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What are practical reasons? Explaining the counting in favor of relation

  • Author(s): Johnson, Rachel Ann
  • Advisor(s): Hieronymi, Pamela
  • et al.
Abstract

It is commonly claimed, in normative ethics, that a reason for action is a consideration that counts in favor of performing an action. There is, however, considerable debate about whether and how this counting in favor of relation is to be explained. That is, there is considerable debate about in virtue of what a consideration counts in favor of performing an action. In this dissertation, I defend the idea that a consideration counts in favor of performing an action in virtue of picking out something about that action that would have value. Chapter 1 examines a prominent strategy for defending this explanation of the counting in favor of relation. This strategy attempts to understand the relation by looking at the role that reasons for action play in distinguishing intentional actions from non-intentional actions. I argue that this distinction is not helpful for understanding the counting in favor of relation, and I suggest that an investigation into this relation should focus instead on a different distinction--that between actions that agents perform because they regard those actions as "called for" by something about them and actions that agents are merely moved to perform. Chapters 2-4 then examine accounts of the counting in favor of relation that attempt to capture this distinction without appealing to value. They appeal instead to non-normative desires and formal principles of reasoning. I argue that each of these accounts fails to capture the distinction. Furthermore, the ways in which each account fails to capture this distinction make clearer what the distinction is and why, in order to capture it, we need to appeal to value. In the final chapter, I discuss what the arguments presented in Chapters 2-4 show about what taking a consideration to "call for" an action amounts to. I also explain why we need the idea that a reason counts in favor of an action in virtue of picking out something about that action that would have value in order to account for this sense in which, when an action acts for a reason, she takes that reason to call for her action.

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