In Questions of Character. Oxford University Press. pp. 182-202 (2016)

Iskra Fileva
University of Colorado, Boulder
I discuss the respective roles of traits and reasons in the explanation of action. I begin by noting that traits and reasons explanations are systematically connected: traits explanations require motivation by reasons. Actions due to psychiatric conditions such as mental disorders cannot be explained by an appeal to traits. Because traits require motivation by reasons, it is often possible to explain one and the same action by an appeal to either the agent's traits or to her reasons. I then ask whether it follows from here that traits and reasons explanations of action are equivalent – though perhaps offered from different points of view – or whether they differ in interesting ways. I argue that the differences are interesting and important – traits and reasons explanations answer different “why” questions regarding action: a reasons explanation tells us what reasons motivated the agent acting; a traits explanation, by contrast, indicates something about an agent’s reasons but tells us something else in addition: it tells us why the agent acted on those as opposed to other available reasons.
Keywords traits explanations of action  reasons explabations of action  traits versus psychiatric conditions
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
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

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Actual Control - Demodalising Free Will.David Heering - 2020 - Dissertation, University of Leeds
Introduction to Symposium on New Work on Character.Christian B. Miller - 2017 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 14 (6):621-622.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Reasons, Causes, and Action Explanation.Mark Risjord - 2005 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 35 (3):294-306.
A Puzzle About Knowledge in Action.Iskra Fileva - 2013 - Logique Et Analyse 56 (223):287-301.
Reasons for Action.Pamela Hieronymi - 2011 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 111 (3pt3):407-427.
In Defense of a Non-Causal Account of Reasons Explanations.Carl Ginet - 2008 - The Journal of Ethics 12 (3-4):229 - 237.
Beyond Psychologism and Anti-Psychologism.Lilian O’Brien - 2015 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (2):281-295.
Reasons Vs. Causes in Explanation of Action.Ruth Macklin - 1972 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 33 (1):78-89.
Are There Any Nonmotivating Reasons for Action?Noa Latham - 2003 - In Sven Walter & Heinz-Dieter Heckmann (eds.), Physicalism and Mental Causation. Imprint Academic. pp. 273.
Reasons, Actions and Explanations.Gary Richard Weaver - 1980 - Dissertation, The University of Iowa
Reasons and the Ambiguity of 'Belief'.Maria Alvarez - 2008 - Philosophical Explorations 11 (1):53 – 65.
Teleological Explanation: A Species of Causal Explanation.D. Lynn Holt - 1988 - Philosophical Psychology 1 (3):313-325.


Added to PP index

Total views
282 ( #37,144 of 2,498,133 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
16 ( #50,842 of 2,498,133 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes