Internalism from the Ethnographic Stance: From Self-Indulgence to Self-Expression and Corroborative Sense-Making

Philosophical Quarterly (forthcoming)
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By integrating Bernard Williams’s internalism about reasons with his later thought, this article casts fresh light on internalism and reveals what wider concerns it speaks to. To be consistent with Williams’s later work, I argue, internalism must align with his deference to the phenomenology of moral deliberation and with his critique of ‘moral self-indulgence’. Key to this alignment is the idea that deliberation can express the agent’s motivations without referring to them; and that internalism is not a normative claim, but an example of sense-making from ‘the ethnographic stance’. This leaves a worry over whether moral conviction can coexist with an internalist understanding of reasons. Here too, however, Williams’s later thought provides an answer. Differentiating corrosive from corroborative sense-making, it elucidates how internalism, though not normative, can nonetheless affect our confidence in reason statements, thereby informing how we deliberate and how we address those whose motivations differ from our own.

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Matthieu Queloz
University of Bern


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