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Anscombe, G. E. M.. Thought and Action in Aristotle: What is ‘Practical Truth’?
1981, in Collected Philosophical Papers, Volume One: From Parmenides to Wittgenstein. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
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Added by: Anne-Marie McCallion

Introduction: Is Aristotle inconsistent in the different things he says about προαιρεσις‚ mostly translated “choice”, in the different parts of the Ethics? The following seems to be a striking inconsistency. In Book III (113a 4) he says that what is “decided by deliberation” is chosen, but he also often insists that the uncontrolled man, the άκρατης, does not choose to do what he does; that is to say, what he does in doing the kind of thing that he disapproves of, is not what Aristotle will call exer-cising choice; the uncontrolled man does not act from choice, έκ προαιρεσεως, or choosing, προαιρουμενος. However, in Book VI (1142b 18) he mentions the possibility of a calculating uncontrolled man who will get what he arrived at by calculation, έκ τουλογισμου ΤΕΥΞΕΤΑΙ, and so will have deliberated correctly: òρθως έσται βεβουλευμενος . Thus we have the three theses: (a) choice is what is determined by deliberation; (b) what the uncontrolled man does qua uncontrolled, he does not choose to do; (c) the uncontrolled man, even when acting against his convictions, does on occasion determine what to do by deliberation.

Comment: This text offers an in depth analysis of Aristotle’s account of choice and practical reasoning. This text would be suitable for advanced courses on Aristotle’s ethics or virtue ethics more broadly. It requires a good quantity of knowledge on Aristotle’s philosophy in order to be appropriately accessible and as such is recommended for postgraduate or advanced undergraduate students.

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Brown, Jessica. Subject­-Sensitive Invariantism and the Knowledge Norm for Practical Reasoning
2008, Nous 42(2): 167-189.
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Added by: Jie Gao

Introduction: It is increasingly popular to suggest that knowledge is the norm of practical reasoning, or reasoning about what to do (e.g. Hawthorne 2004, Stanley 2005). This idea is central to the defence of a new version of invariantism – ‘subject-sensitive invariantism’ – on which whether the true belief that p is knowledge not only depends on such factors as one’s evidence, and the reliability of the belief-producing process, but also the stakes or how important it is that p be true (the view is also known as ‘sensitive moderate invariantism’ (Hawthorne 2004) and ‘interest relative invariantism’ (Stanley 2005)). I will argue against the idea that knowledge is the norm of practical reasoning, whether that is understood as a necessity or sufficiency claim. Instead, I will argue that the epistemic standards for practical reasoning vary contextually.

Comment: This paper nicely elucidates the debates on pragmatic encroachment in epistemology and presents main objections to the knowledge norm of practical reasoning. It is useful for teachings on pragmatic encroachment and the knowledge norm of practical reasoning in an upper-level undergraduate course on epistemology.

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Lackey, Jennfer. Acting on Knowledge
2010, Philosophical Perspectives 24 (1): 361-382.
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Added by: Jie Gao

Summary: This paper argues that there are various kinds of cases in which a subject clearly knows that p, yet it is not epistemically appropriate for her to use the proposition that p in practical reasoning, to act as if p, or act on p. Knowledge is not, therefore, always sufficient for epistemically justifying practical rationality, unlike what says in the sufficiency condition of the knowledge norm of practical reasoning. In addition, it offers a diagnosis of what is salient in the above cases and suggests a broad feature that needs to be accounted for in any view of the norm governing practical rationality.

Comment: This is a nice paper arguing against the knowledge norm of practical reasoning, in particular the sufficiency condition. It is suitable for teaching on epistemic norms and pragmatic encroachement in a upper-level undergraduate course on epistemology.

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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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Murdoch, Iris. The Darkness of Practical Reason
1998, in Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature. Allen Lane/the Penguin Press, 193-202
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Added by: Anne-Marie McCallion

Introduction: In his book, Freedom of the Individual, Stuart Hampshire argues as follows. In human beings (as opposed to things) power a function of will and will is a function of desire. Some desires are “thought-dependent” in that they depend on statable beliefs which, if they altered,- would alter the desires, and so such desires cannot be defined by purely behavioural criteria, since the subject’s conception of what he wants is constitutive of the wanting. We do not discover our thought-dependent desires inductively, by observation, we formulate them in the light of our beliefs. We have the experience of being convinced by evidence and of changing our beliefs and so willing differently, and there seems to be no set of sufficient conditions outside our thinking which could explain this situation equally well. […] I wish to make an entry into Professor Hampshire’s argument at the point where he dismisses the doctrine of the transcendent will.

Comment: This text offers an advanced-level criticism of Stuart Hampshire’s account of practical reason, it would be suitable for courses on the philosophy of action, philosophy of mind or philosophy of psychology. Since this text is very short, it would be best utilised as a supplement to Stuart Hampshire’s Thought and Action as knowledge of Hampshire’s account is necessary in order to follow this text. It could also be useful for facilitating/incorporating discussions of the imagination into any of the aforementioned potential courses.

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