The matter of motivating reasons

Philosophical Studies 179 (5):1563-1589 (2021)
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It is now standard in the literature on reasons and rationality to distinguish normative reasons from motivating reasons. Two issues have dominated philosophical theorising concerning the latter: (i) whether we should think of them as certain (non-factive) psychological states of the agent – the dispute over Psychologism; and (ii) whether we should say that the agent can Φ for the reason that p only if p – the dispute over Factivism. This paper first introduces a puzzle: these disputes look very much like merely verbal disputes about the meaning of phrases like `S’s reason’ in motivating reasons ascriptions, and yet charity requires us to think that something substantive is afoot. But what? The second aim of the paper is to extract substantive theses from certain natural arguments for Psychologism and Anti-Factivism – theses which are versions of a controversial view of the nature and normative structure of rationality. The paper ends by arguing against these substantive theses on phenomenological and ethical grounds. The upshot is that proponents of Psychologism and Anti-Factivism are either engaged in the project of defending merely verbal theses or they’re engaged in the project of defending false substantive ones.

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Joe Cunningham
Nottingham University


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