Agency and Action (Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement; by John and Helen Steward, editors Hyman

By John and Helen Steward, editors Hyman

This choice of unique essays by means of major philosophers covers the whole variety of the philosophy of motion.

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So the subjective principle we have been working with (something like PR1) does look as if it is in the business of specifying what we might call real but subjective reasons. But now we are in danger of saying that if one were to act in the light of a subjective principle, one should be acting in the light of the reasons it specifies, namely that one believes that p and that if p it would be good to O. But that is just to say that the features that we originally offered as causes—>S"s believing that p and so on—are in fact now being offered as reasons.

In McDowell's supposedly causal intentional explanations beliefs of the agent function as explanantia, in a way intended to chime with their being the agent's reasons for doing what he did. But this shows that McDowell's explanations are rival accounts of the reasons for which the action was done, and the causal explanations I am officially dealing with in this paper are exactly not of this type. To repeat, the latter allow that my normative explanations are the only ones that explain by appeal to the agent's reasons, but suppose that some (merely) causal explanation is also somehow appropriate.

We are allowing now that in order to make sense of the agent, we need to display the objective norm to which he is responding—even if the norm to which he is responding does not in fact apply to the case in hand. An agent is shown to be acting rationally if, as we might put it, he is shown to be trying to do what there is good reason to do, even if as a matter of fact he is quite mistaken on that front. If he is mistaken, then though he is trying to follow where the reasons lead he is failing in that attempt, and has ended up doing what he has no good reason to do.

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