Problems for pure probabilism about promotion (and a disjunctive alternative)

Philosophical Studies 172 (5):1371-1386 (2015)
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Humean promotionalists about reasons think that whether there is a reason for an agent to ϕ depends on whether her ϕ-ing promotes the satisfaction of at least one of her desires. Several authors have recently defended probabilistic accounts of promotion, according to which an agent’s ϕ-ing promotes the satisfaction of one of her desires just in case her ϕ-ing makes the satisfaction of that desire more probable relative to some baseline. In this paper I do three things. First, I formalize an argument, due to Jeff Behrends and Joshua DiPaolo, to the effect that Mark Schroeder’s and Stephen Finlay’s probabilistic accounts of promotion cannot be correct. Next, I extend this argument to a recent alternative offered by D. Justin Coates and show how Coates’ attempt to avoid the argument by introducing a distinction between ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’ probability doesn’t help. Finally, I suggest an alternative way of understanding promotion in terms of increase in degree of fit between the causal upshot of an action and the content of a desire. I show how this view, disjunctively paired with probabilism about promotion, solves the problems with previous accounts

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Nathaniel Sharadin
University of Hong Kong


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