, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 887-903
Date: 07 Nov 2012

Silencing Desires?

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Abstract

In an overlooked section of his influential book What We Owe to Each Other Thomas Scanlon advances an argument against the desire-model of practical reasoning. In Scanlon’s view the model gives a distorted picture of the structure of our practical thinking. His idea is that there is an alternative to the “weighing behavior” of reasons, a particular way in which reasons can relate to each other. This phenomenon, which the paper calls “silencing”, is not something that the desire-model can accommodate, or so Scanlon argues. The paper first presents and interprets Scanlon’s challenge. After this, the paper argues, through the examination of three responses, that Scanlon is right in claiming that the model cannot accommodate the phenomenon as he describes it. However, the paper further argues that there is no need to accept Scanlon’s depiction of silencing: advocates of the model can give an alternative account of what happens in cases of silencing that is just as plausible as Scanlon’s own. Scanlon’s challenge is thus, the paper concludes, illegitimate. (169)