2009 ReasonsExplanatoryandNormative

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Subject Headings: Normative Reason, Explanatory Reason.


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A thesis familiar by being as often disputed as defended has it that intentional action is action for a reason. The present paper contributes to the defence of a weaker version of it, namely: Acting with an intention or a purpose is acting (as things appear to one) for a reason.

This thesis is weaker in two respects: (a) One would be acting intentionally if one [math]\displaystyle{ \Theta_s }[/math] for the reason that P even if it is not the case that P or not the case that it is a reason to [math]\displaystyle{ \Theta }[/math], if one takes it to be such a reason, and (b) While all actions with a purpose or intention are intentional actions, not all intentional actions can sensibly be said to be actions done with an intention. My (automatically as it were) scratching my head, or my doodling, are intentional but not done with any intention in mind. Other intentional actions are part of sequences undertaken automatically in pursuit of some governing intention. Consider the many actions a driver performs in the course of driving one mile: accelerating, decelerating, braking, turning the wheel, operating indicators, and the like. Normally they are all intentional, but more or less automatic actions, often ones the driver is unaware of at the time. They are intentional for they are governed by an overall purpose, say getting somewhere, so that hi s driving is done wit h an intention, and therefore for a reason, whereas the many acts undertaken in the course of driving are intentional by being governed by that overall intention, rather than by being undertaken singly with any specific intention.

The reasons referred to above are normative reasons. A normative reason is a fact which gives a point or a purpose to one's action, and the action is undertaken for the sake or in pursuit of that point or purpose. Reasons, and this is the common view among writers on the subject, have a dual role here. They are both normative and explanatory. They are normative in as much as they guid decision and action, and form a basis for their evaluation



 AuthorvolumeDate ValuetitletypejournaltitleUrldoinoteyear
2009 ReasonsExplanatoryandNormativeJoseph RazReasons: Explanatory and Normative2009