Thinking, Acting, Considering

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (2):255-270 (2018)
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According to a familiar (alleged) requirement on practical reason, one must believe a proposition if one is to take it for granted in reasoning about what to do. This paper explores a related requirement, not on thinking but on acting—that one must accept a goal if one is to count as acting for its sake. This is the acceptance requirement. Although it is endorsed by writers as diverse as Christine Korsgaard, Donald Davidson, and Talbot Brewer, I argue that it is vulnerable to counterexamples, in which agents act in light of ends that they do not accept but are still merely considering. For instance, a young professional may keep a job option open not because she definitely wants or intends to take it, but just because she is considering taking it. I try to show that such examples are not easily resisted; that they present challenges specifically for Brewer, Davidson, and especially Korsgaard; and that the examples also raise fresh, non-partisan questions in action theory. What is considering, exactly? How could it fall short of acceptance while still guiding behaviour? How can we act for an end before thinking it through?

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Daniel Muñoz
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


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