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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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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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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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O'Neill, Onora, , . The public use of reason
1986, Political Theory 14 (4):523-551.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by:

Abstract: LIBERALS OFTEN THINK diversity of belief and its expression should be tolerated in order to respect either individuals or reason and truth themselves. Because they are agnostic about the good for man, they hold that liberty for each to pursue his or her conception of the good in “self-regarding” matters is required, and that practices of toleration are important aspects of this liberty. They also often advocate practices of toleration as means by which reasoned and true beliefs can come to prevail over false beliefs. Each line of thought justifies practices of toleration as means to something which is seen both as logically independent and as of more fundamental value. These familiar lines of thought are not the only possible liberal vindication of toleration. In Kant’s writings toleration is not a derivative value, to be established only when the value of true and reasoned belief and of liberty in self-regarding matters has been established. His arguments for toleration of what he terms “the public use of reason” presuppose neither antecedently given standards of rationality nor that any class of self-regarding individual actions is of special importance. For Kant the importance of (some sorts of) toleration is connected with the very grounding of reason, and so in particular with the grounding of practical reason. His arguments suggest that liberal political thinking can vindicate practices of toleration without commitment either to a strong form of individualism or to the view that we can distinguish “self-regarding” acts, and without claiming that reasoning either has a “transcendent” vindication or is groundless. The themes of toleration and of the grounding of reason are brought together in many Kantian texts. The most important is the Critique of Pure Reason, in particular the section of the Doctrine of Method called “The Discipline of Pure Reason in Respect of its Polemical Employment.” I The same connection is stressed in many other places, including scattered passages in the Second and Third Critiques, in the Logic, and in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone. A number of shorter essays, including “What Is Enlightenment?” (1784), “What Is Orientation in Thinking?” (1786), “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose” (1784), “The Conflict of the Faculties” (1798), “On the Common Saying ‘This may be True in Theory, but it does not Apply in Practice’ ” (1795), and “Perpetual Peace” (1795),2 appear at first to have much to say about toleration, including the political aspects of toleration, and little about the grounding of reason. Yet here too the themes are often interwoven. The close connections between the short political essays and the central critical writings suggest not only that the essays are part of Kant’s systematic philosophy, and not marginal or occasional pieces, but also perhaps that the entire critical enterprise has a certain political character. If this is the case, it is no accident that the guiding metaphors of The Critique of Pure Reason are political metaphors. If the discussion of reason itself is to proceed in terms of conflicts whose battlefields and strife are scenes of defeat and victory that will give way to a lasting peace only when we have established through legislation such courts, tribunals, and judges as can weigh the issue and give verdict, then it is perhaps not surprising that Kant links his discussions of politics very closely to larger issues about the powers and limits of human reason. However, this is a large and for present purposes somewhat tangential issue.3 The more immediate concern is to see how Kantian arguments link toleration to the very grounding of reason.

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Tiberius, Valerie, , . Moral Psychology: A Contemporary Introduction
2015, New York, NY: Routledge.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

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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