Normative reasons and the possibility of motivation
Luco, Andrés Carlos
Date of Issue2014
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
This article defends a claim about the conditions under which agents possess normative reasons for action. According to this claim, an agent has a normative reason to φ only if it’s psychologically possible for that reason to motivate the agent to φ. The claim is called‘Williams’s explanatory constraint,’since it’s drawn from Bernard Williams’s work on the topic of practical reason. A two-premise‘master argument’ for Williams’s explanatory constraint is put forward. First, an agent has a normative reason to φ only if that agent has the ability to φ for that reason. The second premise states that an agent has the ability to φ for a normative reason only if it’s psychologically possible for that reason to motivate the agent to φ. It is suggested that the ability to act for a normative reason involves the ability to act from a consequence-sensitive process of practical reasoning. Furthermore, normative reasons for action can motivate agents by being the objects of psychological states—particularly beliefs,desires, and intentions. In reply to the objection that normative reasons can never be objects of psychological states, I contend that all normative reasons are capable of being represented as the objects of psychological states.
South African journal of philosophy
© 2014 South African Journal of Philosophy. This is the author created version of a work that has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication in South African Journal of Philosophy , published by Taylor & Francis and NISC (Pty) Ltd on behalf of South African Journal of Philosophy. It incorporates referee’s comments but changes resulting from the publishing process, such as copyediting, structural formatting, may not be reflected in this document. The published version is available at: [http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02580136.2014.892679].