. I then (...) show that prominent views in contemporary epistemology are committed to the existence of second-order reasons, specifically, views about the epistemic norms governing practical reasoning and about the role of higher-order evidence. If there are no second-order reasons, those views are mistaken. (shrink)
Here I defend my solution to the wrong-kind-of-reason problem against Mark Schroeder’s criticisms. In doing so, I highlight an important difference between other accounts of reasons and my own. While others understand reasons as considerations that count in favor of attitudes, I understand reasons as considerations that bear (or are taken to bear) on questions. Thus, to relate reasons to attitudes, on my account, we must consider the relation between attitudes and questions. By considering that relation, (...) we not only solve the wrong-kind-of-reason problem, but we also bring into view rational agency—the use of reasons in thought. (shrink)
When one has both epistemic and practical reasons 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 practical reasons 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 practical (...)reasons. 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)
In this paper, I develop a theory of how claims about an agent’s normative reasons are sensitive to the epistemic circumstances of this agent, which preserves the plausible ideas that reasons are facts and that reasons can be discovered in deliberation and disclosed in advice. I argue that a plausible theory of this kind must take into account the difference between synchronic and diachronic reasons, i.e. reasons for acting immediately and reasons for acting at (...) some later point in time. I provide a general account of the relation between synchronic and diachronic reasons, demonstrate its implications for the evidence-sensitivity of reasons and finally present and defend an argument for my view. (shrink)
Can love be an appropriate response to a person? In this paper, I argue that it can. First, I discuss the reasons why we might think this question should be answered in the negative. This will help us clarify the question itself. Then I argue that, even though extant accounts of reasons for love are inadequate, there remains the suspicion that there must be something about people which make our love for them appropriate. Being lovable, I contend, is (...) what makes our love for them appropriate, just as being fearsome is what makes our fear of certain situations appropriate. I finally propose a general account of this property which avoids the major problems facing the extant accounts of reasons for love. (shrink)
I argue for the view that there are important similarities between knowledge and acting for a normative reason. I interpret acting for a normative reason in terms of Sosa’s notion of an apt performance. Actions that are done for a normative reason are normatively apt actions. They are in accordance with a normative reason because of a competence to act in accordance with normative reasons. I argue that, if Sosa’s account of knowledge as apt belief is correct, this means (...) that acting for a normative reason is in many respects similar to knowledge. In order to strengthen Sosa’s account of knowledge, I propose to supplement it with an appeal to sub-competences. This clarifies how this account can deal with certain Gettier cases, and it helps to understand how exactly acting for a normative reason is similar to apt belief. (shrink)
Given constructivism’s enduring popularity and appeal, it is perhaps something of a surprise that there remains considerable uncertainty among many philosophers about what constructivism is even supposed to be. My aim in this article is to make some progress on the question of how constructivism should be understood. I begin by saying something about what kind of theory constructivism is supposed to be. Next, I consider and reject both the standard proceduralist characterization of constructivism and also Sharon Street’s ingenious standpoint (...) characterization. I then suggest an alternative characterization according to which what is central is the role played by certain standards of correct reasoning. I conclude by saying something about the implications of this account for evaluating the success of constructivism. I suggest that certain challenges that have been raised against constructivist theories are based on dubious understandings of constructivism, whereas other challenges only properly come into focus once a proper understanding is achieved. (shrink)
One of the key tenets of Linda Zagzebski’s book " Epistemic Authority" is the Preemption Thesis. It says that, when an agent learns that an epistemic authority believes that p, the rational response for her is to adopt that belief and to replace all of her previous reasons relevant to whether p by the reason that the authority believes that p. I argue that such a “Hobbesian approach” to epistemic authority yields problematic results. This becomes especially virulent when we (...) apply Preemption to cases in which the agent and the authority share their belief, maybe even for the same reasons, or in which both have either a positive or a negative graded doxastic attitude toward a given proposition. As an alternative I propose a “Socratic account”, according to which the authority will not only motivate us to adopt her belief, but also provide us with higher-order reasons for re-assigning our own considerations their proper place in the web of reasons for and against the view in question. (shrink)
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 practical reasons. Until the alethist can offer a better account, then, I argue that we should accept that there are practical reasons for belief. (shrink)
In recent years, the notion of a reason has come to occupy a central place in both metaethics and normative theory more broadly. Indeed, many philosophers have come to view reasons as providing the basis of normativity itself . The common conception is that reasons are facts that count in favor of some act or attitude. More recently, philosophers have begun to appreciate a distinction between objective and subjective reasons, where (roughly) objective reasons are determined by (...) the facts, while subjective reasons are determined by one's beliefs. My goal in this paper is to offer a plausible theory of subjective reasons. Although much attention has been focused on theories of objective reasons, very little has been offered in the literature regarding what sort of account of subjective reasons we should adopt; and what has been offered is rather perfunctory, and requires filling-out. Taking what has been said thus far as a starting point, I will consider several putative theories of subjective reasons, offering objections and amendments along the way, will settle on what I take to be a highly plausible account, and will defend that account against objections. (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)