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Alvarez, Maria, , . How many kinds of reasons?
2009, Philosophical Explorations: 12 (2): 181-193.
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Added by: Jie Gao, Contributed by:

Abstract: Reasons can play a variety of roles in a variety of contexts. For instance, reasons can motivate and guide us in our actions (and omissions), in the sense that we often act in the light of reasons. And reasons can be grounds for beliefs, desires and emotions and can be used to evaluate, and sometimes to justify, all these. In addition, reasons are used in explanations: both in explanations of human actions, beliefs, desires, emotions, etc., and in explanations of a wide range of phenomena involving all sorts of animate and inanimate substances. This diversity has encouraged the thought that the term ‘reason’ is ambiguous or has different senses in different contexts. Moreover, this view often goes hand in hand with the claim that reasons of these different kinds belong to different ontological categories: to facts (or something similar) in the case of normative/justifying reasons, and to mental states in the case of motivating/explanatory reasons. In this paper I shall explore some of the main roles that reasons play and, on that basis, I shall offer a classification of kinds of reasons. As will become clear, my classification of reasons is at odds with much of the literature in several respects: first, because of my views about how we should understand the claim that reasons are classified into different kinds; second, because of the kinds into which I think reasons should be classified; and, finally, because of the consequences I think this view has for the ontology of reasons.

Comment: This paper discusses roles of reasons that they can play and whether different kinds of reasons are also ontologically different. It is a very good introductory paper on reasons, suitable for an introductory course on ethics or philosophy of action.

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Heuer, Ulrike, , . Beyond Wrong Reasons: The Buck-Passing Account of Value
2010, in Michael Brady (ed.), New Waves in Metaethics, Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke. 166-184.
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Added by: Graham Bex-Priestley, Contributed by:

Abstract: In section I, I will show that the Buck-Passing Account (BPA) is not as obviously a successor of the fitting-attitude analysis (for short: FA analysis) of value as some have thought. The much discussed wrong-kind-of-reasons (for short: WKR) problem afflicts buck-passing only in so far as it incorporates a version of Fitting Attitude (FA) analysis, or at any rate is expressed in terms of reasons for attitudes. There can be a buck-passing account of value which is not affected by the problem: one that limits the account to reasons for actions. However, insofar as BPA does inherit elements of FA analysis, it also has a WKR problem. In section II, I will discuss this problem and its solution. I will show that it has been misidentified in the current literature, and that – once we understand the problem correctly – its solution is likely to be unavailable to the buck-passer. Hence we should reject any account of BPA that incorporates FA analysis. That leaves us with versions which do not: versions that formulate BPA+ in terms of reasons for actions only, rather than reasons for attitudes. Finally, in section III, I will discuss at least briefly why buck-passing seemed to be appealing to begin with, and whether a version of BPA that does not incorporate FA analysis is a viable contender of the account – beyond the WKR problem.

Comment: Heuer argues in depth against the buck-passing account of value. She charges it with ruling out various theories, such as deontological theories of ethics and Williams-style reasons internalism, by fiat. Since many substantial areas are touched upon, such as ‘fitting attitudes’ and ‘wrong kinds of reason’ arguments, this text is best used as further reading for students who may want to write a related essay.

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Heuer, Ulrike, , . Intentions and the Reasons for Which we Act
2014, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 114(3pt3): 291-315.
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Added by: Jie Gao, Contributed by:

Abstract: Many of the things we do in the course of a day we don’t do intentionally: blushing, sneezing, breathing, blinking, smiling – to name but a few. But we also do act intentionally, and often when we do we act for reasons. Whether we always act for reasons when we act intentionally is controversial. But at least the converse is generally accepted: when we act for reasons we always act intentionally. Necessarily, it seems. In this paper, I argue that acting intentionally is not in all cases acting for a reason. Instead, intentional agency involves a specific kind of control. Having this kind of control makes it possible to modify one’s action in the light of reasons. Intentional agency opens the possibility of acting in the light of reasons. I also explain why when we act with an intention we act for reasons. In the second part of the paper, I draw on these results to show that the dominant view of reasons to intend and the rationality of intentions should be rejected.

Comment: This paper critically considers the relation between reasons for action and reasons to form an intention. It rejects the dominate symmetry view according to which a reason to φ is ipso factoia reason to intend to φ. It is a paper suitable for courses on philosophy of action.

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Hieronymi, Pamela, , . Controlling Attitudes
2006, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 87 (1):45-74
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Lizzy Ventham

Abstract: I hope to show that, although belief is subject to two quite robust forms of agency, “believing at will” is impossible; one cannot believe in the way one ordinarily acts. Further, the same is true of intention: although intention is subject to two quite robust forms of agency, the features of belief that render believing less than voluntary are present for intention, as well. It turns out, perhaps surprisingly, that you can no more intend at will than believe at will.

Comment: I find this paper to be a valuable addition to classes on implicit biases, reasons, and moral psychology. It provides a good basis for discussion on how these topics relate to free will, and what sorts of control (and responsibilities) we have over our mental lives – including our desires, our beliefs, and other thoughts.

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Hurley, Susan, , . Animal Action in the Space of Reasons
2003, Mind and Language 18(3): 231-256.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Abstract: I defend the view that we should not overintellectualize the mind. Nonhuman animals can occupy islands of practical rationality: they can have contextbound reasons for action even though they lack full conceptual abilities. Holism and the possibility of mistake are required for such reasons to be the agent’s reasons, but these requirements can be met in the absence of inferential promiscuity. Empirical work with animals is used to illustrate the possibility that reasons for action could be bound to symbolic or social contexts, and connections are made to simulationist accounts of cognitive skills.

Comment: An excellent argument in favour of a less-intellectual criteria for reason-having. The arguments are clear and compelling, though at least some familiarity with action theory would be helpful to give proper context. Recommended for higher-level or more in-depth examinations of reasons, as its relevance is partly dependent on some of the other arguments made on the subject.

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Manne, Kate, , . Internalism about Reasons, Sad but True?
2014, Philosophical Studies 167(1): 89-117.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Lizzy Ventham

Abstract: 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.

Comment: I use this as one of the key pieces of reading whenever I discuss reasons internalism (alongside Williams’ original ‘Internal and External Reasons’). Gives a good overview and a good original argument.

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O’Neill, Onora, , . Vindicating reason
1992, In Paul Guyer (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Kant. Cambridge University Press. pp. 280–308.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by:

Abstract: Whatever else a critique of reason attempts, it must surely criticize reason. Further, if it is not to point toward nihilism, a critique of reason cannot have only a negative or destructive outcome, but must vindicate at least some standards or principles as authorities on which thinking and doing may rely, and by which they may (in part) be judged. Critics of ‘the Enlightenment project’ from Pascal to Horkheimer to contemporary communitarians and postmodernists, detect its Achilles’ heel in arrant failure to vindicate the supposed standards of reason that are so confidently used to criticize, attack, and destroy other authorities, including church, state, and tradition. If the authority of reason is bogus, why should such reasoned criticism have any weight?
Suspicions about reason can be put innumerable ways. However, one battery of criticisms is particularly threatening, because it targets the very possibility of devising anything that could count as a vindication of reason. This line of attack is sometimes formulated as a trilemma. Any supposed vindication of the principles of reason would have to establish the authority of certain fundamental constraints on thinking or acting. However, this could only be done in one of three ways. A supposed vindication could appeal to the presumed principles of reason that it aims to vindicate – but would then be circular, so fail as vindication. Alternatively, it might be based on other starting points – but then the supposed principles of reason would lack reasoned vindication, so could not themselves bequeath unblemished pedigrees.

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Piper, Adrian M. S., , . Rationality and the Structure of the Self, Volume I: The Humean Conception
2008, APRA Foundation Berlin.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Adrian M. S. Piper

Publisher’s Note: The Humean conception of the self consists in the belief-desire model of motivation and the utility-maximizing model of rationality. This conception has dominated Western thought in philosophy and the social sciences ever since Hobbes’ initial formulation in Leviathan and Hume’s elaboration in the Treatise of Human Nature. Bentham, Freud, Ramsey, Skinner, Allais, von Neumann and Morgenstern and others have added further refinements that have brought it to a high degree of formal sophistication. Late twentieth century moral philosophers such as Rawls, Brandt, Frankfurt, Nagel and Williams have taken it for granted, and have made use of it to supply metaethical foundations for a wide variety of normative moral theories. But the Humean conception of the self also leads to seemingly insoluble problems about moral motivation, rational final ends, and moral justification. Can it be made to work?

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