Reason, Voluntariness, and Moral Responsibility

Thomas Pink

in Mental Actions

Published in print June 2009 | ISBN: 9780199225989
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191710339 | DOI:
Reason, Voluntariness, and Moral Responsibility

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This chapter argues that the standard ‘voluntariness-based model of action’, according to which actions are performed on the basis of some prior pro-attitude towards performing the action, should be rejected. It argues that the model leads to a view of action that does not adequately accommodate a notion of self-determination capable of capturing our intuitions about moral responsibility. We need instead to accept a ‘practical reason-based theory of action’ according to which intentional action is not any expression of prior motivation, but rather a special mode of exercising rationality in its own right. This practical mode of exercising rationality is found not in voluntary action alone, but also in non-voluntary intention-formation. This view allows for freedom of agency to characterize not just voluntary action based on a prior decision or intention to act, but also the decision or intention itself.

Keywords: voluntariness; practical reason; moral responsibility; ethical rationalism; self-determination; motivation

Chapter.  13360 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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