The Influence of Motives: The Push of Power?

Gideon Yaffe

in Manifest Activity

Published in print March 2004 | ISBN: 9780199268559
Published online August 2004 | e-ISBN: 9780191601415 | DOI:
The Influence of Motives: The Push of Power?

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A central part of any theory of action is an account of the nature of motives and the relationship between motives and actions. Reid argues against the view that motives are the causes of action. In fact, this view can be construed in at least two different ways: either as the claim that motives have the power to cause action or as the claim that there are laws linking the presence of certain motives with certain actions. This chapter examines Reid's argument against the former claim. Reid argues against it by asserting that motives are not ‘things that exist’ but, instead, ‘things conceived’. This obscure view is unpacked through examination of Reid's view of non‐existent objects of conception. In addition to a reconstruction of his anti‐causalist argument, what emerges is an account of what Reid takes motives to be: they are ends, rather than thoughts about ends; but they are not just any ends: they are those that are thought by the agent of the act to be furthered by the act's performance.

Keywords: action; cause; ends; law; motive; power; Reid

Chapter.  7787 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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