Philosophical Studies

, Volume 136, Issue 3, pp 351–384

Reasons and Impossibility

Article

Abstract

Many philosophers claim that it cannot be the case that a person ought to perform an action if this person cannot perform this action. However, most of these philosophers do not give arguments for the truth of this claim. In this paper, I argue that it is plausible to interpret this claim in such a way that it is entailed by the claim that there cannot be a reason for a person to perform an action if it is impossible that this person will perform this action. I then give three arguments for the truth of the latter claim, which are also arguments for the truth of the former claim as I interpret it.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Audi R. (2004). The Good in the Right: A Theory of Intuition and Intrinsic Value. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  2. Aune B. (1967). Hypotheticals and ‘Can’: Another Look. Analysis 27: 191–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baier K. (1963). Could and Would. Analysis 23 (Suppl.): 20–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blum A. (2000). The Kantian Versus Frankfurt. Analysis 60: 287–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brink D. (1994). Moral Conflict and Its Structure. Philosophical Review 103: 215–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Broad, C.D. (1952): ‘Determinism, Indeterminism, and Libertarianism’, in his Ethics and the History of Philosophy. London: RoutledgeGoogle Scholar
  7. Broome J. (2004). Reasons. In: Pettit, P., Scheffler, S., Smith, M. and Wallace, R.J. (eds) Reason and Value: Essays on the Moral Philosophy of Joseph Raz, pp. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  8. Chisholm R.M. (1966). Freedom and Action. In: Lehrer, K. (eds) Freedom and Determinism, pp. Random House, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Copp D. (1997). Defending the Principle of Alternate Possibilities: Blameworthiness and Moral Responsibility. Noûs 31: 441–456Google Scholar
  10. Dancy J. (2004a). Enticing Reasons. In: Pettit, P., Scheffler, S., Smith, M. and Wallace, R.J. (eds) Reason and Value: Essays on the Moral Philosophy of Joseph Raz, pp. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  11. Dancy J. (2004b). Ethics Without Principles. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  12. Donagan A. (1984). Consistency in Rationalist Moral Systems. Journal of Philosophy 81: 291–309. Reprinted in Gowans 1987CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ekstrom L.W. (2000). Free Will. Westview Press, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  14. Ewing A.C. (1964). May Can-Statements Be Analysed Deterministically?. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 64: 157–176Google Scholar
  15. Feldman F. (1986). Doing the Best We Can. Reidel, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  16. Fischer J.M. (1994). The Metaphysics of Free Will. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  17. Fischer J.M. (1999). Recent Work on Moral Responsibility. Ethics 110: 93–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fischer J.M. (2003). ‘Ought-Implies-Can’, Causal Determinism and Moral Responsibility. Analysis 63: 244–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Frankena W.K. (1950). Obligation and Ability. In: Black, M. (eds) Philosophical Analysis, pp. Cornell University Press, IthacaGoogle Scholar
  20. Frankfurt, H. (1969): ‘Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility’. Reprinted in his The Importance of What We Care About. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988Google Scholar
  21. Frankfurt, H. (1983): ‘What We Are Morally Responsible For’. Reprinted in his The Importance of What We Care About. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988Google Scholar
  22. Gowans C. (1987). Moral Dilemmas. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  23. Haji I. (1998). Moral Appraisability: Puzzles, Proposals and Perplexities. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  24. Haji I. (2002). Deontic Morality and Control. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  25. Hare R.M. (1963). Freedom and Reason. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  26. Harman G. (2000). Explaining Value and Other Essays in Moral Philosophy. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  27. Hobbes T. (1651). Leviathan. Edited by Richard Tuck. Cambridge University Press,, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  28. Humberstone I.L. (1971). Two Sorts of ‘Ought’. Analysis 32: 8–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kane R. (1985). Free Will and Values. State University of New York Press, AlbanyGoogle Scholar
  30. Kane R. (1996). The Significance of Free Will. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  31. Kant I. (1781/87). Critique of Pure Reason. Translated by P. Guyer and A.W. Wood. Cambridge University Press,, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  32. Kant, I. (1788): ‘Critique of Practical Reason’. Translated by M.J. Gregor, in The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996Google Scholar
  33. Kant, I. (1793): ‘On the Common Saying: That May Be Correct in Theory, But It Is of No Use in Practice’. Translated by M.J. Gregor, in The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996Google Scholar
  34. Kekes J. (1984). ‘Ought Implies Can’ and Two Kinds of Morality. Philosophical Quarterly 34: 459–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kramer M. (2004). Where Law and Morality Meet. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  36. Lamb J. (1993). Evaluative Compatibilism and the Principle of Alternate Possibilities. Journal of Philosophy 90: 517–527CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lehrer K. (1960). Can We Know That We Have Free Will By Introspection?. Journal of Philosophy 57: 145–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lehrer K. (1966). An Empirical Disproof of Determinism?. In: Lehrer, K. (eds) Freedom and Determinism, pp. Random House, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  39. Lehrer K. (1968). Cans Without Ifs. Analysis 29: 29–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lemmon E.J. (1962). Moral Dilemmas. Philosophical Review 71: 139–158. Reprinted in Gowans 1987CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Marcus R.B. (1980). Moral Dilemmas and Consistency. Journal of Philosophy 77: 121–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Matthews G.B. (1998). Augustine. In: Edward, C. (eds) The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, pp. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  43. McConnell T.C. (1978). Moral Dilemmas and Consistency in Ethics. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 8: 269–287. Reprinted in Gowans 1987Google Scholar
  44. Mele A.R. and Robb D. (1998). Rescuing Frankfurt-Style Cases. Philosophical Review 107: 97–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Moore G.E. (1912). Ethics. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  46. Moore G.E. (1922). Philosophical Studies. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  47. Parfit D. (1997). Reasons and Motivation. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 71 (Suppl.): 99–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pereboom D. (2001). Living Without Free Will. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Google Scholar
  49. Pietroski P.M. (1993). Prima Facie Obligations, Ceteris Paribus Laws in Moral Theory. Ethics 103: 489–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Railton P. (1996). The Diversity of Moral Dilemma. In: Mason, H.E. (eds) Moral Dilemmas and Moral Theory, pp. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  51. Raz, J. (1990). Practical Reason and Norms, 2nd edn., Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  52. Raz J. (1999). Engaging Reason. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  53. Saka P. (2000). Ought Does Not Imply Can. American Philosophical Quarterly 37: 93–105Google Scholar
  54. Scanlon T.M. (1998). What We Owe To Each Other. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MassGoogle Scholar
  55. Schnall I.M. (2001). The Principle of Alternate Possibilities and ‘Ought’ Implies ‘Can’. Analysis 61: 335–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sidgwick H. (1907). The Methods of Ethics. Hackett, IndianapolisGoogle Scholar
  57. Sinnott-Armstrong W. (1984). ‘Ought’ Conversationally Implies ‘Can’. Philosophical Review 93: 249–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sinnott-Armstrong W. (1985). ‘Ought to Have’ and ‘Could Have’. Analysis 45: 44–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Stern R. (2004). Does ‘Ought’ Imply ‘Can’? And Did Kant Think It Does?. Utilitas 16: 42–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stocker M. (1971). ‘Ought’ and ‘Can”. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 49: 303–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Streumer, B. (2003): `Does ``Ought'' Conversationally Implicate ``Can''?' European Journal of Philosophy 11, 219–228Google Scholar
  62. Streumer, B. (2005): `Semi-Global Consequentialism and Blameless Wrongdoing: Reply to Brown', Utilitas 17, 226–230Google Scholar
  63. Taylor R. (1962). Fatalism. Philosophical Review 71: 56–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. van Fraassen B.C. (1973). Values and the Heart’s Command. Journal of Philosophy 70: 5–19. Reprinted in Gowans 1987CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. van Inwagen P. (1978). Ability and Responsibility. Philosophical Review 87: 201–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. van Inwagen P. (1983). An Essay on Free Will. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  67. White A.R. (1975). Modal Thinking. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  68. Widerker D. (1991). Frankfurt on ‘Ought’ Implies ‘Can’ and Alternative Possibilities. Analysis 51: 222–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Widerker D. (1995). Libertarianism and Frankfurt’s Attack on the Principle of Alternative Possibilities. Philosophical Review 104: 247–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Widerker D. (2000). Frankfurt’s Attack on the Principle of Alternative Possibilities: A Further Look. Philosophical Perspectives 14: 181–201Google Scholar
  71. Williams, B. (1973): ‘Ethical Consistency’, in his Problems of the Self, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Reprinted in Gowans 1987Google Scholar
  72. Williams B. (1981). `Ought and Moral Obligation'. In his Moral Luck. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  73. Yaffe G. (1999). ‘Ought’ Implies ‘Can’ and the Principle of Alternate Possibilities. Analysis 59: 218–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Zimmerman M. (1996). The Concept of Moral Obligation. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of ReadingReadingUK

Personalised recommendations