Seeing What to Do: Affective Perception and Rational Motivation

Dialectica 61 (3):363-394 (2007)
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Theories of practical reason must meet a psychological requirement: they must explain how normative practical reasons can be motivationally efficacious. It would be pointless to claim that we are subject to normative demands of reason, if we were in fact unable to meet those demands. Concerning this requirement to account for the possibility of rational motivation, internalist approaches are distinguished from externalist ones. I defend internalism, whilst rejecting both ways in which the belief‐desire model can be instantiated. Both the Humean and the Kantian instantiation of that model fail to account for the internal connection between normative and motivating reasons required by internalism. The two classes of reasons rather come to be seen as mutually exclusive. Opposing the belief‐desire model, I argue that rational motivation can only be established by reference to emotion. Emotions are affective perceptions. They have motivational force so that they can contribute to the explanation of action. At the same time they can rationalise actions because they have an intentional content which resembles the content of sensory perception in being representational. Because of this, the emotions can noninferentially justify judgements, which in turn can justify actions. I conclude by outlining the Aristotelian account of practical reason and ethics that emerges from integrating the emotions into practical reasoning. Doing the right thing is much more a matter of seeing things right than of drawing the right inferences. Seeing things right, in its turn, is not only to justify an action: it necessarily implies to be motivated to act accordingly



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Sabine Döring
University Tübingen

Citations of this work

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Anger and its desires.Laura Silva - 2022 - European Journal of Philosophy 29 (4):1115-1135.

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References found in this work

What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
The moral problem.Michael Smith - 1994 - Cambridge, Mass., USA: Blackwell.
A treatise of human nature.David Hume & D. G. C. Macnabb (eds.) - 1951 - Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications.
The Emotions.Nico H. Frijda - 1986 - Cambridge University Press.

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