The Conclusion of Practical Reasoning

The Journal of Ethics 25 (1):13-37 (2021)
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According to the Aristotelian Thesis, the conclusion of practical reasoning is an action. Critics argue against it by pointing to cases in which some interference or inability prevents the production of action, yet in which that interference or inability doesn’t impugn the success of an agent’s reasoning. Some of those critics suggest instead that practical reasoning concludes in an intention, while others suggest it concludes in a belief with normative content, such as a belief about what one has conclusive, or sufficient, reason to do. In this paper, I argue that we should allow that practical reasoning could conclude in either an intention or a belief with normative content. I begin by developing an objection to the Aristotelian Thesis, showing how the objection will not also undermine the possibility of practical reasoning concluding in an intention or a belief. I then respond to an argument from Joseph Raz designed to exclude the possibility of intentions as conclusions of practical reasoning. Lastly, I show how the worry that belief isn’t sufficiently “practical” to qualify as a conclusion of practical reasoning is misplaced.

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John Brunero
University of Nebraska, Lincoln


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