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Reasons as Explanations: A Genuine Alternative to the Guise of the Good Thesis

  • Author(s): McFadden, Meredith
  • Advisor(s): Nelson, Michael D
  • Fischer, John M
  • et al.
Abstract

When we see a consideration as a reason for action we see said consideration as

supporting, or speaking in favor of, performing the action. It has been difficult to make

progress in unpacking the “supporting”, or “speaking in favor of” relation. According to

the standard account, the “guise of the good thesis”, we see a consideration as supporting

an action insofar as we see it as pointing to the good in the action.

In my dissertation, I argue that this is misguided; it leaves us with a distorted and

overly virtuous picture of human agency. My overall project is to provide a viable

alternative to this long-held view. I put forward and defend an explanation-based view of

practical reason.

Though some views of practical reasoning have pointed to explanation to illuminate

the way reasons support performing actions, the accounts have been woefully

underdeveloped. In my dissertation I mine the philosophy of science literature on

explanation in order to apply a pragmatic theory of explanation to the practical domain.

With the theory of explanation in hand, I can provide standards for good and bad reasons

for action. I show how my view thereby accounts for how reasons support performing

actions in both our deliberation and justification practices, and rivals the guise of the good

model of practical reasoning without relying on evaluative content.

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