Relating to Reasons

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Langlois, Christopher
Practical Reason
While each of us has an intuitive sense of what a reason is, when considered more carefully the concept is not so clear. There are a number of questions to which any successful account of reasons will provide some answer. For example, on some accounts reasons may appear to be metaphysically odd entities, unlike other sorts of facts in our world. From here there are very serious questions which spring up regarding the motivational efficacy of reasons: given the nature of reasons, as respective accounts describe them, how is it that reasons get a grip in an agent? Further, whatever reasons are, and in whichever relation agents stand to reasons, how is it that agents get in touch with truths about reasons? How in theory – and importantly, in practice – do agents figure out which reasons apply to them? I will be defending a view of reasons in which reasons are primitive. This is what T.M. Scanlon calls 'Reasons Fundamentalism'. In particular, I will defend this view against charges which claim that an account of reasons as primitive or fundamental fails us in the following three respects: 1) it cannot provide us with an adequate account of what sorts of facts reasons are, and how they intermingle with other sorts of facts; 2) it cannot provide us with adequate account of how a consideration can count as a reason for an agent even if that agent fails to be gripped by the consideration, and; 3) it cannot provide us with an adequate account of how we figure out, in principle and in practice, what count as reasons and which reasons apply to us. If reasons are fundamental, existing and applying to us independently of anything already true of particular agents and are the sorts of things we can come to understand through reflection, it seems that such a story also succeeds in capturing our phenomenological experience of practical reasoning in our every day lives. This, I will suggest, goes some distance toward setting it apart from – and ahead of – other accounts.
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