A “Good” Explanation of Five Puzzles about Reasons

Philosophical Perspectives 33 (1):62-104 (2019)
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This paper champions the view (REG) that the concept of a normative reason for an agent S to perform an action A is that of an explanation why it would be good (in some way, to some degree) for S to do A. REG has numerous virtues, but faces some significant challenges which prompt many philosophers to be skeptical that it can correctly account for all our reasons. I demonstrate how five different puzzles about normative reasons can be solved by attention to the concept of goodness, and in particular observing the ways in which it—and consequently, talk about reasons—is sensitive to context (ends and information). Rather than asking simply whether or not certain facts are reasons for S to do A, we need to explore the contexts in which it is and is not correct to describe a certain fact as “a reason” for S to do A. These five puzzles concern: (1) reasons for attitudes of the “right kind”, (2) evidence as reasons, (3) normative facts as reasons, (4) subjective reasons, and (5) attitudes as reasons.

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Stephen Finlay
Australian Catholic University


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