On believing indirectly for practical reasons

Philosophical Studies 179 (6):1795-1819 (2022)
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It is often argued that there are no practical reasons for belief because we could not believe for such reasons. A recent reply by pragmatists is that we can often believe for practical reasons because we can often cause our beliefs for practical reasons. This paper reveals the limits of this recently popular strategy for defending pragmatism, and thereby reshapes the dialectical options for pragmatism. I argue that the strategy presupposes that reasons for being in non-intentional states are not reducible to reasons to act. Pragmatists who want to preserve a motivational constraint on reasons therefore have exactly two options: either arguing that there are irreducible reasons for being in non-intentional states ; or arguing that we can believe directly for practical reasons. I argue that the prospects for the former option are dim because irreducible reasons to be in states are hard to square with the motivational constraint on reasons. Returning to the more traditional route of arguing for pragmatism by defending a version of doxastic voluntarism therefore seems to be the more promising way for pragmatists to go.

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Sebastian Schmidt
University of Z├╝rich


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