Identification, desires, and practical reasoning

Erasmus Mayr

in Understanding Human Agency

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199606214
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731631 | DOI:
Identification, desires, and practical reasoning

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In this chapter, the discussion of Frankfurt's problem of identification is continued. It is argued that the most promising approach to this problem is Michael Bratman's analysis of identification with a desire in terms of ‘treating this desire as reason-giving’. It is shown, however, that contrary to what Bratman himself thinks, this analysis goes beyond the resources of the standard-model. For this analysis presupposes the activity of practical reasoning which cannot itself be reduced to the causal impact of the agent's mental states. One main reason for this irreducibility is that practical reasoning is concerned with reasons for action, and that desires themselves are not reasons. This latter view is defended in the second half of the chapter, where it is shown that a solution to Frankfurt's problem of identification requires a normativistic account of motivating reasons. Three objections against such an account are discussed and shown to fail.

Keywords: Frankfurt; Bratman; identification; ‘treating a desire as reason-giving’; practical reasoning; motivating reasons; normativism

Chapter.  19038 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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