Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 8 (5):557-569 (2005)

John Brunero
University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Some philosophers have tried to establish a connection between the normativity of instrumental rationality and the paradox presented by Lewis Carroll in his 1895 paper “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles.” I here examine and argue against accounts of this connection presented by Peter Railton and James Dreier before presenting my own account and discussing its implications for instrumentalism (the view that all there is to practical rationality is instrumental rationality). In my view, the potential for a Carroll-style regress just shows us that since instrumental rationality involves a higher-order commitment to combine our willing an end with our taking the necessary means, it therefore cannot, on pain of regress, itself be added as a conjunct to one of the elements to be combined. This view does not support instrumentalism.
Keywords Philosophy   Ethics   Ontology   Political Philosophy
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10677-005-2050-0
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,214
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Normative Requirements.John Broome - 1999 - Ratio 12 (4):398–419.
The Normativity of Instrumental Reason.Christine M. Korsgaard - 1997 - In Garrett Cullity & Berys Gaut (eds.), Ethics and Practical Reason. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
What The Tortoise Said To Achilles.Lewis Carroll - 1895 - Mind 104 (416):691-693.
The Authority of Reason.Jean E. Hampton - 1998 - Cambridge University Press.

View all 20 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

What Carroll’s Tortoise Actually Proves.Jan Willem Wieland - 2013 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (5):983-997.
Logic, Reasoning, and Rationality.Erik Weber, Joke Meheus & Dietlinde Wouters (eds.) - 2014 - Dordrecht, Netherland: Springer.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

What Carroll’s Tortoise Actually Proves.Jan Willem Wieland - 2013 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (5):983-997.
The Myth of Instrumental Rationality.Joseph Raz - 2005 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 1 (1):28.
Epistemic Rationality as Instrumental Rationality: A Critique.Thomas Kelly - 2003 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 66 (3):612–640.
The Varieties of Instrumental Rationality.Stephen Ellis - 2008 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 46 (2):199-220.
Instrumental Rationality.Ralph Wedgwood - 2011 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 6:280-309.
The Virtuous Tortoise.David Botting - 2016 - Philosophical Investigations 39 (4).
Instrumental Rationality.John Brunero & Niko Kolodny - 2013 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Instrumental Rationality, Symmetry and Scope.John Brunero - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 157 (1):125-140.
Green Reason: Communicative Ethics for the Biosphere.John S. Dryzek - 1990 - Environmental Ethics 12 (3):195-210.
Gert on Subjective Practical Rationality.Christian Miller - 2008 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 11 (5):551-561.


Added to PP index

Total views
174 ( #67,489 of 2,507,655 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #209,530 of 2,507,655 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes