Explaining Reasons

Deutsches Jahrbuch Fuer Philosophie 4:112-126 (2012)
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Abstract

What does it mean to call something a “reason”? This paper offers a unifying semantics for the word ‘reason’, challenging three ideas that are popular in contemporary philosophy; (i) that ‘reason’ is semantically ambiguous, (ii) that the concept of a normative reason is the basic normative concept, and (iii) that basic normative concepts are unanalyzable. Nonnormative uses of ‘reason’ are taken as basic, and as meaning explanation why. Talk about normative reasons for action is analyzed in terms of explanations why acting would be good in some way. I show how a number of obstacles for this idea—including extending the analysis to normative reasons for attitudes—can be overcome by adopting a reductive, end-relational analysis of the meaning of ‘good’ which I have defended elsewhere. Finally, I analyze talk of “motivating” reasons in terms of (supposed) normative reasons for which agents act.

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Stephen Finlay
Australian Catholic University

Citations of this work

The Value-Based Theory of Reasons.Barry Maguire - 2016 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 3.
Reasons, Evidence, and Explanations.John Brunero - 2018 - In Daniel Star (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 321-341.
Reasons as explanations.John Brunero - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 165 (3):805-824.
A “Good” Explanation of Five Puzzles about Reasons.Stephen Finlay - 2019 - Philosophical Perspectives 33 (1):62-104.
Naturalizing the contributory.Philip Fox - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):6275-6298.

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