Giving reasons and given reasons
Forthcoming in a festschrift for Derek Parfit, edited by Tim Campbell, Jeff McMahan and Ketan Ramakrishnan, Oxford University Press
The first normative 'reason'
The first use in English of the word 'reason' to refer to a normative reason occurs in a manuscript of the Ancrene Riwle from about 1225. It was used to refer to an explanation of why one ought to do something.
Reasons and rationality
Forthcoming in The Handbook of Rationality, edited by Marcus Knauff and Wolfgang Spohn, MIT Press
Many philosophers think that rationality can be defined in terms of reasons. I explore this reductive idea, and oppose it. I start with a review of the meanings of ‘reason’ and ‘rationality’ in order to clarify the issue. Then I assess the view that rationality consists in responding correctly to reasons. To this I oppose a ‘quick objection’, describe the defences it has against this objection, and argue that these defences fail. Next I assess various related views, including the view that rationality consists in responding correctly to beliefs about reasons, and argue against each of them. Eventually I identify the kernel of truth that lies within them, which is that rationality requires you to intend to F if you believe you ought to F. I call this ‘enkrasia’. It is only one requirement of rationality among many, so no reduction of rationality to reasons is possible.
reason: rationality or normativity but not both
Forthcoming in The Routledge Handbook of Practical Reason, edited by Ruth Change and Kurt Sylvan, Routledge.
The word ‘reason’ is very ambiguous, with the result that the term ‘practical reason’ may refer to two quite different topics. It may refer either to practical normativity or to practical rationality. The first is a matter of what one ought to do or has reason to do; the second is a matter of good practical reasoning and mental coherence in practical matters. Many philosophers fail to separate normativity from rationality as sharply as they should. Partly this is because they are confused by the ambiguity of ‘reason’ and partly because there are some substantive arguments that purport to show that there is no real distinction. This chapter enforces the distinction. It starts by separating the different meanings of ‘reason’, and then responds to the substantive arguments. The response turns on the conceptual feature of rationality that it is a property of the mind and supervenes on other properties of the mind. On the other hand, normativity does not supervene on the mind. The chapter concludes by discussing a Kantian approach to identifying normativity with rationality.
fundamentalism and what is wrong with it
In The Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity, edited by Daniel Star, Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 297–318.
Is there a fundamental feature of normativity, to which other features can be reduced? One defensible view is that the fundamental feature is the relation that holds between a person and F-ing when the person has reason to F. (“F” stands for any verb phrase, such as “run for the bus” or “hope for relief” or “believe Kampala is in Ghana.”) Another defensible view is that the fundamental feature is the relation that holds between a person and F-ing when the person ought to F. The popular view that the fundamental feature of normativity is the property of being a reason is not defensible, since that property can be reduced to either of the two relations I described. I argue that the second of these views—“ought fundamentalism”—is more credible that the first—“reason fundamentalism”—because it is more faithful to our ordinary normative concepts.
Philosophical Studies, 173 (2016), pp. 3369-3371 and 3431-3448
Contributions to a symposium on my book Rationality Through Reasoning, responding to Paul Boghossian, Garrett Cullity, Philip Pettit and Nicholas Southwood.
Journal page for Précis Preprint of Précis Journal page for Responses Preprint of Responses
Précis of Rationality Through Reasoning
Contributions to a symposium on my book Rationality Through Reasoning, responding to comments by Olav Gjelsvik, María José Frápolli and Neftalí Villanueva, Conor McHugh and Jonathan Way, Miranda del Corral, Fernando Broncano and Jesús Vega, and Nicholas Shackel.
Teorema, 34 (2015), pp. 99-103 and 191-209
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Précis of Rationality Through Reasoning
Responses to Setiya, Hussain and Horty
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 91 (2015), pp. 200-3 and 230-42
Contributions to a symposium on my book Rationality Through Reasoning
Journal page for Précis Preprint of Précis Journal page for Response Preprint of Response
Organon F, 20 (2013), pp. 425-36