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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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Alvarez, Maria, , . Kinds of Reasons: An Essay in the Philosophy of Action
2010, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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Publisher’s Note: Understanding human beings and their distinctive rational and volitional capacities is one of the central tasks of philosophy. The task requires a clear account of such things as reasons, desires, emotions and motives, and of how they combine to produce and explain human behaviour. In Kinds of Reasons, Maria Alvarez offers a fresh and incisive treatment of these issues, focusing in particular on reasons as they feature in contexts of agency. Her account builds on some important recent work in the area; but she takes her main inspiration from the tradition that receives its seminal contemporary expression in the writings of G.E.M. Anscombe, a tradition that runs counter to the broadly Humean orthodoxy that has dominated the theory of action for the past forty years. Alvarez’s conclusions are therefore likely to be controversial; and her bold and painstaking arguments will be found provocative by participants on every side of the debates with which she engages. Clear and directly written, Kinds of Reasons aims to stake out a distinctive position within one of the most hotly contested areas of contemporary philosophy.

Comment: This book is on the ontological nature of reasons for which we act carries on. The first two chapters are very good introductory readings on reasons broadly. Chapters 3 to 5 explore the connection between reasons and motivation. Topics include what motivates actions, whether desires are motivating reasons, and whether motivating reasons are belief. They are proper introductory reading material for courses on ethics, reasons and philosophy of action.

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Bar-On, Dorit and Matthew Chrisman, , . Ethical Neo-Expressivism
2009, In Shafter-Landau, R. (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 4: 132-64. New York: Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Graham Bex-Priestley, Contributed by:

Abstract: A standard way to explain the connection between ethical claims and motivation is to say that these claims express motivational attitudes. Unless this connection is taken to be merely a matter of contingent psychological regularity, it may seem that there are only two options for understanding it. We can either treat ethical claims as expressing propositions that one cannot believe without being at least somewhat motivated (subjectivism), or we can treat ethical claims as nonpropositional and as having their semantic content constituted by the motivational attitudes they express (noncognitivism). In this paper, we argue that there is another option, which can be recognized once we see that there is no need to build the expression relation between ethical claims and motivational states of mind into the semantic content of ethical claims.

Comment: This is a different way of incorporating what seems attractive about expressivism without losing the semantic advantages of cognitivism. It draws upon resources from the philosophy of language.

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Corns, Jennifer, , . Unpleasantness, Motivational Oomph, and Painfulness
2014, Mind and Language 29 (2):238-254
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Lizzy Ventham

Abstract: Painful pains are, paradigmatically, unpleasant and motivating. The dominant view amongst philosophers and pain scientists is that these two features are essentially related and sufficient for painfulness. In this article, I first offer scientifically informed characterizations of both unpleasantness and motivational oomph and argue against other extant accounts. I then draw on folk-characterized cases and current neurobiological and neurobehavioral evidence to argue that both dominant positions are mistaken. Unpleasantness and motivational oomph doubly dissociate and, even taken together, are insufficient for painfulness

Comment: I use this paper as further reading when I teach on the philosophy of well-being and/or moral psychology. The paper is a detailed and useful text that can help explain positions on the nature of pain and, more specifically, its relation to our motivational capacities. It makes a lot of good use of scientific literature, and can be a good guide to that for students. Corns provides an argument for a way of understanding pain that doesn’t reduce it to simply motivation or unpleasantness.

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Herman, Barbara, , . On the Value of Acting From the Motive of Duty
1981, Philosophical Review 90(3): 359-382.
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Abstract: Richard Henson attempts to take the sting out of this view of Kant on moral worth by arguing (i) that attending to the phenomenon of the overdetermination of actions leads one to see that Kant might have had two distinct views of moral worth, only one of which requires the absence of cooperating inclinations, and (ii) that when Kant insists that there is moral worth only when an action is done from the motive of duty alone, he need not also hold that such a state of affairs is morally better, all things considered, than one where supporting inclination is present. Henson’s proposals seem to me both serious and plausible. I do not think that either of his models, in the end, can take on the role Kant assigns to moral worth in the argument of the Groundwork. But seeing the ways Henson’s account diverges from Kant’s makes clearer what Kant intended in his discussion of those actions he credits with moral worth. […] An action has moral worth if it is required by duty and has as its primary motive the motive of duty. The motive of duty need not reflect the only interest the agent has in the action (or its effect); it must, however, be the interest that determines the agent’s acting as he did.

Comment: This article is a good discussion of the issue of acting out of inclination as opposed to duty in Kant’s philosophy. It would provide a useful perspective on that issue in a course on Kant’s philosophy. As it engages with R.G. Henson’s argument on the subject, it would be usefully taught wherever his work is, but it could also be taught in isolation from it as familiarity with Henson’s work is not required to understand the article.

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Olberding, Amy, , . Confucius’ Complaints and the Analects’ Account of the Good Life
2013, Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 12 (4):417-440.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Ian James Kidd

Abstract: The Analects appears to offer two bodies of testimony regarding the felt, experiential qualities of leading a life of virtue. In its ostensible record of Confucius’ more abstract and reflective claims, the text appears to suggest that virtue has considerable power to afford joy and insulate from sorrow. In the text’s inclusion of Confucius’ less studied and apparently more spontaneous remarks, however, he appears sometimes to complain of the life he leads, to feel its sorrows, and to possess some despair. Where we attend to both of these elements of the text, a tension emerges. In this essay, I consider how Confucius’ complaints appear to complicate any clean conclusion that Confucius wins a good life, particularly where we attend to important pre-theoretical sensibilities regarding what a ‘good life’ ought to include and how it ought to feel for the one who leads it.

Comment: A rich text that explains the role of complaints – and, more broadly, disappointment, regret, and sadness – in the moral life. Especially good for challenging the idea that the moral life will insulate a person from such negative affects. Also points out the tendency of some moral philosophers to downplay certain aspects of human beings when constructing their ideals.

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Tiberius, Valerie, , . Moral Psychology: A Contemporary Introduction
2015, New York, NY: Routledge.
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Publisher: This is the first philosophy textbook in moral psychology, introducing students to a range of philosophical topics and debates such as: What is moral motivation? Do reasons for action always depend on desires? Is emotion or reason at the heart of moral judgment? Under what conditions are people morally responsible? Are there self-interested reasons for people to be moral? Moral Psychology: A Contemporary Introduction presents research by philosophers and psychologists on these topics, and addresses the overarching question of how empirical research is relevant to philosophical inquir

Comment: Wide-ranging introductory textbook. Very useful for introductory readings to a range of issues in and around moral psychology.

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Walker, Rebecca L., , . Medical Ethics Needs a New View of Autonomy
2009, Journal of medicine and philosophy 33: 594-608.
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Abstract: The notion of autonomy commonly employed in medical ethics literature and practices is inadequate on three fronts: it fails to properly identify nonautonomous actions and choices, it gives a false account of which features of actions and choices makes them autonomous or nonautonomous, and it provides no grounds for the moral requirement to respect autonomy. In this paper I offer a more adequate framework for how to think about autonomy, but this framework does not lend itself to the kinds of practical application assumed in medical ethics. A general problem then arises: the notion of autonomy used in medical ethics is conceptually inadequate, but conceptually adequate notions of autonomy do not have the practical applications that are the central concern of medical ethics. Thus, a revision both of the view of autonomy and the practice of “respect for autonomy” are in order.

Comment: Walker argues against the Black Box view advocated by Beauchamp and Childress. The text is most useful when discussing principlism in biomedical ethics and more general issues related to autonomy and consent. The text works well when read alongside’s Onora O’Neill’s “Some limits of informed consent.”

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