Rationality without reasons

Mind 117 (468):763-782 (2008)


This paper challenges the assumption that reasons are intrinsic to rational action. A great many actions are not best understood as ones in which the agent acted for reasons--and yet they can be understood as rational, and as open to rational criticism. The relative paucity of explicit reason-giving, practical arguments in daily life presents a general philosophical problem. It reflects the existence of a class of ways in which reason can regulate action, which goes far beyond producing reasons or applying principles. Much practical reasoning takes the form of what H. P. Grice called 'thought-transitions'. These are neither in the form of standard practical arguments, nor can they be so reconstructed without distorting the ways in which an agent thinks. Some actions to which one is led by a thought transition are rational, namely when what Grice called a 'propension' towards a given class of actions--a standing inclination to act in certain ways--would itself stand up to rational evaluation. The paper examines two bases for such endorsement, one local and limited, and one much more speculative, due to Grice himself

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References found in this work

What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
The Practice of Moral Judgment.Barbara Herman - 1985 - Journal of Philosophy 82 (8):414-436.
The Practice of Moral Judgment.Barbara Herman - 1985 - Journal of Philosophy 82 (8):414.
Free Action and Free Will.Gary Watson - 1987 - Mind 96 (April):154-72.
The Practice of Moral Judgment.Paul Guyer - 1993 - Ethics 106 (2):404-423.

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