Philosophical Studies

, Volume 172, Issue 5, pp 1371–1386 | Cite as

Problems for pure probabilism about promotion (and a disjunctive alternative)

  • Nathaniel Sharadin


Humean promotionalists about reasons think that whether there is a reason for an agent to ϕ depends on whether her ϕ-ing promotes the satisfaction of at least one of her desires. Several authors have recently defended probabilistic accounts of promotion, according to which an agent’s ϕ-ing promotes the satisfaction of one of her desires just in case her ϕ-ing makes the satisfaction of that desire more probable relative to some baseline. In this paper I do three things. First, I formalize an argument, due to Jeff Behrends and Joshua DiPaolo, to the effect that Mark Schroeder’s and Stephen Finlay’s probabilistic accounts of promotion cannot be correct. Next, I extend this argument to a recent alternative offered by D. Justin Coates and show how Coates’ attempt to avoid the argument by introducing a distinction between ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’ probability doesn’t help. Finally, I suggest an alternative way of understanding promotion in terms of increase in degree of fit between the causal upshot of an action and the content of a desire. I show how this view, disjunctively paired with probabilism about promotion, solves the problems with previous accounts.


Promotionalism Reasons Probabilism Desire Direction of fit 



Thanks to Finnur Delsén, Matt Kotzen, Marc Lange, Dan Layman, Ram Neta, Kate Nolfi, Wesley Sauret, and Geoff Sayre-McCord, for their comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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