Duty, Rationality, and Practical Reasons

David McNaughton and Piers Rawling

in The Oxford Handbook of Rationality

Published in print February 2004 | ISBN: 9780195145397
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:
 Duty, Rationality, and Practical Reasons

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This article presents a view on which practical reasons are facts, such as the fact that the rubbish bin is full. This is a non-normative fact, but it is a reason for one to do something, namely take the rubbish out. This article sees rationality as a matter of consistency (failing to notice that the rubbish bin is full need not be a rational failure). And it sees duty as neither purely a matter of rationality nor of practical reason. On the one hand, the rational sociopath is immoral. But, on the other, morality does not require that one always acts on the weightiest moral reasons: one may not be reasonably expected to know what these are. This article criticizes various forms of internalism, including Williams's, and it tentatively proposes a view of duty that is neither purely subjective in Prichard's sense, nor purely objective.

Keywords: practical reasons; rationality; morality; internalism; Prichard

Article.  10313 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy

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