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Favoring

Abstract

It has become common to take reasons to form a basic normative category that is not amenable to non-circular analysis. This paper offers a novel characterization of reasons in terms of how we ought or it would be good for us to think in response to our awareness of facts, and thus rejects such Reason Primitivism. Briefly, for r to be a normative reason for A to φ is for it to be the case that A ought to conduct her φ-relevant thinking in a φ-friendly manner, given her awareness of r. In mechanistic terms, this is to say that the psychological mechanisms responsible for A’s potentially φ-ing ought to be causally influenced in the direction of φ-ing by her awareness of r. For r to be an evaluative reason for A to φ is for it to be the case that it is desirable for A to conduct her φ-relevant thinking in a more or less φ-friendly manner, given her awareness of r. What someone ought to do or what it is desirable for someone to do is in turn to be understood in terms of fittingness of different positive or negative reactions. Linking the favoring relation between a fact and an action or belief explicitly with fittingness of attitudes towards the subject reveals the sense in which reasons are normative or evaluative. The paper also responds to six potential challenges to the view and argues it has certain advantages over competing reductionist proposals.

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Notes

  1. It has become standard to express the basic contrast in the theory of reasons in terms normative reasons, on the one hand, and motivating reasons, on the other. Both what I call normative and evaluative reasons in this paper fall on the ‘normative’ side of this standard distinction.

  2. In their 2013 paper, Kearns and Star offer responses to related criticisms by Broome and Brunero. I lack the space for a proper discussion, but I believe that even if their responses to earlier criticisms are successful, they are not effective against the type of cases I discuss.

  3. For a thorough compatibilist account of psychological mechanisms compatible with responsibility, see Fischer and Ravizza (1998).

  4. This type of view is famously defended by Smith (1994).

  5. See e.g. Schroeder’s unpublished paper ‘The Negative Reason Existential Fallacy’ (http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~maschroe/research/Schroeder_Negative_Reason_Existential_Fallacy.pdf), accessed June 3, 2013.

  6. This paper benefited greatly from feedback from audiences at the Workshop on Normativity at the University of Tartu in 2012, SLACRR 2013, and BSET 2013. In particular, I would like to thank Robert Adams, John Brunero, Daniel Cohnitz, Jonathan Dancy, Ulrike Heuer, Simon Kirchin, Gerald Lang, Susanne Mantel, Francesco Orsi, Hille Paakkunainen, Andrew Reisner, Mark van Roojen, Matt Smith, Michael Smith, Pekka Väyrynen, Jonathan Way, Amna Whiston, and Eric Wiland for helpful criticisms and suggestions. In addition, I was very fortunate to receive insightful and challenging written comments on earlier drafts from Stephen Kearns, Barry Maguire, Lilian O’Brien, Daniel Star, and Jussi Suikkanen.

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Kauppinen, A. Favoring. Philos Stud 172, 1953–1971 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-014-0381-1

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Keywords

  • Reasons
  • Normativity
  • Oughts
  • Fittingness