Monday, February 18, 2008

Reasons and pretzels

I think reasons are pretzels. Not literally, of course. Of course, the person who accused me of that probably thinks I might as well literally think of reasons as pretzels. Maybe I'll explain why at a later date. Consider three views about what reasons require. Tell me if any suits your fancy.

1. So long as you've A-d rationally/reasonably, there is nothing left over that the reasons that bear on whether to A could demand.

2. Reasons to A require conformity. So long as you A by some means or other, those reasons require nothing further.

3. Reasons require compliance. If R is a reason to A, the reason requires you to conform for that very reason (i.e., R).

I'll talk about a 4th soon. Comments are open.

Brian Leiter.


Errol Lord said...


I think that 3 is false of reasons. If you have overriding reason, R, to A, then you are rationally required to A for R. But the basing-relation is a requirement of rationality, not reasons (I think that there are several reasons why we should think of it this way).

In fact, I think that any basing-relation battles should be fought in the rationality debate, not the reasons debate. Thus, 2 is false of reasons too.

I don't really know what 1 is supposed to mean. Do reasons require one to be rational? No, rationality requires one to be rational. Reasons in themselves just count in favor of some action or belief. When they add up the right way (so to speak), then you are rationally required to do some things/believe some things. But they don't require this per se. They are normative insofar as they are the things that give rise to various (rational) requirements.

Clayton said...

Hey Errol,

I'm not sure how to state 1 exactly, but the idea is that there cannot be a gap between a situation in which (a) S acts rationally and (b) S does what the relevant reasons require. This allows us to use judgments about whether (a) obtains to determine whether (b) does. So, for example, insofar as certain kinds of errors do not show someone to be less than fully rational, those types of error do not involve a failure to respond properly to reasons.

I'm not sure I agree that basing is a requirement of rationality (or that there aren't reasons to be rational). Suppose a friend needs my help and helping my friend requires me to spend time at his house. Suppose also that I can only get internet at his place. I don't see that my staying because I can use the internet rather than staying for the better reason is a failure to do what the reasons require or a failure of rationality.