Reasons as explanations

Philosophical Studies 165 (3):805-824 (2013)
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Abstract

Can a normative reason be understood as a kind of explanation? I here consider and argue against two important analyses of reasons as explanations. John Broome argues that we can analyze reasons in terms of the concepts of explanation and ought. On his view, reasons to ϕ are either facts that explain why one ought to ϕ (what he calls “perfect reasons”) or facts that play a for-ϕ role in weighing explanations (what he calls “pro tanto reasons”). I argue against Broome’s account of both perfect and pro tanto reasons. Other philosophers, including Joseph Raz, analyze reasons in terms of the concepts of explanation and good. On this view, some fact is a reason to ϕ if and only if that fact explains why ϕ-ing would be good in some respect, to some degree. This view avoids the objections to Broome’s view, but should be rejected since not all explanations of why ϕ-ing would be good constitute reasons to ϕ.

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John Brunero
University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Citations of this work

Fittingness First.Conor McHugh & Jonathan Way - 2016 - Ethics 126 (3):575-606.
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Reasons, Reason, and Context.Daniel Fogal - 2016 - In Errol Lord & Barry Maguire (eds.), Weighing Reasons. Oxford University Press.

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On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Principia ethica.George Edward Moore - 1903 - Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications. Edited by Thomas Baldwin.
What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 2002 - Mind 111 (442):323-354.
Slaves of the passions.Mark Schroeder - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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