Chapter

A Puzzle about Internal Reasons

Michael Smith

in Luck, Value, and Commitment

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199599325
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741500 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199599325.003.0008
A Puzzle about Internal Reasons

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According to Bernard Williams, all reasons for action are what he calls ‘internal reasons’, where an agent has an internal reason to act in some way just in case she would be motivated to act in that way if she were to deliberate correctly. Though Williams is supposed to have an anti-rationalist conception of what it is to deliberate correctly, his official account includes separate roles for knowledge and the imagination. An agent would desire something if he were to deliberate correctly, according to Williams, only if he would desire that thing if he knew all the relevant facts and only if he were to fully and accurately imagine what it would be like for that thing to obtain. This provides us with a puzzle, as rationalist accounts of deliberation can be understood as assigning separate roles to knowledge and the imagination. Williams's official account of deliberation thus looks just like the rationalist's. Solving this puzzle requires us to get clearer about what it means to deliberate correctly and about the differences between rationalist and anti-rationalist accounts of desire.

Keywords: desires; direction of fit; emotions; internal reasons; rationalism; anti-rationalism; deliberation; imagination; Bernard Williams

Chapter.  11043 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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