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Crucial Topics in the Debate about the Existence of External Reasons

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1 CRUCIAL TOPICS IN THE DEBATE AB OUT THE EXISTENCE OF EXTERNAL REASONS By MARANATHA JOY HAYES A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2007

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2 2007 Maranatha Joy Hayes

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3 To your mom

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I thank all of the members of my committee for their assistance and support in writing this thesis.

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................... ..............6 CHAPTER 1 PROBLEMS WITH WILLIAMS IN TERNAL AND EXTERNAL REASONS................8 Introduction................................................................................................................... ............8 My Summary of Williams Argument......................................................................................9 My Main Argument against Williams....................................................................................19 2 A DEFENSE OF CHRISTINE KORSGAARDS SKEPTICISM ABOUT PRACTICAL REASON.......................................................................................................28 Introduction................................................................................................................... ..........28 My Summary of Korsgaards Argument................................................................................29 My Defense of Korsgaard.......................................................................................................35 3 THE NORMATIVITY OR NON-NORMATIV ITY OF INSTRUMENTAL REASON......39 Introduction................................................................................................................... ..........39 My Summary of Korsgaards Argument................................................................................41 Hubins Objection to the First Horn of Korsgaards Dilemma..............................................44 Hubins Objection to the Second Horn of Korsgaards Dilemma..........................................46 LIST OF REFERENCES............................................................................................................. ..54 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.........................................................................................................55

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6 Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts CRICIAL TOPICS IN THE DEBATE ABOU T THE EXISTENCE OF EXTERNAL REASONS By Maranatha Joy Hayes May 2007 Chair: David Copp Major: Philosophy Three major issues that arise in the discu ssion of whether external reasons exist are questions about how agents acqui re motivations, what processes of reasoning are possible, and how agents ends are determined. The answers to any of these questions will largely determine the outcome of the debate over wh ether external reasons exist. A crucial claim in Bernard Williams argument that external reasons do not exist is that a reason must have the capacity to motivate an agent. He says that because candidates for external reasons cannot motivate agents, external reasons do not exist at all. If we accept Williams requirement that if something is to count as a reason it must have the capacity of motivating us, then much of the debate about whether external reasons exist rests on what we discover about motivation. The question of whether agents can acquire th e motivation to act on external reasons to a large extent rests on what kinds of practical reasoning it is possible fo r agents to engage in. It is possible for externalists and internalists to both accept the same theory of motivation, and yet fail to agree on whether this theory of motivation leaves room for the existence of a process of reasoning that can lead to the di scovery of external reasons and the ability to become motivated by them

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7 Finally, another important question in the deba te over whether extern al reasons exist is how agents ends are determined. Some reasons theorists think ends are determined by the agents desires while others think ends are determined by prudence or morality. I am largely sympathetic to the revised Hum ean theory of motivati on, but I am skeptical about the conclusions that Williams draws fr om this theorynamely, that pure practical reasoning (through which an agent may be able to discover and become mo tivated by external reasons) does not exist and that an agents ends are determined so lely by his desire s and the other elements in his subjective motivational set.

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8 CHAPTER 1 PROBLEMS WITH WILLIAMS INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL REASONS Introduction In Internal and External Reasons, Bernar d Williams argues that all external reason statements are false or incoherent. In arguing fo r this thesis, Williams offers a requirement that he claims anything must meet in order to qualify as a reason for action. This requirement states that any reason for action must have the possibi lity of being someones reason for action on a particular occasion, and have the possibility of figuring into an explanation of that action. Williams also claims that all practical reasoni ng that can result in the acquisition of a new motivation must begin with prio r motivations. Presumably, this means that any new motivation that an agent adopts must be introduced thr ough some existing motivation. For example, Williams might claim that I cannot adopt the motiv ation to do something because it is rational unless I am already motivated to be rational. It is somewhat unclear just how strong Williams wishes to make his motivational requirement. In this chapter I will show that the arguments that utilize the stronger and the weaker interpretations of Williams motivational requirement are both potentially problematic. On the stronger interpretation of his require ment, Williams has not provided an argument for why an agent can only acquire a new motiv ation through some existing motivation. Additionally, he has not shown how it would follow from the truth of that claim that it is not possible for an agent to acquire the new motiv ation through rational deliberation. The argument that uses the weaker interpretation of Williams motivational requirement is problematic for similar reasons. Finally, it is unclear why Williams thinks the external reasons theorist cannot meet his challenge to explain what it is that an agent comes to believe when he believes he has

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9 reason to do something. In respons e to this challenge, I will offer a possible answer on behalf of the externalist. My Summary of Williams Argument According to Williams, there are two interpretations of reasons statements that take the following form. A has reason to . There is a reason for A to . Williams defines the two interpretations of these reasons statements as follows: On the internal reasons interpre tation, the above sentences are true only if there is some end or motive A has that will be promoted by his -ing. On the external reas ons interpretation, the above sentences can be true regardless of whether A has some end or motive within his subjective motivational set that will be promoted by his -ing.1 Williams offers four propositions that he claims to be true of internal reasons statements. Note in reading these propositions that S stands for the agents subjective motivational set which Williams defines as the agents set of desires, dispositions of evaluati on, patterns of emotional reaction, personal loyalties, various projec ts, embodying commitments of the agent, etc.2 In short, an agents S includes anything that might serv e as some sort of end for the agent. The four propositions that Williams claims are true of internal reasons statements are as follows: An internal reason statement is falsifie d by the absence of some appropriate element from [the agents] S.3 A member of S, D, w ill not give A a reason for -ing if either the existence of D is dependent on a false belief, or As belief in the relevance of -ing to the satisfaction of D is false.4 1 Williams, Bernard. Internal and External Reasons. In Darwall, Gibbard, and Railton, Moral Discourse and Practice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 363. 2 Ibid, p. 364. 3 Ibid, p. 364. 4 Ibid, p. 364.

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10 a. A may falsely believe an inte rnal reason statement about himself. b. A may not know some true in ternal reason statement about himself.5 Internal reason statements can be discovered in deliberative reasoning.6 Williams offers these propositions in order to make the internal reasons interpretation as plausible as possible and in orde r to avoid the most obvious object ions against internalism. He also outlines an account of practical reasoning that he claims to be compatible with internalism. As a result of such processes an agent can co me to see that he has reason to do something which he did not see he had reason to do at al l. In this way, the deliberative process can add new actions for which there are internal reas ons, just as it can add new internal reasons for given actions. The deliberative process can also subtract elements from S. Reflection may lead the agent to see that some belief is fa lse, and hence realize that he has in fact no reason to do something he thought he had reason to do. More subtly, he may think he has reason to promote some development because he has not exercised his imagination enough about what it would be like if it came about In his unaided deliberative reason, or encouraged by the persuasions of others, he may come to have some more concrete sense of what would be involved, and lose his desi re for it, just as, positively, the imagination can create new possibili ties and new desires.7 Williams attempt to show how this process of practical reasoning is compatible with internalism is important for two reasons. First, it makes the internalist position appear more plausible because it reveals the way in whic h reasoning can still fit into it. Second, it puts a heavy burden on the external reasons theorist to explain how ex ternal reasons exist and are truly distinct from internal reasons because it explains how reasons that are accessed through a process of practical reasoning can still count as internal reasons. Williams claims that on the external reasons interpretation, a person has reason to act in a particular way even if the action in question do es not promote any of th e ends in the agents subjective motivational set. To assist him in considering the plausibility of the claim that external reasons can exist, Williams offers the following case. 5 Ibid, p. 364. 6 Ibid, p. 365. 7 Ibid, p. 365.

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11 (The Owen Wingrave Case) Owen Wingraves father urges Owen to join the army for reasons involving the ne cessity and importance of the army and the value of tradition and family pride. However, Owen has no motivation to join the armyhe lacks the desire to do so and does not like what the army stands for. However, Owen eventually changes his mind due to his fathers persua sion, finally accepting that there is in fact a reason for him to join the army.8 In evaluating the plausibility of the claim that some external reasons statements are true, Williams asks how Owen might come to believe that he has a reason to join the army and become motivated by that reason th rough a process of reasoning that differs from that offered in his account of internal reasons. As his first step in showing how any given exte rnal reason statement must be false, Williams offers the following requirement. (Williams Motivational Requirement) In considering what an external reason statement might mean, we have to remember again the dimension of possible explanation, a consideration which applies to any reason fo r action. If something can be a reason for action, then it could be someones reason for acting on a particular occasion, and it would then figure in an expl anation of that action.9 Williams claims that the external reason statem ent cannot by itself explai n Owens action. This is because if the external reason statement were true, it was true even when Owen had no motivation to join the army, since by definition external reasons st atements are true regardless of whether the agent has any motivation to act on them.10 Suppose Owen does have an external reason to join the army. Because external reasons are true regardless of the agents motivation, Owen had a reason to join the army both before and after he understood that there was a reason to do so and acqui red the motivation to do so. Therefore, the mere truth of the external reason statement Owe n has a reason to join the army, does not make external reason statement meet W illiams motivational requirement. In order for 8 Ibid, p. 366. 9 Ibid, p. 367. 10 Ibid, p. 367.

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12 the external reasons theorist to show how external reasons can meet this requirement, he must explain what caused Owen to change his mind and accept that he had a reason to join the army when previously he saw no reason to do so. In other words, Williams claims, the externalist must come up with some psychological link betw een the external reason statement and the action it helps motivate in order to show how the external reason can meet his motivational requirement. Williams claims that the psychological link most of ten offered by the external reasons theorist is belief. The externalist claims that Owen can acq uire the motivation to join the army by coming to believe that he has a reason to do so. Once th is process occurs, an external reason can explain a persons action (such as Owens ac tion) in the same way that an internal reason can. Because Owen believes that he has a reason to join the army, joining the army becomes one of Owens new ends. Williams claims that a reason must meet the following two conditions in order to meet his motivational requirement and still count as an external reason. (a) If an agent has a reason to it must be possible for the agent to acquire the motivation to simply through deliberating correctly.11 (b) If an agent has a reason to it must be possible for the agent to acquire the motivation to regardless of what other mo tivations he originally had.12 Williams offers requirement (b) because he thinks that a reason can only meet requirement (a) if it also meets requirement (b). Owen might be so persuaded by his fathers moving rhetoric that he acquired both the motivation and the belief. But this excludes an element which the external reasons theorist essentially wants, that the agent should acquire the motivation because he comes to believe the reason statement, and that he should do th e latter, moreover, because, in some way, he is considering the matter aright. If the theorist is to hold on to these conditions, he will, I think, have to make the condition under which the agent appropriately comes to have the 11 Ibid, p. 368. 12 Ibid, p. 368.

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13 motivation something like this, th at he should deliberate correc tly; and the external reasons statement itself will have to be taken as roughl y equivalent to or at least entailing, the claim that if the agent rationally deliberated, then, whatever motivations he originally had, he would come to be motivated to 13 In other words, requirement (a) is the one we s hould really be paying attention to. Requirement (b) is only worth paying attention to if Williams is right that a reason needs to meet that requirement in order to meet requirement (a). Initially, it looks as if th e external reason offered in the Owen Wingrave case meets both of these conditions. First, it is conceivable that Owen comes to believe that he has a reason to because he deliberates about the matter rightly and comes to realize th e importance of family tradition and honor, and so the reason in the Owen Wingrave case appears to meet the first condition Williams offers. It also seems that the reason in the Owen Wi ngrave case meets the second condition. At the beginning of the Wi ngrave story, Owen Wingrave has no motivation to join the army at all, and a ll his desires lead in another dire ction: he hates everything about military life and what it means.14 Because the story indicates th at Owen only realized that he had a reason to join the army after his father offe red him a series of arguments, it appears that the reason meets condition (b), since Owen acquired th e motivation to join the army even though he originally had a strong aversion to it. Williams claims that this psychological link (belief) offered by the external reasons theorist is not sufficient to explain how external reasons can meet requirements (a) and (b). Further, Williams is convinced that it is not possible for a reason to meet requirements (a) and (b). It is very plausible to suppose that all ex ternal reason statements are false. For, ex hypothesi there is no motivation for the agent to deliberate from to reach this new motivation, what has to hold for external reas on statements to be true, on this line of interpretation, is that the new motivation co uld be in some way rationally arrived at, granted the earlier motivations. Yet at th e same time it must not bear to the earlier 13 Ibid, p. 368. 14 Ibid, p. 366.

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14 motivations the kind of rational relation which we considered in the earlier discussion of deliberationfor in that case an internal reason statement would have been true in the first place.15 Williams claims that conditions (a) and (b) cannot be met because in order to become motivated to there must be some motivation (which arises from the elements already present in the agents S) that the agent deliberates from in order to arrive at the new motivation to If one can only gain a new motivation th rough deliberation that begins w ith existing motivations, then it is not possible for an agent to (a) acquire the motivation to simply through deliberating correctly or (b) acquire the motivation to regardless of what other motivations he originally had, since the types of de liberation that can result in motivation are limited by what motivations the agent already has or does not have. One might object to my interpretation of the a bove passage (as meaning that any new motivation must be introduced through some existing motiv ation) by pointing to the passage in which Williams states that an agent can discover new actions for which there are internal reasons as well as new internal reasons for certain actions Williams claims that the discovery of new reasons might be the result of learning new facts or of simply exercising ones imagination about what the result of certain actions might be. Through the use of his im agination, or through the discovery of facts, an agent might add elements to his S.16 Someone might claim that this passage indicates Williams does not think that an agents process of reasoning is determined or limited by the elements already present in that agents S. However, the passage in which Williams claims that an agent must deliberate from an old motivation in order to reach a new motivation indi cates that even the kinds of reasoning that Williams claims can add new motivations or subtract old motivations are limited by the 15 Ibid, p. 368. 16 Ibid, p. 365.

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15 motivations that the agent already has. For example, suppose an undergraduate wants to go to law school, but once he sees the ma terial he would be studying he realizes that the classes would be so boring to him that he could not endure th e three years of law school. In this way, through his unaided deliberative reason, the student looses his de sire to go to law sc hool. In the end, he loses this desire because he is motivated to avoid engaging in activities that are boring, and because he discovers through imagination and re ason that law school would be boring. These passages (in which Williams claims that an agent must deliberate from an old motivation in order to acquire a new motivation and in which he cl aims that an agent can discover new reasons through imagination and reason) together seem to indicate that even when an agent acquires an entirely new motive or loses an existing motive, the changes in his motivations are still limited by what motivations the agent already had. Another reason to believe that my interpretati on of the above passage is correct is that unless Williams is claiming that new motiva tions can only be introduced through existing motivations, the passage does not do the work Wi lliams wants it to do. If this is not what Williams is claiming, he has not shown why Owen cannot be motivated by an external reason. It may help at this point to illustrate the probl em Williams is trying to raise through the use of the Owen Wingrave case. To meet conditions (a) and (b) Owen Wingrave needs to deliberate correctly and he must be able to acquire the mo tivation to do what he ha s reason to do regardless of what elements were already in his S. Th is means that the way in which Owen deliberates should not be limited by his existing motivations (a nd thus the elements in his S). Williams says, for example, Owen might be so persuaded by his fathers moving rhetoric that he acquired both the motivation and the belief. But this excludes an element which the external reasons theorist essentially wants, that the agent should acquire the motivation because he comes to believe

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16 the reason statement, and that he should do th e latter, moreover, because, in some way, he is considering the matter aright.17 If Owen is motivated to act becaus e of his fathers moving rhetoric, then it is an internal reason, not an external reason, which motivates. The main difficulty here is that the rational processes by which Owen can acquire new motivations are limited by his existing motivations, which are in turn limited by the elements already present in Owens S. By claiming any reasoning that results in the acquisition of a new motivation must occur b ecause of existing motivations, Williams is already claiming that the types of reasoning by which an agent might gain the motivation to act on an external reason do not exist at all. Williams claims that the externalist might reply to his argument by offering the following definition of what it means to be a rational agent. (Externalist Definition of a Rational Agent) A rational agent is one who has a general disposition in his S to do what (he be lieves) there is a reason for him to do.18 Williams argues that this move does not help the external reasons theorist show that external reason statements can be true because this constraint still does not answer Williams demand that the external reasons theorist explain what it is th at the agent comes to believe when he comes to believe he has reason to do something. But this reply merely puts off the problem. It reapplies the desire and belief model (roughly speaking) of explanation to the actions in question, but using a desire and a belief the content of which are in question. What is it that one comes to believe when he comes to believe that there is a reason for him to if it is not the proposition that, if he deliberated rationally, he would be motivated to act appropriately? We were asking how any true proposition could have th at content; it cannot help, in answering that, to appeal to a supposed desire which is activated by a belief which has that very content.19 By making this move to describe how external reasons might motivate, the external reasons theorist is merely invoking the desi re of a rational agent to do what he has reason to do. In other 17 Ibid, p. 368. 18 Ibid, p. 367. 19 Ibid, p. 368.

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17 words, the externalist still has not explained th e content of what one believes when he believes he has reason to do something. Another reason that Williams might think this reply fails is because by introducing this constraint, the external reasons theo rist still fails to meet requirement (b), that if an agent has an external reason to it must be possible for the agent to acquire the motivation to regardless of what other motivations he originally ha d. If an agent becomes motivated to because his existing motivations in some way cause him to acquire the new motivation, Williams thinks that his reason to turns out to be an internal reason after al l. Because the externalist is working it into the case that the agent is already motivated to do what he believes there is a reason for him to do, Williams thinks the external ist gives the reason in question the features of an internal reason. According to Williams, the result is that the externalist definition of a rational agent does not allow the external reasons theorist to show how external reasons can meet Williams requirements. However, remember that Williams simply offe rs requirement (b) because he thinks that any reason that can meet requirement (a) must meet requirement (b). If Williams is wrong that it is necessary for a reason to meet requirement (b) if it is to meet requirement (a), then we no longer have a need for requirement (b). In the second half of this chapter, I will provi de an argument for why W illiams replies to the externalist definition of a rational agent fa il to undermine the externalist argument. Before I make my argument, it may help to outline Williams argument in premiseconclusion form so that it may become clearer why Williams takes the steps he does, and how he uses some of the conclusions he draws to justify other moves.

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18 If something can be a reason for action, then it could be someones reason on a particular occasion, and it would then figure in an explanation of that action. To meet the requirement stated in (1), it must be possible for the candidate for a reason to motivate an agent. External reasons cannot by themselves motivate an agent and explain that agents action, since by their nature external reasons can exist regardless of the content of the agents motivations. In other words, the truth of an ex ternal reasons statement is independent of the motivations that some agent might have. So, if external reasons are to m eet the requirement stated in (1 ), they must be joined with some psychological link. The best candidate for the psyc hological link needed to meet the requirement stated in (1) is belief. For belief to serve as a link that allows th e external reasons theorist to explain how external reasons might meet the requirement stated in (1), the external reasons theorist must explain how it is that coming to believe an external reason statement can motivate. To explain how coming to believe an external reason statement can motivate, the external reason theorist must conceive the connection between acquiring the motivation and coming to believe the reason statement in a way that is dis tinct from the way in which the internal reason theorist conceives of this c onnectionotherwise the reason in question would amount to an internal reason. To show a connection distinct from the connect ion offered by the internalist, the externalist must show that whatever motivations the agent or iginally had, he could come to be motivated by coming to believe the external reason statement in question.

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19 The external reason theorist cannot show a connection betwee n belief and motivation that is distinct from the way in which the internalis t explains that connecti on, since all deliberation that results in the acquisition of a ne w motive begins with existing motives. (10) Therefore, the inte rnal reason theorist cannot explain how it is that coming to believe an external reason statement can motivate. (11) Therefore, the best candidate for the psyc hological link needed for external reasons to meet Williams motivational requirement fails. (12) Therefore, candidates for external reasons fail to meet Williams motivational requirement. (C) Therefore, there is no su ch thing as external reasons. Before moving on, it is not clear what notion of could Williams has in mind when he claims that for an agent to have a reason to act, it must be the case that the agent could act on that reason. If what Williams means by possible is possible even if we hold constant the agents motivation, then the requirement comes across as too strong. If, on the other hand, what Williams means by possible is that an ag ent has the capacity to somehow acquire the motivation to act on the reason, then Williams motiv ational requirement seems to be a lot more plausible. My Main Argument against Williams My main criticism of Williams argument against externalism is related to two claims he makes. First, he claims that an agent can only acquire new motivations through existing motivations. Second, he claims that if an ag ent cannot acquire a new motivation regardless of what his prior motivations are then that agen t cannot acquire a new motivation simply through rational deliberation. In this se ction, I will argue that Williams n eeds to provide an argument for

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20 both of these claims. I will also illustrate how, ev en if we grant the truth of the first claim, the argument using the stronger interpretation of Williams motivational requirement will still produce results that the externalist will find undesi rable, but external reasons will still meet the weaker interpretation of Williams motiva tional requirement without a problem. I will now explain both interpretations of Williams motivational requirement and the problems that arise from each. I will first deal with the stronger inte rpretation. The stronger version of Williams motivational requirement might be stated as follows: (The Stronger Interpretation of Williams Motivational Requirement) In order for to count as a reason for A to act, it must be possible for to be As reason for action and figure into As explan ation for that action. The argument that uses the stronger interpreta tion of Williams motivational requirement is problematic because Williams does not provide adequate support for a key premise of that argument. Additionally, Williams has not shown how another of his key premises follows from an earlier claim that he makes. On the stronger interpretation of Williams motivational requirement, Williams basic argument against external reasons might look like this. (1) In order for to count as an external reason fo r A to act, it must be possible for to be As reason for action and figure into As explanation for that action. (2) If an external reason has the capacity to motivate an agent A (and still count as an external reason), it must be possible for the agent A to become motivated by the reason through deliberating correctly. (3) The agent As acquisition of new motivations can only be caused by that agent As existing motivations (and so the acquisition of new motivations cannot be caused simply by correct deliberations but also by the elements that already happen to be in that agent As S).

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21 (4) It is not possible for an agent A to become motivated by a reason simply through correct deliberation. (C) Therefore, external reasons do not exist. There are two major problems with this argum ent that utilizes the stronger version of Williams motivational requirement. First, Williams has not provided an argument for premise (3). On his stronger interpretation, Williams dema nds that if something can count as a reason for A to it must be possible for A to become motivated by the reason for -ing. He also claims that if the reason for -ing is to have the capacity to motivate A, As reason for -ing must be caused by some motivation already present in As S.20 Remember that Williams claims that on the externalist account, the statement A has a reason to is not falsified by the lack of certain elements within the agents S. Accordi ng to the stronger interpretation of Williams motivational requirement and his claim that A s acquisition of any new motivation must arise from As prior motivations, A has a reason to can only be true if th e reason in question is relevantly related to the motivations that A alre ady has (and thus also re levantly related to the elements within As S). By claiming that all ne w motivations must arise from prior motivations, Williams is simply denying the externalist position he outlinedWilliams has not actually demonstrated the truth of his key claim that all new motivations must arise from prior motivations and that the sent ence A has a reason to is thus falsified by the lack of certain motivations the agent already has. Unless W illiams can demonstrate that an agent cannot acquire a new motivation except through existing motivations, his argument does not go through. Second, even if it is the case that an agent can only ac quire new motivations through existing ones, Williams has not shown how it follo ws from that claim that an agent cannot 20 Ibid, p. 368.

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22 become motivated by a reason simply through correct deliberation. An externalist could claim at this point that a rational agent could be mo tivated simply through correct deliberation by acquiring the motivation to act on an external reason through his existing motivation to do what is rational. In Internal and External Reasons, Williams answers this objection by claiming that this reply does not explain what an agent comes to believe when he believes he has a reason to do something. This is a separate issue, which I will address la ter in the chapter. To make his argument using the stronger vers ion of his motivational requirement go through, Williams must do two things. First, he must provi de an argument for the truth of his claim that an agent can only gain a new motivation through old motivations. Second, even if this part of his theory of motivation is correct, he must prove that an agent can only become motivated through correct deliberation if an agent can acquire a new motiva tion regardless of what his prior motivations are. Williams has not provided an argument for either of these two claims. The weaker interpretation of Williams Moti vational Requirement is also potentially problematic. (The Weaker Interpretation of Williams Motivational Requirement) In order for to be a reason for A to act, it must be possible for to serve as some agents reason for action on a particular occasion, and figure into an expl anation for some possible course of action. On the weaker interpretation of Williams motivational requirement, the basic argument against external reasons might look like this. (1) In order for to be an external reason for A to act, it must be possible for to serve as some agents reason for action on a particular occasion, and figure into an explanation for some po ssible course of action. (2) If an external reason has the capacity to motiv ate any agent, it must be possible for an agent to become motivated by that re ason simply through correct deliberation.

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23 (3) An agent can only become motivated by a r eason simply through correct deliberation if some agent can acquire some new mo tivation regardless of what his existing motivations are. (4) It is not possible for any ag ent to acquire a new motiva tion regardless of what his existing motivations are. (C) Therefore, external reasons do not exist. The argument against external reasons that uses the weaker interpretation of Williams motivational requirement has the same pr oblems as the argument using the stronger interpretation of Williams motivational requirement. Williams has not provided an argument for his claim that an agent can only gain a new motivation through prior motivations. Additionally, it is not clear why it must be possi ble for an agent to acquire a new motivation regardless of what his existing motivations are for it to be possible for an agent to become motivated by a reason simply through correct deli beration. In other words, it is not clear why Williams claim that an agent can only gain a new motivation through existing motivations has to be false in order for it to be possible for an agent to be able to become motivated by a reason through correct deliberation. For the remainder of this chapter, let us grant that an agent can only acquire a new motivation through prior motivations. While Wil liams does need to be an argument for this claim, it seems to be a reasonable enough clai m and there is no strong reason to doubt that Williams would be able to formulate an adequate argument for it. If this claim is true, then the stronger version of Williams mo tivational requirement is still threatening to the externalist position, since it would follow that only rational agents could ha ve an external reason to do anything. This is certainly a result that many ex ternalists would not want, since they seem to

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24 want to say that irrational agents also have a reason to do what is rational. However, even if Williams claims about motivation are true, but his claims about what counts as rational deliberation are false, many candidate s for external reasons will still be able to meet the weaker interpretation of Williams motivational requirement. To better understand the way the arguments using the stronger and weaker interpretations of Williams motivational requir ement differ, consider the following case. Marcos is a rational agent. He has the motiv ation and the desire to act rationally, and he deliberates correctly in order to find out how he should act. Marcos di scovers through rational deliberation that he should save his money for the future in order to promote his long-term welfare rather than spend it now. In this case, Marcos acquires the motivation to save his money (and thus do what he has an external reason to do) through his existing motivation to do what is rational. Miguel, on the other hand, is not a ratio nal agent, he does not have the motivation or desire to act rationally, and he is not interested in saving his money for the future. Remember that from here on, in evaluating these cases, we are granting the truth of Williams claim that an agent can only acquire a new motivation through existing motivations. However, we are doubting Williams claim that it fo llows from that theory of motivation that it is impossible for an agent to acquire a new motivation simply through correct deliberation. According to the stronger interpretation of Williams motivational requirement, Marcos has an external reason to save his money for the future, but Miguel does not. This is because Marcos acquired the motivation to save his m oney for the future through rational deliberation (given his existing motivation to be rational.) Miguel, on the other hand, ha s neither an internal or external reason to save his money for the future since he is unable to acquire the motivation to do so. According to the stronge r version of Williams motiva tional requirement, Miguel can

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25 only have a reason to do something if he can be motivated by that reason. Since Miguel cannot become motivated to save his money for the future, he does not have a reason to do so. Both Marcos and Miguel have an external r eason to save their money for the future on the weaker interpretation of W illiams motivational requirement. Because the reason in question has the capacity to motivate someone and that someone was able to acquire that motivation simply through rational deliberation, the reason m eets the weaker versi on Williams motivational requirement and still counts as an external reason. Let us consider another example. (The Drowning Child Example) Bob observes a child drowning, and yet has no desire to save the child. Saving the child would not prom ote any of the ends contained within Bobs S. However, if another person, Steve, had b een present and seen th e child drowning, Steve would have wanted to save the child. This is because Steve is c onvinced that he has a reason (x) to help others when possible, and that end has been introduced into his S. Because Steve would be convinced that there is a reason to save the child, he would be motivated to do so. Does Bob have a reason (x) to save the child? For Bob, reason x does not meet the stronge r interpretation of Williams Motivational Requirement. This is because reason x does not have the capacity to motivate Bob, and x is not capable of serving as Bobs reason for action on that occasion since sa ving the child does not promote any end already contained in Bobs S and Bob is unable to acquire the motivation to act on reason x. However, reason x does (even for Bob) appear to meet the weaker interpretation of Williams motivational requirement since it is capable of serving as someones (namely, Steves) reason for action on a particular occasion. Just after offering his motivational requirement, Williams claims that no external reason can by itself meet that requirement.21 He claims that in order to show how external reasons might meet his Motivational Requirement, the exte rnal reasons theorist needs to offer some psychological link between the truth of the extern al reason statement and the motivation of the 21 Ibid, p. 367.

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26 agent to act on the reason in quest ion. When the external reasons theorist claims that belief can serve as this psychological link, Williams claims th at the external reasons theorist must explain what it is that an agent comes to believe when he believes there is a reason for him to The demand that the external reasons theorist needs to explain what it is that an agent comes to believe when he comes to believe that he has a reason to is somewhat confusing. Perhaps Williams wants to push a definitional point and ask the external reasons theorist to define the term reason. This is a reasonabl e question, but it is unclear why Williams might think that the external reasons theo rist cannot answer it. Further, it is not clear that Williams has answered his own question. Williams claims that an agent has a reason to do something only if that action promotes one or more of the agents ends. This is simply a n ecessary condition, but perhaps he means to offer it as a sufficient condition as well a nd claim that an agent has a reas on to do something if and only if that action promotes one or more of the agents ends. The externalist might follow Williams example and define reason as follows: an agent has a reason to if and only if -ing promotes that agents long term happiness, or an agent has a reason to if and only if -ing conforms to the demands of some moral system. I do not s ee any adequate argument provided by Williams in Internal and External Reasons that shows why this potential definition of reason would be unacceptable. In conclusion, the foundation of Williams ar gument against the existence of external reasons is his motivational requirement, his claim that an agent can only acquire a new motivation through one of his existi ng motivations, and claim that it is only possible for an agent to acquire a new motivation simply through correct deliberation if it is po ssible for the agent to acquire a new motivation regardless of what his prior motivations ar e. In this chapter I have

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27 shown that there are potential problems with both the argum ent that uses the stronger interpretation of Williams motivational requirement and the argument that uses the weaker interpretation of Williams motivational requirement. In order to make the arguments that use both the stronger and the weaker interpretations of his motiv ational requirement go through, Williams needs to provide an argument for two of hi s claims. First, he needs to prove that an agent can only acquire a new motivation thr ough existing motivations. Second, he needs to show that an agent can only acquire a new motiv ation simply through correct deliberation if he can acquire that motivation regardless of what hi s existing motivations are. I have also shown that even if we grant that an agent can only acquire a new motivation through existing motivations, many candidates for external reasons still meet the weaker version of Williams motivational requirement. Finally, I argued that Williams demand that the externalist offer a definition of reason has actually been met by the externalist; the externalist has offered a definition of reason that is at least as detailed as Williams definition.

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28 CHAPTER 2 A DEFENSE OF CHRISTINE KORSGAARDS SKEPTICISM ABOUT PRACTICAL REASON Introduction In Internal and External Reasons, Bernard Williams argues that there is no such thing as an external reason. He justifies this clai m by putting forth a requirement that anything must meet in order to count as a reason. He claims that something counts as a reason to do something only if it can motivate an agent and figure into an e xplanation of that agen ts action. I will refer to this requirement as Williams motivational re quirement. Williams then argues that external reasons cannot meet his requirement. A detailed summary of Williams argument against external reasons is containe d in the previous chapter. In Skepticism about Practical Reason, Ch ristine Korsgaard agrees with Williams motivational requirement. She argues, however, th at in order to show that external reasons cannot meet this requirement Williams must firs t show that external reasons do not existshe argues that he cannot prove th at they do not exist by arguing that they do not meet the motivational requirement. In other words, she claims that it is a mistake for Williams to base his content skepticism on his motivational skeptici sm. Korsgaard defines content skepticism as doubt about whether external reas ons exist at all. She define s motivational skepticism as doubt about whether external reasons can motivate. Korsgaard argues that any doubt about whether external reasons can motivate must be based on do ubt whether they exist at allit is a mistake, she claims, for Williams to base his belief that external reasons do not exist on his belief that external reasons do not motivate. Korsgaard claims that in orde r to prove that a reason cannot motivate, Williams must first provide a good argument against th e existence of a process of reasoning by which one might be said to discover an external reason and derive motivation from

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29 it. Korsgaard explains that it is not acceptable to simply state that external reasons do not exist by pointing out cases in which ex ternal reasons do not motivate. In a postscript to Internal and External Reasons published after Skepticism About Practical Reason was written, Williams claims that he has no basic disagreements with the claims Korsgaard made in her paper. This respon se seems to indicate that either Korsgaard was confused about what is captured by Williams vi ew, or Williams was confused about what is captured by Korsgaards view. I will argue for the truth of the latter claim. In this chapter I will explain Korsgaards argument that Williams makes the mistake of basing his content skepticism on his motivational skepticism. I will also explain Korsgaards criticism that Williams does not provide an ad equate argument against the existence of the process of reasoning by which one might be sa id to access an external reason and derive motivation from it. I will then explain why Williams might claim that he has no fundamental disagreements with the points made in Skep ticism about Practical Reason. Finally, I will proceed to explain how Williams must disagree with at least one important point Korsgaard makes in Skepticism about Practical Reason, an d I will explain how the truth of Korsgaards point shows an important flaw in Williams argum ent against the existence of external reasons. My Summary of Korsgaards Argument In Skepticism about Practical Reason, Korsga ard criticizes Williams argument against the existence of external reasons, claiming that he makes the mistake of basing his content skepticism on his motivational skepticism. Once again, Korsgaard defines content skepticism as doubts about whether external reasons exist. Sh e defines motivational skepticism as doubt about whether external reasons can motivate.1 She claims that motivational skepticism has no 1 Korsgaard, Christine. Skepticism about Practi cal Reason. In Darwall, Gibbard, and Railton, Moral Discourse and Practice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 373.

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30 independent force, and so it cannot be used to demonstrate whether or not content skepticism is justified. Korsgaard admits that the reason Willia ms thinks that external reasons cannot motivate is because he thinks that external reasons do not exist at all. She does not have a problem with this part of his reasoning. What she does critici ze is the order of his reas oning that leads to the conclusion that external reasons do not exist. For Williams, as for Hume, the motivational skepticism depends on what I have called the content skepticism. W illiamss argument does not show that if there were unconditional principles of reason applying to action we coul d not be motivated by them. He only thinks that there are none. But Williamss argument, like Humes, gives the appearance of going the other way around: it looks as if the motivational point[Williams motivational requirement]is supposed to have some force in limiting what might count as a principle of practical reason. Whereas in fact, the real source of the skepticism is a doubt about the existence of principles of action whose cont ent shows them to be ultimately justified.2 She begins her argument for the claim that it is a mistake to base content skepticism on motivational skepticism by first demonstrating that it is possible for an agent to have a reason to do something and still not be motivated to do it. This might occur in one of two ways. The first way in which this might occur is if the agent is not fully informed and he is acting in what he thinks are his best interests. Williams affirms that it is possible for an agent to have a reason to do something and to fail to be motivated by that r eason in cases such as this one (where the agent fails to be motivated because he is mistaken about the facts). According to Korsgaard, there is a second way in which an agent might have a reason to do something and still not be motivated to do it. A fully informed agent might know he has a reason to and still not able to acquire the motivation to It is unclear whether Williams thinks such a case is possible. Korsgaard says that the second example is one in which the agent can be called truly irrational, wh ereas in the first case the agent is rational relative to his false beliefs. According to Korsgaard, the fact that this sort of true i rrationality is possible shows that 2 Ibid, p. 384.

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31 if an agent fails to be motivated by a candidate for a reason, this does not show that the reason in question does not exist. Just because a reason does not motivate does not mean that the reason cannot motivate a rational agent. To show that a reason cannot motivate, Korsgaard claims that Williams needs to show that the process of reasoni ng that can lead to the discovery of an external reason and the acquisition of the motiva tion to act on that reason do not exist. Korsgaards argument for the claim that it is a mistake to base content skepticism on motivational skepticism might be summarized as follows: (1) If something can be a reason for action, it ha s to have the capacity to motivate agents and work its way into an ex planation of the action. (2) For an agent to be able to be motivated by a reason, he must be able to (a) discover that he has a reason to do the action in question, and (b) derive motivation from the discovery that he has a reason to do the action in question. (3) It is possible for some agent to meet cond ition (a) but not condition (b) with respect to a reason that he has. (4) It is also possible for some agent to fail to meet both condition (a ) and condition (b) with respect to a reason that he has. (5) To show that external reason s do not exist, it is not enough to show that external reasons do not motivate an agent. (C) Therefore, it is a mistak e to base content skepticism on motivational skepticism. Williams tries to show that external reasons do not exist by arguing that anything that met the criteria for being an external reason could not motivate rather than showing that there are no external reasons at all, and that is why we are not motivated by them. However, Williams can still agree with the esse ntial points made in this part of Ko rsgaards argument. The fundamental

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32 point Williams makes is that external reasons ca nnot motivate an agent because external reasons do not exist at allhe does not claim that the reason external r easons do not exist is because they cannot motivate. Therefore, Williams seems to be justified in claiming that he has no fundamental disagreement with th is part of Korsgaards argume nt. However, while Korsgaard and Williams agree that if external reasons ca nnot motivate it is because they do not exist, Korsgaard still objects to the process of reasoni ng that leads Williams to the conclusion that external reasons do not exist. Sh e thinks that in trying to show that external reasons do not exist by showing that they cannot motivate, Williams starting from the wrong point, and so his reasoning is flawed. While Williams can agree with Korsgaards fundamental point in this part of her argument, she does establish some limits regarding what Williams would be justified in claiming. For example, Williams would not be justified in claiming (like Hume does) that an ag ent always and only has a reason to satisfy his own desires, since Humes argument for this clai m is flawed. Humes argument for this claim might be outlined as follows: (1) There are only two kinds of reasoning: r easoning about logical and mathematical relations and reasoning about empirical c onnections such as cause and effect. (2) Rational processes can only yield conclusions about what an agent has a reason to do if those processes can also move th e agent to act on that reason (3) Neither reasoning about logical and mathemati cal relations nor reasoning about empirical connections can move an agent to act. (4) Neither reasoning about logical and mathemati cal relations nor reasoning about empirical connections can yield conclusions about what an agent should do.

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33 (5) The two forms of reason that ex ist can only move agents to ac t insofar as the conclusions that are yielded from those forms of reas oning are connected to our existing desires. (C) The only kind of reasoning that can yield co nclusions about what an agent should do is reasoning about how best to sa tisfy his existing desires. To illustrate her point that this is a flawed ar gument, Korsgaard offers a case in which a fully informed agent is confronted w ith a choice in which one option will lead to his greater good and one will lead to his lesser good. The agent choose s his lesser good. Hume claims that this is an indication that the agent cares more about his lesser good than his greater good. On the other hand, Hume would claim that if the fully inform ed agent chooses his greater good, this indicates that he cares more about his gr eater good. The problem with this reasoning is that Humes analysis of this case depends upon his assumption that the only kind of reasoning that can yield conclusions about what an agent has reason to do is reasoning about how that agent can best satisfy his own desires. On th e other hand, Humes belief that the only reasoning that can yield conclusions about what an agent has a reason to do is reasoning about how that agent can best satisfy his own desires appears to depend on his an alysis of this case. In other words, the problem with this argument is that the truth of premise (3) appears to rely on Williams analysis of the above case, and Williams analysis of the above case ap pears to rely on the truth of premise (3). At the very least, Korsgaard dem onstrates that Hume needs to provide a further argument for his claim that the only kind of reas oning that can yield conc lusions about what an agent should do is reasoning about how to satisfy his desires. This makes it seem as if your greater good is an end you might care about or not, and rationality is relative to what you care about. But, once we admit that one might from some other cause fail to be responsive to a ra tional consideration, ther e is no special reason to accept this analysis of the case. I do not mean that there is a reason to reject it, either, of course; my point is that whethe r you accept it depends on whether you already accept the limitation to means/end rationality. If you do, you will say that the case where the lesser

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34 good was chosen was a case where there was a stronger desire for it, and so a stronger reason; if you do not, and you think it is reasonable to choose th e greater good (because it has rational authority), you will say that this is a case of true irrationality. The point is that the motivational analysis of the case depends upon your views of th e content of rational principles of action, and not the reverse. The fact that one might or might not be motivated to choose a certain course of action by the c onsideration that it lead s to the greater good does not by itself show that the greater good is just one end among ot hers, without special rational authority, something that so me people care about and some do not.3 This argument shows that it would not be an acceptable move for Williams to go the Humean route and claim that the only reas oning that can lead to the disc overy of reasons is means/end reasoning. However, Williams does not argue that the only kind of practical reasoning is reasoning about what will best promote ones own desires. Rather, the key part of his argument against externalism is the claim that practical reasoning must start with something that is capable of motivating the agent, and anything that is capable of motivating the agent mu st be a part of that agents subjective motivational set. Williams thinks this fact about motivation is a reason to think that pure practi cal reason, by which an agent could discover and become motivated by external reasons, does no t exist. Korsgaard, on the other ha nd, argues that this fact about motivation is not a reason to doubt the existence of pur e practical reason. This is the stronger part of Korsgaards argument. Also, there is no way Williams can agree with Korsgaards claim that pure practical reason can still exist even if the only things that are capable of motivating an agent are contained in his S. If Korsgaard is right in claiming this, Williams argument does not go through. Korsgaard summarizes Williams argument agains t the existence of the process of reasoning by which one might be said to access that r eason and derive motivation from it as follows: 3 Ibid, p. 380.

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35 (1) In order for an agent to discover and derive motivation from external reasons, he must be able to engage in pure practical reason. (2) An agent can engage in pure practical re ason only if he can be motivated by the conclusions discovered through enga ging in pure practical reason (3) An agent can engage in pure practical reas on only if his capacity to be motivated by reasons does not depend on the elements in that agents S. (4) Only elements that are already present in an agents S can make him capable of being motivated by reasons. (5) Since an agents capacity to be motivated de pends on the elements in his S, he cannot engage in pure practical reason (C1) Therefore, an agent cannot discover a nd derive motivation from external reasons. (C2) Therefore, external reasons do not exist. My Defense of Korsgaard Korsgaard would challenge Williams on premis e (2) of his argument against the process of reasoning that can lead to the discovery of and motivation to act on external reasons. Korsgaard agrees with Williams that the capacit y to be motivated by the conclusions of reason must be contained within the agents S. She does not agree, howe ver, that this indicates that pure reason does not exist. If one accepts [Williams motivational requirement], it follows that pure practical reason will exist if and only if we are capable of being motivated by the conclusions of the operations of pure practical reason as such. Something in us must make us capable of being motivated by them, and this something will be part of the subjective motivational set. Williams seems to think that this is a reason for doubting that pure practical reasons exist, whereas what seems to follow from the internalism requirement is this: if we can be motivated by considerations stemming from pure practical reason, then that capacity belongs to the subjective motivatio nal set of every rational being.4 4 Ibid, p. 383.

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36 In Internal and External Reasons, Williams pr ovides an argument against Korsgaards solution to the motivation problem. He argues that the ex ternalist has not answered any of his challenges by positing that a rational agent already has the cap acity, desire, or disposition within his S to do what he have a reason to do. It might be said that the force of an exte rnal reason statement can be explained in the following way. Such a statement implies that a rational agent would be motivated to act appropriately, and it can carry this implicati on, because a rational ag ent is precisely one who has a general disposition in his S do what (h e believes) there is a reason for him to do. So when he comes to believe that there is a reason for him to he is motivated to even though, before, he neither had a motive to nor any motive related to -ing in one of the ways considered in the a ccount of deliberation. But this reply merely puts off the problem. It reapplies the desire and belief model (roughly speaking) of explanation to the actions in question, but using a desire and a belief the content of which are in question. What is it that one comes to believe when he comes to believe that there is a reason for him to if it is not the proposition, or something that entails the proposition, that if he deliberated rationally, he would be motivated to act appropriately? We were asking how any true pr oposition could have that content; it cannot help, in answering that, to appe al to a supposed desire which is activated by a belief which has that very content.5 Strangely, Korsgaard does not addr ess this objection to the solution she offers in Skepticism about Practical Reason. In the remainder of th is chapter, I will atte mpt to answer Williams objection to Korsgaards solution. According to Korsgaard, just because some agents are not (or even cannot ) be motivated to act on an external reason does not mean that they do not have an exte rnal reason to act. She claims that rational agents will have the capacity to di scover and become motivated by external reasons. Williams defines the subjective motivational set in such a way that it includes not only desires, but also dispositions of evaluation, various projects, etc. He has thus defined the S in such a way that it can contain an agents capacity to reas on in certain ways. However, Williams has not shown why an agents S cannot contain a purely rational method of reasoning. Further, he has 5 Williams, Bernard. Internal and External Reasons. In Darwall, Gibbard, and Railton, Moral Discourse and Practice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 3689.

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37 not shown, if an agents S can include purely rational methods of reasoning, why anything that the agent discovers and becomes motivated by th rough this process of reasoning must by nature be an internal reason. Williams argues that if an agent discovers a reason or acquires the motivation to act on a reason through a capability th at exists in his subjective motivational set, the reason cannot count as an external reason. Ho wever, he has not provided an argument for that claim. Korsgaard claims that we have no reason to accept the tr uth of that claim. This answer shows a potentially serious flaw in Williams argument. Unless Williams can provide a good argument as to why we should believe that reasons accessed through any elements of an agents subjective motivational se t cannot count as extern al reasons, he has not succeeded in proving that external reasons do not exist. Another demand Williams makes in the above passage is to require the externalist to explain what it is that an agent comes to believe when he believes he ha s an external reason to As I explained in the previous chapter, this demand is somewhat unclear. Perhaps Williams wants the externalist to offer a definition of reaso n. This is a strange criticism because it is not clear that Williams has offered such a definiti on himself. If he has offered a definition of reason it would look like this: A has a reason to if and only if -ing promotes some end A has in As subjective motivational set. If Willia ms thinks this is an adequate definition of reason it is unclear why he thinks that the externalist would not al so be able to offer a definition of reason. The externalis t might offer the following definition: A has reason to if and only if -ing promotes the greater good. In conclusion, when Williams claims that he ha s no fundamental disagreement with the claims Christine Korsgaard makes in Skepticism about Practical Reason he is partially right. Williams does not have to disagree with Korsgaards claim that motivational skepticism needs to

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38 be based on content skepticism. Williams believes external reasons cannot motivate because they do not exist; he does not believe that exte rnal reasons do not exis t because they do not motivate. Korsgaard has a problem with Williams process of reasoning when he argues that external reasons do not exist, and she may be righ t to criticize his reasoning. However, Williams still agrees with Korsgaards ce ntral point that skepticism about whether external reasons can motivate must be based on skepticism about whether external reas ons exist at all. Williams cannot, however, agree with another impor tant point Korsgaard makes in Skepticism about Practical Reason. Korsgaar d claims that Williams does not provide an adequate argument against the process of reasoning that can lead to an agents discovering and becoming motivated by external reasons. Korsgaard thinks Williams falsely claims that reasons discovered through some element of an agents subjective motivatio nal set cannot count as external reasons. This criticism is potentially devastating to Williams ar gument. Further, it is not open to Williams to claim that he agrees with this point since the trut h of his claim (and falsity of hers) is essential in Williams argument against the process of reasoning that can allow agents to discover and become motivated by external reas ons. If Williams cannot provide an adequate argument against this kind of reasoning, he has not really shown that external reasons do not exist.

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39 CHAPTER 3 THE NORMATIVITY OR NON-NORMATIVITY OF INSTRUMENTAL REASON Introduction In The Normativity of Instrumental R eason, Christine Korsgaard argues that neoHumean instrumentalism is problematic because in order to distinguish between what an agent does and what he has reason to do, the theorist must posit a fundamental normative principle. Korsgaard argues that this move takes the neo-Humean beyond instrumentalism. The source of the argument between Korsgaard a nd the neo-Humean theorist is that they have conflicting definitions of instrumentalism. According to the neo-Humean theorist, the instrumental principle requires agents to take th e means to their ends as determined by their own set of desires. If this definition is correct, Korsgaard is wrong to accuse the neo-Humean of moving beyond instrumentalism, since the neo-Hu mean would not be requiring anything more than what is already required by the instrument al principle. However, Korsgaard claims the instrumental principle is only a bout the transmission of reasons fr om our ends to the means, and that this principle does not include any informa tion about how the agents ends are determined. Korsgaard claims that a pure instrumental theory can only work in conjun ction with a separate theory about how agents ends are determined. Williams offers a theory regarding how agents ends are determined. He claims that an agents ends are determined by the contents of an agents subjective motivational set. Korsgaard claims th at Williams theory is a non-instrumental theory and she claims that Williams needs to provide a se parate argument for his claim that an agents ends can be determined in this way. It appears, therefore, that we are faced with two definitions of instrumentalism. According the neo-Humean, the instrumental princi ple requires us to take the appropriate means to our ends as determined by our desires. Acco rding to Korsgaard, the instrumental principle can

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40 merely require us to take the appropriate means to some ends, and any attempt to further define what those ends are goes beyond instrumentalism. While Korsgaard disagrees with Williams definition of instrumentalism, her fundamental criticism of Williams appears to be as follows: By claiming that agents have a reason to take the means to their ends as determ ined by their desires, Williams is giving certain ends rational authority. If Williams wants to claim that the ends determined by an agents subjective motivational set have rational authority, and other ends do not, he needs to provide an argument for why ends can be determined by th e agents subjective motivational set but not by some other means. In other words, it is not sufficient for Williams to simply work the rational authority of certain ends into the in strumental principl ehe must explain why those ends have rational authority. In opposition to Korsgaard, Donald Hubin cl aims in The Groundless Normativity of Instrumental Reason that the instrumental ist theory does not rely on anything beyond the instrumental principle. While Hubin may be w illing to affirm that Humeans need to offer an argument for the view that an agents ends are established by his own desires, he argues that Williams view does not lead to an endorsement of any particular kind of ends. In order to illustrate how neo-Humean instrumentalists do not posit anything beyond the instrumental principle, Hubin offers an analogy between neoHumean instrumentalism and legal positivism. In this chapter, I will first offer a detaile d summary of Korsgaards argument and explain how she reaches the conclusion that in order to offer an instrumentalist principle that is not normatively trivial the neo-Humean inst rumentalist must posit something beyond instrumentalism by giving some foundation for the in strumental principle. In the end, she claims that neo-Humean instrumentalism is problem atic regardless of which option the Humean

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41 chooses; she claims that if the theory is normatively trivial it is problematic, and if it goes beyond instrumentalism it is also problematic unless Williams can provide an argument for why agents should take the means to ends that are established by their own de sires rather than ends that are established by some other means. I will then explain Hubi ns argument against Korsgaard, summarizing his response to each ho rn of Korsgaards dilemma and critiquing each response. Finally, I will argue that at least one of Korsgaards arguments against neo-Humean theories stands up to Hubins criticism. My Summary of Korsgaards Argument Korsgaard begins her argument by claiming th at the neo-Humean instrumentalist theory either (1) does not draw a meani ngful distinction between what be st serves the agents ends and what he actually does, or (2) it does draw a mean ingful distinction betwee n what best serves the agents ends and what he actually does. If it does not draw a meaningf ul distinction between what best serves agents ends and what the agen t actually does, then the theory is normatively trivial. On the other hand, if the theory does draw a meaningful distin ction between what best serves the agents ends and what the agent actu ally does, then the neoHumean instrumentalist needs to provide an argument for why an agen t should do what best serves ends that are established by his own desires ra ther than ends that are es tablished in some other way. Korsgaard thinks that if Humeans mean to o ffer the instrumental principle as the thing that yields our reasons for acting, then they n eed to be able to find a case in which someone violates the instrumental principl e. Korsgaard thinks that if th ey cannot find a case in which the instrumental principle is violat ed, then it should not count as a principle that distinguishes between what you do and what you have reason to do. She says that if a theory does not distinguish between what one actu ally does and what one has reason to do, then that theory is normatively trivial, since a theory that fails to ma ke such a distinction do es not actually require

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42 anything at all. Korsgaar d claims that if a theory of reasons is normatively trivial, then that is a reason to reject that theory. According to Korsgaard, if the neo-Humean in strumentalist draws a meaningful distinction between what an agent does and what he has reason to do, he must do it in one of two ways.1 He can do this by (a) making a distinction between th e agents actual desire and his rational desire (and take as the agents ends what he has reason to want rather than what he really wants), or (b) making a psychological distinction between what th e agent thinks he wants and what he really wants. Korsgaard claims that if the neo-Humean instrumentalist is making move (a), then he is clearly going beyond instrumentalism and positing some further normative principle. If the neoHumean instrumentalist is making move (b), th en he is also going beyond instrumentalism, though it is not as obvious how this is the case. By claiming that an agent has a reason to do what will bring about the ends that are establishe d by what he really wants rather than the ends established by what he thinks he wants, Williams is assigning the agents real desires some normative force. Korsgaard claims that if Williams assigns the agents real desires some normative force, then he is offering a theory abou t how an agents ends are established that is distinct from the instrumental theory itself. It appears that the primary worry Korsgaard is voicing is perhaps something like this. Korsgaard thinks as long as the Humean makes a distinction between what an agent has reason to do and what he actually does, the Humean is of fering a theory of how an agents ends are established. By offering a theory outlining how an agents ends are established, the Humean is relying on some principle that is distinct from the instrumental principle. Korsgaard demands that the Humean offer an argument for why an ag ents ends are established by his own desires. 1 Korsgaard, Christine. The Normativity of Instrumental Reason. In Cullity and Gout, Ethics and Practical Reason ( New York : Oxford University Press, 1997): p. 230.

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43 The instrumental principle, because it tells us only to take the means to our ends, cannot by itself give us a reason to do anything. It can operate only in conjunction with some view about how our ends are determined, about what they are. It is routinely assumed, by empiricists who see themselves as followers of Hume, that absent a ny contenders, our ends will be determined by what we desire. But if you hold that the instrumental principle is the only principle of practical rationality you cannot also hold that desiring something is a reason for pursuing it. The principle: take as your end that which you desire is neither the instrumental principle itself nor an application of it.2 Korsgaard thinks that in order to claim an ag ent has a reason to take the appropriate means to ends that are established by his desires, rather than claimi ng than simply claiming that an agent has reason to take the appropriate means to some end or ends (perhaps established by something other than the agents own desires), the Humean must rely on something other than instrumentalism. Rather, he must use instrume ntalism in conjunction with some theory that shows how an agents ends are established, maki ng his theory no longer a purely instrumentalist theory. At this point in Korsgaards argument, it is particularly important to note the difference between the way in which Korsgaard defines the in strumental principle and the way in which the neo-Humean instrumentalist defines the instrume ntal principle. Once again, Korsgaard claims that the instrumental principle is simply about the transmissi on of reasons, and that you go beyond the instrumental principle whenever you claim that reasons are transmitted from a particular source. She claims that th e neo-Humean instrumentalist goes beyond the instrumentalist principle by claiming that reasons are transmitted from what the agent really wants. Let us call Korsgaards defin ition of the instrumental principle the Open IP Korsgaard thinks that the Open IP cannot operate alone, and that it needs to work in conjunction with some theory about how agents ends are established. According to the neo-Humean instrumentalist, the instrumentalist principle requires agents to take the means to ends that are established by 2 Ibid, p. 223.

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44 their own desires. Let us call the neo-Humean instrumentalists definition of the instrumental principle the Agents Desires IP Neo-Humean instrumentalism does not go beyond the Agents Desires IP, but it does go beyond the Open IP. Now that I have pointed out the different de finitions that Korsgaard and the neo-Humeans have of the instrumental principl e, it should be easier to pinpoin t the real source of disagreement between them. Korsgaards real demand is not r eally that neo-Humean instrumentalism fit some specific definition of instrumentalism. Rather she is demanding that the Humean explain why an agent has a reason to take the means to his ends rather than some other ends In other words, Korsgaard thinks that the neo-Humean theorist, just like the externalist, needs to provide an argument for which ends we should pursue and why. Donald Hubin attacks Korsgaards argumen t by addressing each horn of Korsgaards dilemma. He focuses on the second horn, claimi ng it is clear that neo-Humean theories do indeed distinguish between what be st serves an agents ends and wh at the agent actually does. In his argument against the second horn, Hubin claims that Korsgaard is unjustified in claiming that the instrumental principle can only operate in conj unction with some other theory. In order to be thorough, I will first deal with Hubins response to the first horn of Korsgaards dilemma. Hubins Objection to the First Horn of Korsgaards Dilemma Once again, Korsgaard claims that neo-Humean instrumentalists either (1) do not draw a meaningful distinction between an agents actual actions and what the agent has reason to do, or they (2) do draw a meaningful di stinction between an agents actu al actions and what the agent has reason to do. Both Hubin and Korsgaard seem to think that neo-Humean theories do in fact draw a meaningful distinction be tween an agents actual actions a nd what the agent has reason to do. Still, Hubin argues Korsgaards argument th at option (1) does not work is problematic. Korsgaard claims that for any acceptable principl e yielding reasons for action, we should be able

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45 to find some example in which that principle is violated. If we cannot find such an example, then the theory offering that principle is normatively trivial.3 Hubin challenges this point by arguing that it is possible for an agent to be guided by a principle or norm even if one does not have the ca pacity to violate it. To illustrate this point, Hubin asks us to suppose that he is one of St anley Milgrams subjects in one of Milgrams experiments on obedience to authority and Hubin is ordered to push a button that he is told will give an electric shock to a person in another room.4 Suppose that he refuses to push the button because he does not wish to harm another human being. However, in these experiments, the subjects who were ordered to push the button did not actually harm anyone by pushing the buttonactors in the other room were simply told to scream as if they were in pain to make the subjects of the experiment think they were harm ing others by pushing the button. In this case, Hubin would have been guided by the moral prin ciple that one should not hurt others even though it was not possible for him to violate it in this case (i.e. even if he had pushed the button, he would have been unable to harm the other person). If Hubin is right, Korsgaard is not justified in claiming that a neo-Humean instru mentalism is normatively trivial unless it is possible to find an example in which th e instrumental principle is violated. However, even if this horn of Korgaar ds dilemma does not go through, this does not cause such major problems for her argument against Humean theories. Both Korsgaard and Hubin think that Humean theories do in fact draw a distinction between what an agent has reason to do and what he actually does. 3 Ibid, p. 228. 4 Hubin, Donald Clayton. The Groundless Normativity of Instrumental Rationality. The Journal of Philosophy 9 (2001), p. 445468.

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46 Hubins Objection to the Second Horn of Korsgaards Dilemma I shall now describe Hubins argument against the second horn of Korsgaards dilemma. Hubin claims that what Korsgaard really finds problematic is that Humean theories claim rationality simply consists in the instrumental principle, and that ther e is no further normative principle that establishes what we have reason to do. As I menti oned before, this conflict arises from the different ways in which the Humean and Korsgaard define the instrumental principle. Korsgaard thinks a theory that simply consists in the Open IP incoherent, and that it does not make sense to claim that the instrumental princi ple can operate without a theory that explains how an agents ends are establis hed. Hubins interpretation of Korsgaard is revealed in the following passage. The worry, then, is fairly simply put. The principle of pure instrumentalism ensures the transmission of reasons from ends to means, but the neo-Humean, no less than anyone else, needs a substantive and non-instrumental pr inciple of rationality to give rational endorsement to the endsto ground the chain of reasons. No reasons will be transmitted to the means unless there is a reason for the ends.5 While Hubins interpretation of Korsgaard picks out many important points in her argument, Hubin fails to understand that Korsga ard and Humean theorists operate according to differing definitions of the instrumentalist theo ry. In response to Korsgaards claim that by making a psychological distinction between what an agent thinks he wants and what he really wants the Humean relies on something beyond the instrumental principle, Hubin claims the following. This charge is initially puzzling. The al leged step beyond instrumental rationalitythe assertion that a person ought to pursue what he really wantsis just a reassertion of the neo-Humean instrumental principle. As Davi d Lewis says in anothe r context, what is already there cannot be added ; one does not take a step beyond neo-Humean instrumentalism by repeating the thes is of neo-Humean instrumentalism.6 5 Ibid, p. 462. 6 Ibid, p. 458459.

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47 This passage reveals that Hubin fails to unde rstand that Korsgaard is using a different definition of instrumentalism than the neo-Hu mean instrumentalist is using. Korgaards argument is based on the Open IP definition of instrumentalism, while the arguments offered by neo-Humean theorists are based on the Agents De sires IP definition of instrumentalism. In order to truly respond to Korsgaards argument, Hubin needs to address her definition of instrumentalism. As I mentioned above, it seems that Korsg aards real demand here is that the neoHumean explain why an agent has a reason to take the means to ends that are established by his desires rather than ends that ar e established in some other way. It is not acceptable for the neoHumean to endorse ends that are established by the agents desires without doing the work to explain why we should accept those ends rather than ends that are established by prudence or morality. While Hubin may not disagree with Korsgaard s demand that the neo-Humean provide an argument for why an agents ends are established by his desires (which seems to be Korsgaards most critical point), he argues that Korsgaar d is wrong in accusing th e Humean of relying on something further than the instrumental principle. However, Hubin is operating according to the Agents Desires IP definition of the instrumental principle, and in orde r to truly address her argument against neo-Humean instrumentalism Hubi n needs to address Korsgaards definition of instrumentalism (the Open IP). Korsgaar d argues that the problem with neo-Humean instrumentalism is that it makes a distinction between what the agent does and what he has reason to do. If the neo-Humean theorist wishes to claim there is such a distinction, he must find some way to draw this distinction. Every option open to the theorist as to how to draw such a distinction involves moving beyond th e instrumentalism associated w ith the Open IP. Therefore,

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48 the real criticism Korsgaard offers in the second horn of her dilemma is that the first move by the neo-Humean instrumentalist (drawing a distincti on between what the agent does and what he has reason to do) requires another move that ends up relying on something beyond the Open IP. If Hubin understood that Korsgaard and th e Humeans operated according to different definitions of the instrumental principle, it seems that he would have to accept Korsgaards claim that by claiming that the agents ends are determ ined by what the agent desires, the Humean is moving beyond the Open IP. By making a distincti on between what agents think they want and what they really want, the neo-Humean is ground ing the idea of what c ounts as a reason in his beliefs about how ends are established, and so there is more going on than the transmission of reasons. Given the distinction that I have pointed out between Korsgaards definition of instrumentalism (Open IP), and the Humeans de finition of instrumentalism (Agents Desires IP); I can think of two ways in which Hubin might proceed. First, he might argue that making a distinction between what an agen t thinks he wants and what he really wants does not require moving beyond the Open IP. Second, he might con cede that making such a distinction requires moving beyond the Open IP, but that this does not matter as long as (a) the theorist offers an argument for why we should believe that an agent s ends are determined by his real desires, and (b) the theory stays within the bounds of the Agents Desires IP. I can think of only one way in which the Hu mean might argue that making a distinction between what an agent thinks he wants and what he really wants does not require moving beyond the Open IP. The neo-Humean instrumentalist does not claim that everyone has reason to do some particular action regardless of what their e nds areat least not in the same way that an external account of reasons does. The neo-Hu mean does not make claims such as Everyone

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49 should do what maximizes their own benefit thro ughout their lives, or Everyone should choose their greater good over thei r lesser good. Rather, the only th ing that Humean theorists claim that what we have reason to do is to bring about the ends that we have, re gardless of what those ends are. This means that neo-Humean instrume ntalists would claim that in some situations, depending on the agents true desires, an agent mi ght have a reason to do what is certain to make his life worse in the future. At first glance, it does not appear that there is any fundamental normative principle within this theory. Rather it might appear that an agent discovers his reasons through a simple application of the instrumental principle. However, the fundamental normative principle is actually worked into the neo-Humean instrumentalists definition of the instrumental pr inciple. The Agents Desires IP declares that you have a reason to do what is necessary to br ing about any ends that you have that are established by your own desi res rather than do ing what you might be inclined to do. It appears, therefore, that the normativity is worked in to the neo-Humeans very definition of the instrumental principle. Perhaps this is why so many philosophers have been confused about why Korsgaard would claim that neo-Humean instru mentalism moves beyond instrumentalism. NeoHumean instrumentalism operates according to the constraints of the Agents Desires IP, but not according to the constraints of the Open IP. In the remainder of this chapter I will e xplain the way Hubin uses his analogy between legal positivism and neo-Humean instrumentalis m to argue that neo-Humean instrumentalism does not rely on anything further than the instrument al principle itself. Furt her, I will try to show how Hubin might use this analogy to demonstrat e that even though Humeans rely on something other than the Open IP, this does not matter as lo ng as (a) the theorist offers an argument for why

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50 we should believe that an agents ends are determin ed by his real desires, and (b) the theory stays within the bounds of the Agents Desires IP. Hubins Analogy Hubin claims that the neo-Humean instrument alist does not rely on anything further than the instrumental principle. In order to dem onstrate this, Hubin offers an analogy between neoHumean instrumentalism and legal positivism. Hubin explains two versions of legal positivismthe hybrid theory and the non-hybrid theo ry. Hybrid theories of legal positivism incorporate some elements of the natural law th eory. According to natural law theories, the validity of any law is judged against the requirements of a natural law, which exists independently of human activity.7 Non-hybrid theories of lega l positivism do not incorporate any elements of the natural law theory, and laws are judged to be valid or invalid only within a system of law. Hubin claims that the hybrid th eory is problematic, but the non-hybrid theory is not. He claims that in the same way, a hybrid instrumentalist theory would be problematic, but a non-hybrid instrumentalist theory is not. Hubin seems to think that Korsgaard mistakenly judges neo-Humean instrumentalism to be a hybrid theory. He claims that because neo-Humean instrumentalism is a non-hybrid theory, Kors gaards argument against the neo-Humean instrumentalist does not succeed. Hans Kelsen offers a hybrid version of legal positivism.8 Kelsen claims that the validity of the fundamental law, through which the validity of all other laws is determined, is presupposed. Given that he makes room for questions about the validity or invalidity of the fundamental law, Kelsen is not offering a pure legal positivist th eory. By claiming that the validity of the fundamental law is presupposed, it seems that Kels en is positing a fundamental law that looks a 7 Ibid, p. 462. 8 Ibid, p. 463.

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51 lot like a natural lawonly the source of the fundamental laws valid ity is somehow more mysterious. H. L. A. Hart offered a non-hybrid version of legal positivism.9 Hart claimed that the fundamental law is not subject to questions of validity or invalidity, a nd the validity of other laws is determined within the legal system in question. The nonhybrid legal positivist apparently escapes objections re garding how to ground the validity of the fundamental law by claiming that the fundamental la w is not subject to questions of validity in the first place. Making legal validity and the existence of legal reasons de pend on a logically and morally arbitrary social fact is unaccep table if we want claims of legal validity and what one has legal reasons to do to have all of the grandeur that the natural-law theorist invests in them. But this is a reason to reject a hybrid theory that takes th e account of legal validity and legal reasons from the positivist and the sign ificance of legal validity and legal reasons from the natural-law theorist. It is not a mark against the legal positivist.10 Similarly, Hubin claims that a hybrid vers ion of instrumentalism, which rationally endorsed certain ends, would be problematic. Ho wever, Hubin thinks that non-hybrid versions of instrumentalism such as neo-Humean instrume ntalism, which do not ra tionally endorse certain ends ends, are not problematic. But no neo-Humean should think that, at botto m, actions are rationa lly advisable because they are instruments to rationally advisable ends (aims, projects, the satisfaction of desires or preferences, or the promotion of values). Certainly, actions can be rationally advisable for this reason, but this cannot be what rational advisa bility is at bottom. For at bottom, there is a facta brute facta bout the agents subjective, con tingent conative states. And the critics of neo-Humeanism are right to say th at, on the neo-Humean vi ew, this fact is not intrinsically rationally appraisable. Their mistake, the neo-Humean contends, is in thinking that it must be.11 Hubin defines the difference between hybrid and non-hybrid versions of instrumentalism as follows: A theorist is positing a hybrid instrume ntalist theory if actions are considered to be rationally advisable insofar as they are instrume nts to ends that are ra tionally advisable. A 9 Ibid, p. 463. 10 Ibid, p. 465. 11 Ibid, p. 466467.

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52 theorist is positing a non-hybrid in strumentalist theory if actions are considered to be rationally advisable because they are properl y related to the agents subjectiv e, contingent, conative states, which have no normative standing in themselves. Whether neo-Humean instrumentalism is a hybr id theory depends on which definition of the instrumental principle you accept. If you accep t the neo-Humean instrumentalists definition of the instrumental principle, the Agents De sires IP, then neo-Humean instrumentalism is consistent, and it does not go beyond instrument alism. However, if you accept Korsgaards definition of the instrumental principle, the Op en IP, then neo-Humean instrumentalism is not consistent, and it does go beyond instrumentalis m. Since neo-Humean instrumentalism goes beyond the Open IP, Korsgaard would clai m that it is indeed a hybrid theory. While the question of whether neo-Humean instrumentalism is a hybrid theory can only be answered once the conflict between the different definitions of instrumentalism is resolved, the real conflict between Korsgaar d and the Humeans is related to the question (1), whether the Humean needs to provide an argument for why we should believe that an agents ends are established by his desires, and (2) whether it is possible for th e Humean to provide such an argument and while managing to avoid turning hi s theory into a hybrid theory under Hubins definition. While Hubin might agree with Kors gaard that the Humean needs to provide an argument for his claim that an agents ends are es tablished by his desires, he does not think that providing such an argument would expose neo-Hu mean instrumentalism as a hybrid theory (under his own definition). For the neo-Humean, the agents ultimate ends (I would say, her in trinsic values) are neither rationally advisable nor rationally inadvi sable, in themselves. They are, rather, the brute facts about the agents psyc hology in virtue of a relationsh ip to which policies, plans, and actions can be rationally ad visable or inadvisable. The agents ultimate ends confer this status on policies, plans, and actions not because these ends have some normative

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53 standing in themselves. They do this because the particular propert y of being rationally advisable just is the property of bein g properly related to these brute facts.12 In conclusion, Hubin demonstrates that Korsga ards criticism that any attempt to explain how an agents ends are established invol ves relying on something further than the instrumentalist principle failsat least under one acceptable description of instrumentalism (the Agents Ends IP). However, Korsgaard does make one strong point that holds up against Hubins objection to Korsgaard. The Humean s till needs to provide an argument for why an agents ends are establis hed by his own desires rather than by something else (such as prudence, morality, or what the agent thi nks he desires). Unless the Humean can provide such an argument, neo-Humean instrumentalism is in trouble. 12 Ibid, p. 467.

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54 LIST OF REFERENCES Cullity, Garrett. and Berys Gout. Ethics and Practical Reason. New York: Oxford Univerity Press, 1997. Darwall, Stephen. and Alan Gibbard and Peter Railton. Moral Discourse and Practice. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Hubin, Donald Clayton. The Groundless Normativity of Instrumental Rationality. The Journal of Philosophy 9 (2001): 445. Korsgaard, Christine. The Normativity of Instrumental Reason. In Cullity and Gout, Ethics and Practical Reason Korsgaard, Christine. Skepticism about Prac tical Reason. In Da rwall, Gibbard, and Railton, Moral Discourse and Practice Williams, Bernard. Internal and External R easons. In Darwall, Gibbard, and Railton, Moral Discourse and Practice

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55 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Maranatha Joy Hayes is a PhD student in philo sophy at the University of Florida. She specializes in meta-ethics.


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Title: Crucial Topics in the Debate about the Existence of External Reasons
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Copyright Date: 2008

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CRUCIAL TOPICS IN THE DEBATE ABOUT THE EXISTENCE OF EXTERNAL
REASONS




















By

MARANATHA JOY HAYES


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2007






























2007 Maranatha Joy Hayes






























To your mom









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I thank all of the members of my committee for their assistance and support in writing this

thesis.









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A CK N O W LED G M EN T S ................................................................. ........... ............. .....

A B S T R A C T ............ ................... ............ ................................ ................ .. 6

CHAPTER

1 PROBLEMS WITH WILLIAMS' "INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL REASONS"................ 8

Introduction ................... ... ................................................. 8
M y Summary of W illiam s' Argument....................................... ....................... ...............9
M y M ain A rgum ent against W illiam s ........................................................................ ... ... 19

2 A DEFENSE OF CHRISTINE KORSGAARD'S "SKEPTICISM ABOUT
PR A C TICA L R EA SO N ........................................................................... ......................28

In tro d u ctio n .................. ............. ......... .. ............................ ................ 2 8
My Summary of Korsgaard's Argument................................... ................................29
M y D defense of K orsgaard ...................... .... ...................................... ............... 35

3 THE NORMATIVITY OR NON-NORMATIVITY OF INSTRUMENTAL REASON ......39

In tro d u ctio n .................................. .................................................................................... 3 9
My Summary of Korsgaard's Argument ............ .................. ..... ............... 41
Hubin's Objection to the First Horn of Korsgaard's Dilemma .......... ..... ....... ...........44
Hubin's Objection to the Second Horn of Korsgaard's Dilemma............... ...................46

L IST O F R E FE R E N C E S ................................................................................................ 54

B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H .........................................................................................................55









Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

CRICIAL TOPICS IN THE DEBATE ABOUT THE EXISTENCE OF EXTERNAL REASONS

By

Maranatha Joy Hayes

May 2007

Chair: David Copp
Major: Philosophy

Three major issues that arise in the discussion of whether external reasons exist are

questions about how agents acquire motivations, what processes of reasoning are possible, and

how agents' ends are determined. The answers to any of these questions will largely determine

the outcome of the debate over whether external reasons exist.

A crucial claim in Bernard Williams' argument that external reasons do not exist is that a

reason must have the capacity to motivate an agent. He says that because candidates for external

reasons cannot motivate agents, external reasons do not exist at all. If we accept Williams'

requirement that if something is to count as a reason it must have the capacity of motivating us,

then much of the debate about whether external reasons exist rests on what we discover about

motivation.

The question of whether agents can acquire the motivation to act on external reasons to a

large extent rests on what kinds of practical reasoning it is possible for agents to engage in. It is

possible for externalists and internalists to both accept the same theory of motivation, and yet fail

to agree on whether this theory of motivation leaves room for the existence of a process of

reasoning that can lead to the discovery of external reasons and the ability to become motivated

by them









Finally, another important question in the debate over whether external reasons exist is

how agents' ends are determined. Some reasons theorists think ends are determined by the

agent's desires while others think ends are determined by prudence or morality.

I am largely sympathetic to the revised Humean theory of motivation, but I am skeptical

about the conclusions that Williams draws from this theory-namely, that pure practical

reasoning (through which an agent may be able to discover and become motivated by external

reasons) does not exist and that an agent's ends are determined solely by his desires and the other

elements in his subjective motivational set.









CHAPTER 1
PROBLEMS WITH WILLIAMS' "INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL REASONS"

Introduction

In "Internal and External Reasons," Bernard Williams argues that all external reason

statements are false or incoherent. In arguing for this thesis, Williams offers a requirement that

he claims anything must meet in order to qualify as a reason for action. This requirement states

that any reason for action must have the possibility of being someone's reason for action on a

particular occasion, and have the possibility of figuring into an explanation of that action.

Williams also claims that all practical reasoning that can result in the acquisition of a new

motivation must begin with prior motivations. Presumably, this means that any new motivation

that an agent adopts must be introduced through some existing motivation. For example,

Williams might claim that I cannot adopt the motivation to do something because it is rational

unless I am already motivated to be rational.

It is somewhat unclear just how strong Williams wishes to make his motivational

requirement. In this chapter I will show that the arguments that utilize the stronger and the

weaker interpretations of Williams' motivational requirement are both potentially problematic.

On the stronger interpretation of his requirement, Williams has not provided an argument for

why an agent can only acquire a new motivation through some existing motivation.

Additionally, he has not shown how it would follow from the truth of that claim that it is not

possible for an agent to acquire the new motivation through rational deliberation. The argument

that uses the weaker interpretation of Williams' motivational requirement is problematic for

similar reasons. Finally, it is unclear why Williams thinks the external reasons theorist cannot

meet his challenge to explain what it is that an agent comes to believe when he believes he has









reason to do something. In response to this challenge, I will offer a possible answer on behalf of

the externalist.

My Summary of Williams' Argument

According to Williams, there are two interpretations of reasons statements that take the

following form.

'A has reason to j.'
*'There is a reason for A to j.'

Williams defines the two interpretations of these reasons statements as follows: On the

internal reasons interpretation, the above sentences are true only if there is some end or motive A

has that will be promoted by his yp-ing. On the external reasons interpretation, the above

sentences can be true regardless of whether A has some end or motive within his subjective

motivational set that will be promoted by his 4-ing. 1

Williams offers four propositions that he claims to be true of internal reasons statements.

Note in reading these propositions that S stands for the agent's subjective motivational set, which

Williams defines as the agent's set of desires, dispositions of evaluation, patterns of emotional

reaction, personal loyalties, various projects, embodying commitments of the agent, etc.2 In

short, an agent's S includes anything that might serve as some sort of end for the agent. The four

propositions that Williams claims are true of internal reasons statements are as follows:

An internal reason statement is falsified by the absence of some appropriate element
from [the agent's] S.3

A member of S, D, will not give A a reason for c-ing if either the existence of D is
dependent on a false belief, or A's belief in the relevance of c-ing to the satisfaction of
D is false.4


1 Williams, Bernard. "Internal and External Reasons." In Darwall, Gibbard, and Railton, Moral Discourse and
Practice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 363.
2 Ibid, p. 364.
3 Ibid, p. 364.
4 jbid, p. 364.









a. A may falsely believe an internal reason statement about himself.
b. A may not know some true internal reason statement about himself.5

Internal reason statements can be discovered in deliberative reasoning.6

Williams offers these propositions in order to make the internal reasons interpretation as

plausible as possible and in order to avoid the most obvious objections against internalism. He

also outlines an account of practical reasoning that he claims to be compatible with internalism.

As a result of such processes an agent can come to see that he has reason to do something
which he did not see he had reason to do at all. In this way, the deliberative process can
add new actions for which there are internal reasons, just as it can add new internal reasons
for given actions. The deliberative process can also subtract elements from S. Reflection
may lead the agent to see that some belief is false, and hence realize that he has in fact no
reason to do something he thought he had reason to do. More subtly, he may think he has
reason to promote some development because he has not exercised his imagination enough
about what it would be like if it came about. In his unaided deliberative reason, or
encouraged by the persuasions of others, he may come to have some more concrete sense
of what would be involved, and lose his desire for it, just as, positively, the imagination
can create new possibilities and new desires.7

Williams' attempt to show how this process of practical reasoning is compatible with internalism

is important for two reasons. First, it makes the internalist position appear more plausible

because it reveals the way in which reasoning can still fit into it. Second, it puts a heavy burden

on the external reasons theorist to explain how external reasons exist and are truly distinct from

internal reasons because it explains how reasons that are accessed through a process of practical

reasoning can still count as internal reasons.

Williams claims that on the external reasons interpretation, a person has reason to act in a

particular way even if the action in question does not promote any of the ends in the agent's

subjective motivational set. To assist him in considering the plausibility of the claim that

external reasons can exist, Williams offers the following case.



5 Ibid, p. 364.
6 Ibid, p. 365.
SIbid, p. 365.









(The Owen Wingrave Case) Owen Wingrave's father urges Owen to join the army for
reasons involving the necessity and importance of the army and the value of tradition and
family pride. However, Owen has no motivation to join the army-he lacks the desire to
do so and does not like what the army stands for. However, Owen eventually changes his
mind due to his father's persuasion, finally accepting that there is in fact a reason for him
to join the army.8

In evaluating the plausibility of the claim that some external reasons statements are true,

Williams asks how Owen might come to believe that he has a reason to join the army and

become motivated by that reason through a process of reasoning that differs from that offered in

his account of internal reasons.

As his first step in showing how any given external reason statement must be false, Williams

offers the following requirement.

(Williams' Motivational Requirement) In considering what an external reason statement
might mean, we have to remember again the dimension of possible explanation, a
consideration which applies to any reason for action. If something can be a reason for
action, then it could be someone's reason for acting on a particular occasion, and it would
then figure in an explanation of that action.9

Williams claims that the external reason statement cannot by itself explain Owen's action. This

is because if the external reason statement were true, it was true even when Owen had no

motivation to join the army, since by definition external reasons statements are true regardless of

whether the agent has any motivation to act on them. 10

Suppose Owen does have an external reason to join the army. Because external reasons

are true regardless of the agent's motivation, Owen had a reason to join the army both before and

after he understood that there was a reason to do so and acquired the motivation to do so.

Therefore, the mere 1i iinh of the external reason statement 'Owen has a reason to join the army,'

does not make external reason statement meet Williams' motivational requirement. In order for



SIbid, p. 366.
9 bid, p. 367.
0 Ibid, p. 367.









the external reasons theorist to show how external reasons can meet this requirement, he must

explain what caused Owen to change his mind and accept that he had a reason to join the army

when previously he saw no reason to do so. In other words, Williams claims, the externalist

must come up with some psychological link between the external reason statement and the action

it helps motivate in order to show how the external reason can meet his motivational

requirement.

Williams claims that the psychological link most often offered by the external reasons theorist is

belief. The externalist claims that Owen can acquire the motivation to join the army by coming

to believe that he has a reason to do so. Once this process occurs, an external reason can explain

a person's action (such as Owen's action) in the same way that an internal reason can. Because

Owen believes that he has a reason to join the army, joining the army becomes one of Owen's

new ends.

Williams claims that a reason must meet the following two conditions in order to meet his

motivational requirement and still count as an external reason.

(a) If an agent has a reason to p, it must be possible for the agent to acquire the motivation to
p simply through deliberating correctly.11

(b) If an agent has a reason to p, it must be possible for the agent to acquire the motivation to
p regardless of what other motivations he originally had. 12

Williams offers requirement (b) because he thinks that a reason can only meet requirement (a) if

it also meets requirement (b).

Owen might be so persuaded by his father's moving rhetoric that he acquired both the
motivation and the belief. But this excludes an element which the external reasons theorist
essentially wants, that the agent should acquire the motivation because he comes to believe
the reason statement, and that he should do the latter, moreover, because, in some way, he
is considering the matter aright. If the theorist is to hold on to these conditions, he will, I
think, have to make the condition under which the agent appropriately comes to have the

1 Ibid, p. 368.
12 bid, p. 368.









motivation something like this, that he should deliberate correctly; and the external reasons
statement itself will have to be taken as roughly equivalent to or at least entailing, the
claim that if the agent rationally deliberated, then, whatever motivations he originally had,
he would come to be motivated to p. 13

In other words, requirement (a) is the one we should really be paying attention to. Requirement

(b) is only worth paying attention to if Williams is right that a reason needs to meet that

requirement in order to meet requirement (a).

Initially, it looks as if the external reason offered in the Owen Wingrave case meets both

of these conditions. First, it is conceivable that Owen comes to believe that he has a reason to p

because he deliberates about the matter rightly and comes to realize the importance of family

tradition and honor, and so the reason in the Owen Wingrave case appears to meet the first

condition Williams offers. It also seems that the reason in the Owen Wingrave case meets the

second condition. At the beginning of the Wingrave story, "Owen Wingrave has no motivation

to join the army at all, and all his desires lead in another direction: he hates everything about

military life and what it means".14 Because the story indicates that Owen only realized that he

had a reason to join the army after his father offered him a series of arguments, it appears that the

reason meets condition (b), since Owen acquired the motivation to join the army even though he

originally had a strong aversion to it.

Williams claims that this psychological link (belief) offered by the external reasons theorist is

not sufficient to explain how external reasons can meet requirements (a) and (b). Further,

Williams is convinced that it is not possible for a reason to meet requirements (a) and (b).

It is very plausible to suppose that all external reason statements are false. For, ex
h,lylhe'i, there is no motivation for the agent to deliberatefrom, to reach this new
motivation, what has to hold for external reason statements to be true, on this line of
interpretation, is that the new motivation could be in some way rationally arrived at,
granted the earlier motivations. Yet at the same time it must not bear to the earlier

13 bid, p. 368.
14 bid, p. 366.









motivations the kind of rational relation which we considered in the earlier discussion of
deliberation-for in that case an internal reason statement would have been true in the first
place. 15

Williams claims that conditions (a) and (b) cannot be met because in order to become motivated

to p, there must be some motivation (which arises from the elements already present in the

agent's S) that the agent deliberates from in order to arrive at the new motivation to p. If one

can only gain a new motivation through deliberation that begins with existing motivations, then

it is not possible for an agent to (a) acquire the motivation to p simply through deliberating

correctly or (b) acquire the motivation to p regardless of what other motivations he originally

had, since the types of deliberation that can result in motivation are limited by what motivations

the agent already has or does not have.

One might object to my interpretation of the above passage (as meaning that any new motivation

must be introduced through some existing motivation) by pointing to the passage in which

Williams states that an agent can discover new actions for which there are internal reasons as

well as new internal reasons for certain actions. Williams claims that the discovery of new

reasons might be the result of learning new facts or of simply exercising one's imagination about

what the result of certain actions might be. Through the use of his imagination, or through the

discovery of facts, an agent might add elements to his S.16 Someone might claim that this

passage indicates Williams does not think that an agent's process of reasoning is determined or

limited by the elements already present in that agent's S.

However, the passage in which Williams claims that an agent must deliberate from an old

motivation in order to reach a new motivation indicates that even the kinds of reasoning that

Williams claims can add new motivations or subtract old motivations are limited by the


15 Ibid, p. 368.
16 bid, p. 365.









motivations that the agent already has. For example, suppose an undergraduate wants to go to

law school, but once he sees the material he would be studying he realizes that the classes would

be so boring to him that he could not endure the three years of law school. In this way, through

his unaided deliberative reason, the student looses his desire to go to law school. In the end, he

loses this desire because he is motivated to avoid engaging in activities that are boring, and

because he discovers through imagination and reason that law school would be boring. These

passages (in which Williams claims that an agent must deliberate from an old motivation in order

to acquire a new motivation and in which he claims that an agent can discover new reasons

through imagination and reason) together seem to indicate that even when an agent acquires an

entirely new motive or loses an existing motive, the changes in his motivations are still limited

by what motivations the agent already had.

Another reason to believe that my interpretation of the above passage is correct is that

unless Williams is claiming that new motivations can only be introduced through existing

motivations, the passage does not do the work Williams wants it to do. If this is not what

Williams is claiming, he has not shown why Owen cannot be motivated by an external reason.

It may help at this point to illustrate the problem Williams is trying to raise through the use of the

Owen Wingrave case. To meet conditions (a) and (b) Owen Wingrave needs to deliberate

correctly and he must be able to acquire the motivation to do what he has reason to do regardless

of what elements were already in his S. This means that the way in which Owen deliberates

should not be limited by his existing motivations (and thus the elements in his S). Williams

says, for example,

Owen might be so persuaded by his father's moving rhetoric that he acquired both the
motivation and the belief. But this excludes an element which the external reasons theorist
essentially wants, that the agent should acquire the motivation because he comes to believe









the reason statement, and that he should do the latter, moreover, because, in some way, he
is considering the matter aright.17

If Owen is motivated to act because of his father's moving rhetoric, then it is an internal reason,

not an external reason, which motivates. The main difficulty here is that the rational processes

by which Owen can acquire new motivations are limited by his existing motivations, which are

in turn limited by the elements already present in Owen's S. By claiming any reasoning that

results in the acquisition of a new motivation must occur because of existing motivations,

Williams is already claiming that the types of reasoning by which an agent might gain the

motivation to act on an external reason do not exist at all.

Williams claims that the externalist might reply to his argument by offering the following

definition of what it means to be a rational agent.

(Externalist Definition of a Rational Agent) A rational agent is one who has a general
disposition in his S to do what (he believes) there is a reason for him to do.18

Williams argues that this move does not help the external reasons theorist show that external

reason statements can be true because this constraint still does not answer Williams' demand that

the external reasons theorist explain what it is that the agent comes to believe when he comes to

believe he has reason to do something.

But this reply merely puts off the problem. It reapplies the desire and belief model
(roughly speaking) of explanation to the actions in question, but using a desire and a belief
the content of which are in question. What is it that one comes to believe when he comes
to believe that there is a reason for him to yp, if it is not the proposition that, if he
deliberated rationally, he would be motivated to act appropriately? We were asking how
any true proposition could have that content; it cannot help, in answering that, to appeal to
a supposed desire which is activated by a belief which has that very content.19

By making this move to describe how external reasons might motivate, the external reasons

theorist is merely invoking the desire of a rational agent to do what he has reason to do. In other


1 Ibid, p. 368.
18Ibid, p. 367.
19 bid, p. 368.









words, the externalist still has not explained the content of what one believes when he believes

he has reason to do something.

Another reason that Williams might think this reply fails is because by introducing this

constraint, the external reasons theorist still fails to meet requirement (b), that if an agent has an

external reason to p it must be possible for the agent to acquire the motivation to p regardless of

what other motivations he originally had. If an agent becomes motivated to p because his

existing motivations in some way cause him to acquire the new motivation, Williams thinks that

his reason to p turns out to be an internal reason after all. Because the externalist is working it

into the case that the agent is already motivated to do what he believes there is a reason for him

to do, Williams thinks the externalist gives the reason in question the features of an internal

reason. According to Williams, the result is that the externalist definition of a rational agent does

not allow the external reasons theorist to show how external reasons can meet Williams'

requirements.

However, remember that Williams simply offers requirement (b) because he thinks that

any reason that can meet requirement (a) must meet requirement (b). If Williams is wrong that it

is necessary for a reason to meet requirement (b) if it is to meet requirement (a), then we no

longer have a need for requirement (b).

In the second half of this chapter, I will provide an argument for why Williams' replies to the

externalist definition of a rational agent fail to undermine the externalist argument.

Before I make my argument, it may help to outline Williams' argument in premise-

conclusion form so that it may become clearer why Williams takes the steps he does, and how he

uses some of the conclusions he draws to justify other moves.









If something can be a reason for action, then it could be someone's reason on a particular

occasion, and it would then figure in an explanation of that action.

To meet the requirement stated in (1), it must be possible for the candidate for a reason to

motivate an agent.

External reasons cannot by lth'//i'l'\i'\ motivate an agent and explain that agent's action,

since by their nature external reasons can exist regardless of the content of the agent's

motivations. In other words, the truth of an external reasons statement is independent of the

motivations that some agent might have.

So, if external reasons are to meet the requirement stated in (1), they must be joined with

some psychological link.

The best candidate for the psychological link needed to meet the requirement stated in (1)

is belief.

For belief to serve as a link that allows the external reasons theorist to explain how

external reasons might meet the requirement stated in (1), the external reasons theorist must

explain how it is that coming to believe an external reason statement can motivate.

To explain how coming to believe an external reason statement can motivate, the external

reason theorist must conceive the connection between acquiring the motivation and coming to

believe the reason statement in a way that is distinct from the way in which the internal reason

theorist conceives of this connection-otherwise the reason in question would amount to an

internal reason.

To show a connection distinct from the connection offered by the internalist, the externalist

must show that whatever motivations the agent originally had, he could come to be motivated by

coming to believe the external reason statement in question.









The external reason theorist cannot show a connection between belief and motivation that

is distinct from the way in which the internalist explains that connection, since all deliberation

that results in the acquisition of a new motive begins with existing motives.

(10) Therefore, the internal reason theorist cannot explain how it is that coming to believe an

external reason statement can motivate.

(11) Therefore, the best candidate for the psychological link needed for external reasons to

meet Williams' motivational requirement fails.

(12) Therefore, candidates for external reasons fail to meet Williams' motivational

requirement.

(C) Therefore, there is no such thing as external reasons.

Before moving on, it is not clear what notion of 'could' Williams has in mind when he

claims that for an agent to have a reason to act, it must be the case that the agent could act on that

reason. If what Williams means by 'possible' is possible even if we hold constant the agent's

motivation, then the requirement comes across as too strong. If, on the other hand, what

Williams means by 'possible' is that an agent has the capacity to somehow acquire the

motivation to act on the reason, then Williams' motivational requirement seems to be a lot more

plausible.

My Main Argument against Williams

My main criticism of Williams' argument against externalism is related to two claims he

makes. First, he claims that an agent can only acquire new motivations through existing

motivations. Second, he claims that if an agent cannot acquire a new motivation regardless of

what his prior motivations are then that agent cannot acquire a new motivation simply through

rational deliberation. In this section, I will argue that Williams needs to provide an argument for









both of these claims. I will also illustrate how, even if we grant the truth of the first claim, the

argument using the stronger interpretation of Williams' motivational requirement will still

produce results that the externalist will find undesirable, but external reasons will still meet the

weaker interpretation of Williams' motivational requirement without a problem.

I will now explain both interpretations of Williams' motivational requirement and the

problems that arise from each. I will first deal with the stronger interpretation. The stronger

version of Williams' motivational requirement might be stated as follows:

(The Stronger Interpretation of Williams' Motivational Requirement) In order for 4 to
count as a reason for A to act, it must be possible for j to be A's reason for action and
figure into A's explanation for that action.

The argument that uses the stronger interpretation of Williams' motivational requirement is

problematic because Williams does not provide adequate support for a key premise of that

argument. Additionally, Williams has not shown how another of his key premises follows from

an earlier claim that he makes.

On the stronger interpretation of Williams' motivational requirement, Williams' basic argument

against external reasons might look like this.

(1) In order for 4 to count as an external reason for A to act, it must be possible for j to be

A's reason for action and figure into A's explanation for that action.

(2) If an external reason j has the capacity to motivate an agent A (and still count as an

external reason), it must be possible for the agent A to become motivated by the reason 4

through deliberating correctly.

(3) The agent A's acquisition of new motivations can only be caused by that agent A's

existing motivations (and so the acquisition of new motivations cannot be caused simply

by correct deliberations but also by the elements that already happen to be in that agent

A's S).









(4) It is not possible for an agent A to become motivated by a reason b simply through

correct deliberation.

(C) Therefore, external reasons do not exist.

There are two major problems with this argument that utilizes the stronger version of

Williams' motivational requirement. First, Williams has not provided an argument for premise

(3). On his stronger interpretation, Williams demands that if something can count as a reason for

A to p, it must be possible for A to become motivated by the reason for b-ing. He also claims

that if the reason for b-ing is to have the capacity to motivate A, A's reason for b-ing must be

caused by some motivation already present in A's S.20 Remember that Williams claims that on

the externalist account, the statement 'A has a reason to (p' is not falsified by the lack of certain

elements within the agent's S. According to the stronger interpretation of Williams'

motivational requirement and his claim that A's acquisition of any new motivation must arise

from A's prior motivations, 'A has a reason to p' can only be true if the reason in question is

relevantly related to the motivations that A already has (and thus also relevantly related to the

elements within A's S). By claiming that all new motivations must arise from prior motivations,

Williams is simply denying the externalist position he outlined-Williams has not actually

demonstrated the truth of his key claim that all new motivations must arise from prior

motivations and that the sentence 'A has a reason to p' is thus falsified by the lack of certain

motivations the agent already has. Unless Williams can demonstrate that an agent cannot

acquire a new motivation except through existing motivations, his argument does not go through.

Second, even if it is the case that an agent can only acquire new motivations through

existing ones, Williams has not shown how it follows from that claim that an agent cannot



20 bid, p. 368.









become motivated by a reason simply through correct deliberation. An externalist could claim at

this point that a rational agent could be motivated simply through correct deliberation by

acquiring the motivation to act on an external reason through his existing motivation to do what

is rational. In "Internal and External Reasons," Williams answers this objection by claiming that

this reply does not explain what an agent comes to believe when he believes he has a reason to

do something. This is a separate issue, which I will address later in the chapter.

To make his argument using the stronger version of his motivational requirement go through,

Williams must do two things. First, he must provide an argument for the truth of his claim that

an agent can only gain a new motivation through old motivations. Second, even if this part of his

theory of motivation is correct, he must prove that an agent can only become motivated through

correct deliberation if an agent can acquire a new motivation regardless of what his prior

motivations are. Williams has not provided an argument for either of these two claims.

The weaker interpretation of Williams' Motivational Requirement is also potentially

problematic.

(The Weaker Interpretation of William's Motivational Requirement) In order for j to be a
reason for A to act, it must be possible for j to serve as some agent's reason for action on
a particular occasion, and figure into an explanation for some possible course of action.

On the weaker interpretation of Williams' motivational requirement, the basic argument against

external reasons might look like this.

(1) In order for j to be an external reason for A to act, it must be possible for j to serve

as some agent's reason for action on a particular occasion, and figure into an

explanation for some possible course of action.

(2) If an external reason has the capacity to motivate any agent, it must be possible for an

agent to become motivated by that reason simply through correct deliberation.









(3) An agent can only become motivated by a reason simply through correct deliberation

if some agent can acquire some new motivation regardless of what his existing

motivations are.

(4) It is not possible for any agent to acquire a new motivation regardless of what his

existing motivations are.

(C) Therefore, external reasons do not exist.

The argument against external reasons that uses the weaker interpretation of Williams'

motivational requirement has the same problems as the argument using the stronger

interpretation of Williams' motivational requirement. Williams has not provided an argument

for his claim that an agent can only gain a new motivation through prior motivations.

Additionally, it is not clear why it must be possible for an agent to acquire a new motivation

regardless of what his existing motivations are for it to be possible for an agent to become

motivated by a reason simply through correct deliberation. In other words, it is not clear why

Williams' claim that an agent can only gain a new motivation through existing motivations has

to be false in order for it to be possible for an agent to be able to become motivated by a reason

through correct deliberation.

For the remainder of this chapter, let us grant that an agent can only acquire a new

motivation through prior motivations. While Williams does need to be an argument for this

claim, it seems to be a reasonable enough claim and there is no strong reason to doubt that

Williams would be able to formulate an adequate argument for it. If this claim is true, then the

stronger version of Williams' motivational requirement is still threatening to the externalist

position, since it would follow that only rational agents could have an external reason to do

anything. This is certainly a result that many externalists would not want, since they seem to









want to say that irrational agents also have a reason to do what is rational. However, even if

Williams' claims about motivation are true, but his claims about what counts as rational

deliberation are false, many candidates for external reasons will still be able to meet the weaker

interpretation of Williams' motivational requirement.

To better understand the way the arguments using the stronger and weaker

interpretations of Williams' motivational requirement differ, consider the following case.

Marcos is a rational agent. He has the motivation and the desire to act rationally, and he

deliberates correctly in order to find out how he should act. Marcos discovers through rational

deliberation that he should save his money for the future in order to promote his long-term

welfare rather than spend it now. In this case, Marcos acquires the motivation to save his money

(and thus do what he has an external reason to do) through his existing motivation to do what is

rational. Miguel, on the other hand, is not a rational agent, he does not have the motivation or

desire to act rationally, and he is not interested in saving his money for the future.

Remember that from here on, in evaluating these cases, we are granting the truth of

Williams' claim that an agent can only acquire a new motivation through existing motivations.

However, we are doubting Williams' claim that it follows from that theory of motivation that it

is impossible for an agent to acquire a new motivation simply through correct deliberation.

According to the stronger interpretation of Williams' motivational requirement, Marcos

has an external reason to save his money for the future, but Miguel does not. This is because

Marcos acquired the motivation to save his money for the future through rational deliberation

(given his existing motivation to be rational.) Miguel, on the other hand, has neither an internal

or external reason to save his money for the future since he is unable to acquire the motivation to

do so. According to the stronger version of Williams' motivational requirement, Miguel can









only have a reason to do something if he can be motivated by that reason. Since Miguel cannot

become motivated to save his money for the future, he does not have a reason to do so.

Both Marcos and Miguel have an external reason to save their money for the future on

the weaker interpretation of Williams' motivational requirement. Because the reason in question

has the capacity to motivate someone, and that someone was able to acquire that motivation

simply through rational deliberation, the reason meets the weaker version Williams' motivational

requirement and still counts as an external reason.

Let us consider another example.

(The Drowning Child Example) Bob observes a child drowning, and yet has no desire to
save the child. Saving the child would not promote any of the ends contained within Bob's
S. However, if another person, Steve, had been present and seen the child drowning, Steve
would have wanted to save the child. This is because Steve is convinced that he has a
reason (x) to help others when possible, and that end has been introduced into his S.
Because Steve would be convinced that there is a reason to save the child, he would be
motivated to do so. Does Bob have a reason (x) to save the child?

For Bob, reason x does not meet the stronger interpretation of Williams' Motivational

Requirement. This is because reason x does not have the capacity to motivate Bob, and x is not

capable of serving as Bob's reason for action on that occasion since saving the child does not

promote any end already contained in Bob's S and Bob is unable to acquire the motivation to act

on reason x. However, reason x does (even for Bob) appear to meet the weaker interpretation of

Williams' motivational requirement since it is capable of serving as someone 's (namely, Steve's)

reason for action on a particular occasion.

Just after offering his motivational requirement, Williams claims that no external reason

can by itself meet that requirement.21 He claims that in order to show how external reasons

might meet his Motivational Requirement, the external reasons theorist needs to offer some

psychological link between the truth of the external reason statement and the motivation of the

21 Ibid, p. 367.









agent to act on the reason in question. When the external reasons theorist claims that belief can

serve as this psychological link, Williams claims that the external reasons theorist must explain

what it is that an agent comes to believe when he believes there is a reason for him to 4.

The demand that the external reasons theorist needs to explain what it is that an agent

comes to believe when he comes to believe that he has a reason to p is somewhat confusing.

Perhaps Williams wants to push a definitional point and ask the external reasons theorist to

define the term 'reason.' This is a reasonable question, but it is unclear why Williams might

think that the external reasons theorist cannot answer it. Further, it is not clear that Williams has

answered his own question.

Williams claims that an agent has a reason to do something only if that action promotes one or

more of the agent's ends. This is simply a necessary condition, but perhaps he means to offer it

as a sufficient condition as well and claim that an agent has a reason to do something if and only

if that action promotes one or more of the agent's ends. The externalist might follow Williams'

example and define 'reason' as follows: an agent has a reason to p if and only if c-ing promotes

that agent's long term happiness, or an agent has a reason to p if and only if p-ing conforms to

the demands of some moral system. I do not see any adequate argument provided by Williams in

"Internal and External Reasons" that shows why this potential definition of 'reason' would be

unacceptable.

In conclusion, the foundation of Williams' argument against the existence of external

reasons is his motivational requirement, his claim that an agent can only acquire a new

motivation through one of his existing motivations, and claim that it is only possible for an agent

to acquire a new motivation simply through correct deliberation if it is possible for the agent to

acquire a new motivation regardless of what his prior motivations are. In this chapter I have









shown that there are potential problems with both the argument that uses the stronger

interpretation of Williams' motivational requirement and the argument that uses the weaker

interpretation of Williams' motivational requirement. In order to make the arguments that use

both the stronger and the weaker interpretations of his motivational requirement go through,

Williams needs to provide an argument for two of his claims. First, he needs to prove that an

agent can only acquire a new motivation through existing motivations. Second, he needs to

show that an agent can only acquire a new motivation simply through correct deliberation if he

can acquire that motivation regardless of what his existing motivations are. I have also shown

that even if we grant that an agent can only acquire a new motivation through existing

motivations, many candidates for external reasons still meet the weaker version of Williams'

motivational requirement. Finally, I argued that Williams' demand that the externalist offer a

definition of 'reason' has actually been met by the externalist; the externalist has offered a

definition of 'reason' that is at least as detailed as Williams' definition.









CHAPTER 2
A DEFENSE OF CHRISTINE KORSGAARD'S "SKEPTICISM ABOUT PRACTICAL
REASON"

Introduction

In "Internal and External Reasons", Bernard Williams argues that there is no such thing

as an external reason. He justifies this claim by putting forth a requirement that anything must

meet in order to count as a reason. He claims that something counts as a reason to do something

only if it can motivate an agent and figure into an explanation of that agent's action. I will refer

to this requirement as Williams' motivational requirement. Williams then argues that external

reasons cannot meet his requirement. A detailed summary of Williams' argument against

external reasons is contained in the previous chapter.

In "Skepticism about Practical Reason," Christine Korsgaard agrees with Williams'

motivational requirement. She argues, however, that in order to show that external reasons

cannot meet this requirement Williams must first show that external reasons do not exist-she

argues that he cannot prove that they do not exist by arguing that they do not meet the

motivational requirement. In other words, she claims that it is a mistake for Williams to base his

content skepticism on his motivational skepticism. Korsgaard defines content skepticism as

doubt about whether external reasons exist at all. She defines motivational skepticism as doubt

about whether external reasons can motivate. Korsgaard argues that any doubt about whether

external reasons can motivate must be based on doubt whether they exist at all-it is a mistake,

she claims, for Williams to base his belief that external reasons do not exist on his belief that

external reasons do not motivate. Korsgaard claims that in order to prove that a reason cannot

motivate, Williams must first provide a good argument against the existence of a process of

reasoning by which one might be said to discover an external reason and derive motivation from









it. Korsgaard explains that it is not acceptable to simply state that external reasons do not exist

by pointing out cases in which external reasons do not motivate.

In a postscript to "Internal and External Reasons" published after "Skepticism About

Practical Reason" was written, Williams claims that he has no basic disagreements with the

claims Korsgaard made in her paper. This response seems to indicate that either Korsgaard was

confused about what is captured by Williams' view, or Williams was confused about what is

captured by Korsgaard's view. I will argue for the truth of the latter claim.

In this chapter I will explain Korsgaard's argument that Williams makes the mistake of

basing his content skepticism on his motivational skepticism. I will also explain Korsgaard's

criticism that Williams does not provide an adequate argument against the existence of the

process of reasoning by which one might be said to access an external reason and derive

motivation from it. I will then explain why Williams might claim that he has no fundamental

disagreements with the points made in "Skepticism about Practical Reason." Finally, I will

proceed to explain how Williams must disagree with at least one important point Korsgaard

makes in "Skepticism about Practical Reason," and I will explain how the truth of Korsgaard's

point shows an important flaw in Williams' argument against the existence of external reasons.

My Summary of Korsgaard's Argument

In "Skepticism about Practical Reason," Korsgaard criticizes Williams' argument against the

existence of external reasons, claiming that he makes the mistake of basing his content

skepticism on his motivational skepticism. Once again, Korsgaard defines content skepticism as

doubts about whether external reasons exist. She defines motivational skepticism as doubt about

whether external reasons can motivate.1 She claims that motivational skepticism has no


1 Korsgaard, Christine. "Skepticism about Practical Reason." In Darwall, Gibbard, and Railton, Moral Discourse
and Practice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 373.









independent force, and so it cannot be used to demonstrate whether or not content skepticism is

justified. Korsgaard admits that the reason Williams thinks that external reasons cannot motivate

is because he thinks that external reasons do not exist at all. She does not have a problem with

this part of his reasoning. What she does criticize is the order of his reasoning that leads to the

conclusion that external reasons do not exist.

For Williams, as for Hume, the motivational skepticism depends on what I have called the
'content skepticism.' Williams's argument does not show that if there were unconditional
principles of reason applying to action we could not be motivated by them. He only thinks
that there are none. But Williams's argument, like Hume's, gives the appearance of going
the other way around: it looks as if the motivational point-[Williams' motivational
requirement]-is supposed to have some force in limiting what might count as a principle
of practical reason. Whereas in fact, the real source of the skepticism is a doubt about the
existence of principles of action whose content shows them to be ultimately justified.2

She begins her argument for the claim that it is a mistake to base content skepticism on

motivational skepticism by first demonstrating that it is possible for an agent to have a reason to

do something and still not be motivated to do it. This might occur in one of two ways. The first

way in which this might occur is if the agent is not fully informed and he is acting in what he

thinks are his best interests. Williams affirms that it is possible for an agent to have a reason to

do something and to fail to be motivated by that reason in cases such as this one (where the agent

fails to be motivated because he is mistaken about the facts).

According to Korsgaard, there is a second way in which an agent might have a reason to

do something and still not be motivated to do it. A fully informed agent might know he has a

reason to p and still not able to acquire the motivation to p. It is unclear whether Williams

thinks such a case is possible. Korsgaard says that the second example is one in which the agent

can be called truly irrational, whereas in the first case the agent is rational relative to his false

beliefs. According to Korsgaard, the fact that this sort of true irrationality is possible shows that


2Ibid, p. 384.









if an agent fails to be motivated by a candidate for a reason, this does not show that the reason in

question does not exist. Just because a reason does not motivate does not mean that the reason

cannot motivate a rational agent. To show that a reason cannot motivate, Korsgaard claims that

Williams needs to show that the process of reasoning that can lead to the discovery of an external

reason and the acquisition of the motivation to act on that reason do not exist.

Korsgaard's argument for the claim that it is a mistake to base content skepticism on

motivational skepticism might be summarized as follows:

(1) If something can be a reason for action, it has to have the capacity to motivate agents and

work its way into an explanation of the action.

(2) For an agent to be able to be motivated by a reason, he must be able to

(a) discover that he has a reason to do the action in question, and

(b) derive motivation from the discovery that he has a reason to do the action in question.

(3) It is possible for some agent to meet condition (a) but not condition (b) with respect to a

reason that he has.

(4) It is also possible for some agent to fail to meet both condition (a) and condition (b) with

respect to a reason that he has.

(5) To show that external reasons do not exist, it is not enough to show that external reasons

do not motivate an agent.

(C) Therefore, it is a mistake to base content skepticism on motivational skepticism.

Williams tries to show that external reasons do not exist by arguing that anything that met the

criteria for being an external reason could not motivate rather than showing that there are no

external reasons at all, and that is why we are not motivated by them. However, Williams can

still agree with the essential points made in this part of Korsgaard's argument. The fundamental









point Williams makes is that external reasons cannot motivate an agent because external reasons

do not exist at all-he does not claim that the reason external reasons do not exist is because they

cannot motivate. Therefore, Williams seems to be justified in claiming that he has no

fundamental disagreement with this part of Korsgaard's argument. However, while Korsgaard

and Williams agree that if external reasons cannot motivate it is because they do not exist,

Korsgaard still objects to the process of reasoning that leads Williams to the conclusion that

external reasons do not exist. She thinks that in trying to show that external reasons do not exist

by showing that they cannot motivate, Williams starting from the wrong point, and so his

reasoning is flawed.

While Williams can agree with Korsgaard's fundamental point in this part of her argument, she

does establish some limits regarding what Williams would be justified in claiming. For example,

Williams would not be justified in claiming (like Hume does) that an agent always and only has

a reason to satisfy his own desires, since Hume's argument for this claim is flawed. Hume's

argument for this claim might be outlined as follows:

(1) There are only two kinds of reasoning: reasoning about logical and mathematical

relations and reasoning about empirical connections such as cause and effect.

(2) Rational processes can only yield conclusions about what an agent has a reason to do if

those processes can also move the agent to act on that reason

(3) Neither reasoning about logical and mathematical relations nor reasoning about empirical

connections can move an agent to act.

(4) Neither reasoning about logical and mathematical relations nor reasoning about empirical

connections can yield conclusions about what an agent should do.









(5) The two forms of reason that exist can only move agents to act insofar as the conclusions

that are yielded from those forms of reasoning are connected to our existing desires.

(C) The only kind of reasoning that can yield conclusions about what an agent should do is

reasoning about how best to satisfy his existing desires.

To illustrate her point that this is a flawed argument, Korsgaard offers a case in which a fully

informed agent is confronted with a choice in which one option will lead to his greater good and

one will lead to his lesser good. The agent chooses his lesser good. Hume claims that this is an

indication that the agent cares more about his lesser good than his greater good. On the other

hand, Hume would claim that if the fully informed agent chooses his greater good, this indicates

that he cares more about his greater good. The problem with this reasoning is that Hume's

analysis of this case depends upon his assumption that the only kind of reasoning that can yield

conclusions about what an agent has reason to do is reasoning about how that agent can best

satisfy his own desires. On the other hand, Hume's belief that the only reasoning that can yield

conclusions about what an agent has a reason to do is reasoning about how that agent can best

satisfy his own desires appears to depend on his analysis of this case. In other words, the

problem with this argument is that the truth of premise (3) appears to rely on Williams' analysis

of the above case, and Williams' analysis of the above case appears to rely on the truth of

premise (3). At the very least, Korsgaard demonstrates that Hume needs to provide a further

argument for his claim that the only kind of reasoning that can yield conclusions about what an

agent should do is reasoning about how to satisfy his desires.

This makes it seem as if your greater good is an end you might care about or not, and
rationality is relative to what you care about. But, once we admit that one might from
some other cause fail to be responsive to a rational consideration, there is no special reason
to accept this analysis of the case. I do not mean that there is a reason to reject it, either, of
course; my point is that whether you accept it depends on whether you already accept the
limitation to means/end rationality. If you do, you will say that the case where the lesser









good was chosen was a case where there was a stronger desire for it, and so a stronger
reason; if you do not, and you think it is reasonable to choose the greater good (because it
has rational authority), you will say that this is a case of true irrationality. The point is that
the motivational analysis of the case depends upon your views of the content of rational
principles of action, and not the reverse. The fact that one might or might not be motivated
to choose a certain course of action by the consideration that it leads to the greater good
does not by itself show that the greater good is just one end among others, without special
rational authority, something that some people care about and some do not.3

This argument shows that it would not be an acceptable move for Williams to go the Humean

route and claim that the only reasoning that can lead to the discovery of reasons is means/end

reasoning.

However, Williams does not argue that the only kind of practical reasoning is reasoning about

what will best promote one's own desires. Rather, the key part of his argument against

externalism is the claim that practical reasoning must start with something that is capable of

motivating the agent, and anything that is capable of motivating the agent must be a part of that

agent's subjective motivational set. Williams thinks this fact about motivation is a reason to

think that pure practical reason, by which an agent could discover and become motivated by

external reasons, does not exist. Korsgaard, on the other hand, argues that this fact about

motivation is not a reason to doubt the existence of pure practical reason. This is the stronger

part of Korsgaard's argument. Also, there is no way Williams can agree with Korsgaard's claim

that pure practical reason can still exist even if the only things that are capable of motivating an

agent are contained in his S. If Korsgaard is right in claiming this, Williams' argument does not

go through.

Korsgaard summarizes Williams' argument against the existence of the process of reasoning

by which one might be said to access that reason and derive motivation from it as follows:




3 Ibid, p. 380.









(1) In order for an agent to discover and derive motivation from external reasons, he must be

able to engage in pure practical reason.

(2) An agent can engage in pure practical reason only if he can be motivated by the

conclusions discovered through engaging in pure practical reason

(3) An agent can engage in pure practical reason only if his capacity to be motivated by

reasons does not depend on the elements in that agent's S.

(4) Only elements that are already present in an agent's S can make him capable of being

motivated by reasons.

(5) Since an agent's capacity to be motivated depends on the elements in his S, he cannot

engage in pure practical reason

(Cl) Therefore, an agent cannot discover and derive motivation from external reasons.

(C2) Therefore, external reasons do not exist.

My Defense of Korsgaard

Korsgaard would challenge Williams on premise (2) of his argument against the process

of reasoning that can lead to the discovery of and motivation to act on external reasons.

Korsgaard agrees with Williams that the capacity to be motivated by the conclusions of reason

must be contained within the agent's S. She does not agree, however, that this indicates that pure

reason does not exist.

If one accepts [Williams' motivational requirement], it follows that pure practical reason
will exist if and only if we are capable of being motivated by the conclusions of the
operations of pure practical reason as such. Something in us must make us capable of
being motivated by them, and this something will be part of the subjective motivational
set. Williams seems to think that this is a reason for doubting that pure practical reasons
exist, whereas what seems to follow from the internalism requirement is this: if we can be
motivated by considerations stemming from pure practical reason, then that capacity
belongs to the subjective motivational set of every rational being.4


4Ibid, p. 383.









In "Internal and External Reasons," Williams provides an argument against Korsgaard's solution

to the motivation problem. He argues that the externalist has not answered any of his challenges

by positing that a rational agent already has the capacity, desire, or disposition within his S to do

what he have a reason to do.

It might be said that the force of an external reason statement can be explained in the
following way. Such a statement implies that a rational agent would be motivated to act
appropriately, and it can carry this implication, because a rational agent is precisely one
who has a general disposition in his S do what (he believes) there is a reason for him to do.
So when he comes to believe that there is a reason for him to p, he is motivated to p, even
though, before, he neither had a motive to p nor any motive related to yp-ing in one of the
ways considered in the account of deliberation.

But this reply merely puts off the problem. It reapplies the desire and belief model
(roughly speaking) of explanation to the actions in question, but using a desire and a belief
the content of which are in question. What is it that one comes to believe when he comes
to believe that there is a reason for him to p, if it is not the proposition, or something that
entails the proposition, that if he deliberated rationally, he would be motivated to act
appropriately? We were asking how any true proposition could have that content; it cannot
help, in answering that, to appeal to a supposed desire which is activated by a belief which
has that very content.5

Strangely, Korsgaard does not address this objection to the solution she offers in "Skepticism

about Practical Reason." In the remainder of this chapter, I will attempt to answer Williams'

objection to Korsgaard's solution.

According to Korsgaard, just because some agents are not (or even cannot) be motivated to act

on an external reason does not mean that they do not have an external reason to act. She claims

that rational agents will have the capacity to discover and become motivated by external reasons.

Williams defines the subjective motivational set in such a way that it includes not only desires,

but also dispositions of evaluation, various projects, etc. He has thus defined the S in such a way

that it can contain an agent's capacity to reason in certain ways. However, Williams has not

shown why an agent's S cannot contain a purely rational method of reasoning. Further, he has

5 Williams, Bernard. "Internal and External Reasons." In Darwall, Gibbard, and Railton, Moral Discourse and
Practice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 368-369.









not shown, if an agent's S can include purely rational methods of reasoning, why anything that

the agent discovers and becomes motivated by through this process of reasoning must by nature

be an internal reason. Williams argues that if an agent discovers a reason or acquires the

motivation to act on a reason through a capability that exists in his subjective motivational set,

the reason cannot count as an external reason. However, he has not provided an argument for

that claim. Korsgaard claims that we have no reason to accept the truth of that claim.

This answer shows a potentially serious flaw in Williams' argument. Unless Williams can

provide a good argument as to why we should believe that reasons accessed through any

elements of an agent's subjective motivational set cannot count as external reasons, he has not

succeeded in proving that external reasons do not exist.

Another demand Williams makes in the above passage is to require the externalist to

explain what it is that an agent comes to believe when he believes he has an external reason to p.

As I explained in the previous chapter, this demand is somewhat unclear. Perhaps Williams

wants the externalist to offer a definition of 'reason.' This is a strange criticism because it is not

clear that Williams has offered such a definition himself. If he has offered a definition of

'reason' it would look like this: A has a reason to p if and only if yp-ing promotes some end A

has in A's subjective motivational set. If Williams thinks this is an adequate definition of

'reason' it is unclear why he thinks that the externalist would not also be able to offer a definition

of 'reason.' The externalist might offer the following definition: A has reason to p if and only if

(p-ing promotes the greater good.

In conclusion, when Williams claims that he has no fundamental disagreement with the claims

Christine Korsgaard makes in "Skepticism about Practical Reason" he is partially right.

Williams does not have to disagree with Korsgaard's claim that motivational skepticism needs to









be based on content skepticism. Williams believes external reasons cannot motivate because

they do not exist; he does not believe that external reasons do not exist because they do not

motivate. Korsgaard has a problem with Williams' process of reasoning when he argues that

external reasons do not exist, and she may be right to criticize his reasoning. However, Williams

still agrees with Korsgaard's central point that skepticism about whether external reasons can

motivate must be based on skepticism about whether external reasons exist at all.

Williams cannot, however, agree with another important point Korsgaard makes in "Skepticism

about Practical Reason." Korsgaard claims that Williams does not provide an adequate argument

against the process of reasoning that can lead to an agent's discovering and becoming motivated

by external reasons. Korsgaard thinks Williams falsely claims that reasons discovered through

some element of an agent's subjective motivational set cannot count as external reasons. This

criticism is potentially devastating to Williams' argument. Further, it is not open to Williams to

claim that he agrees with this point since the truth of his claim (and falsity of hers) is essential in

Williams' argument against the process of reasoning that can allow agents to discover and

become motivated by external reasons. If Williams cannot provide an adequate argument against

this kind of reasoning, he has not really shown that external reasons do not exist.









CHAPTER 3
THE NORMATIVITY OR NON-NORMATIVITY OF INSTRUMENTAL REASON

Introduction

In "The Normativity of Instrumental Reason," Christine Korsgaard argues that neo-

Humean instrumentalism is problematic because in order to distinguish between what an agent

does and what he has reason to do, the theorist must posit a fundamental normative principle.

Korsgaard argues that this move takes the neo-Humean beyond instrumentalist.

The source of the argument between Korsgaard and the neo-Humean theorist is that they

have conflicting definitions of instrumentalism. According to the neo-Humean theorist, the

instrumental principle requires agents to take the means to their ends as determined by their own

set of desires. If this definition is correct, Korsgaard is wrong to accuse the neo-Humean of

moving beyond instrumentalism, since the neo-Humean would not be requiring anything more

than what is already required by the instrumental principle. However, Korsgaard claims the

instrumental principle is only about the transmission of reasons from our ends to the means, and

that this principle does not include any information about how the agent's ends are determined.

Korsgaard claims that a pure instrumental theory can only work in conjunction with a separate

theory about how agents' ends are determined. Williams offers a theory regarding how agents'

ends are determined. He claims that an agent's ends are determined by the contents of an agent's

subjective motivational set. Korsgaard claims that Williams' theory is a non-instrumental theory

and she claims that Williams needs to provide a separate argument for his claim that an agent's

ends can be determined in this way.

It appears, therefore, that we are faced with two definitions of instrumentalist.

According the neo-Humean, the instrumental principle requires us to take the appropriate means

to our ends as determined by our desires. According to Korsgaard, the instrumental principle can









merely require us to take the appropriate means to some ends, and any attempt to further define

what those ends are goes beyond instrumentalist.

While Korsgaard disagrees with Williams' definition of instrumentalist, her

fundamental criticism of Williams appears to be as follows: By claiming that agents have a

reason to take the means to their ends as determined by their desires, Williams is giving certain

ends rational authority. If Williams wants to claim that the ends determined by an agent's

subjective motivational set have rational authority, and other ends do not, he needs to provide an

argument for why ends can be determined by the agent's subjective motivational set but not by

some other means. In other words, it is not sufficient for Williams to simply work the rational

authority of certain ends into the instrumental principle-he must explain why those ends have

rational authority.

In opposition to Korsgaard, Donald Hubin claims in "The Groundless Normativity of

Instrumental Reason" that the instrumentalist theory does not rely on anything beyond the

instrumental principle. While Hubin may be willing to affirm that Humeans need to offer an

argument for the view that an agent's ends are established by his own desires, he argues that

Williams' view does not lead to an endorsement of any particular kind of ends. In order to

illustrate how neo-Humean instrumentalists do not posit anything beyond the instrumental

principle, Hubin offers an analogy between neo-Humean instrumentalism and legal positivism.

In this chapter, I will first offer a detailed summary of Korsgaard's argument and explain

how she reaches the conclusion that in order to offer an instrumentalist principle that is not

normatively trivial the neo-Humean instrumentalist must posit something beyond

instrumentalism by giving some foundation for the instrumental principle. In the end, she claims

that neo-Humean instrumentalism is problematic regardless of which option the Humean









chooses; she claims that if the theory is normatively trivial it is problematic, and if it goes

beyond instrumentalism it is also problematic unless Williams can provide an argument for why

agents should take the means to ends that are established by their own desires rather than ends

that are established by some other means. I will then explain Hubin's argument against

Korsgaard, summarizing his response to each horn of Korsgaard's dilemma and critiquing each

response. Finally, I will argue that at least one of Korsgaard's arguments against neo-Humean

theories stands up to Hubin's criticism.

My Summary of Korsgaard's Argument

Korsgaard begins her argument by claiming that the neo-Humean instrumentalist theory

either (1) does not draw a meaningful distinction between what best serves the agent's ends and

what he actually does, or (2) it does draw a meaningful distinction between what best serves the

agents ends and what he actually does. If it does not draw a meaningful distinction between

what best serves agent's ends and what the agent actually does, then the theory is normatively

trivial. On the other hand, if the theory does draw a meaningful distinction between what best

serves the agent's ends and what the agent actually does, then the neo-Humean instrumentalist

needs to provide an argument for why an agent should do what best serves ends that are

established by his own desires rather than ends that are established in some other way.

Korsgaard thinks that if Humeans mean to offer the instrumental principle as the thing

that yields our reasons for acting, then they need to be able to find a case in which someone

violates the instrumental principle. Korsgaard thinks that if they cannot find a case in which the

instrumental principle is violated, then it should not count as a principle that distinguishes

between what you do and what you have reason to do. She says that if a theory does not

distinguish between what one actually does and what one has reason to do, then that theory is

normatively trivial, since a theory that fails to make such a distinction does not actually require









anything at all. Korsgaard claims that if a theory of reasons is normatively trivial, then that is a

reason to reject that theory.

According to Korsgaard, if the neo-Humean instrumentalist draws a meaningful distinction

between what an agent does and what he has reason to do, he must do it in one of two ways.1 He

can do this by (a) making a distinction between the agent's actual desire and his rational desire

(and take as the agent's ends what he has reason to want rather than what he really wants), or (b)

making a psychological distinction between what the agent thinks he wants and what he really

wants. Korsgaard claims that if the neo-Humean instrumentalist is making move (a), then he is

clearly going beyond instrumentalism and positing some further normative principle. If the neo-

Humean instrumentalist is making move (b), then he is also going beyond instrumentalism,

though it is not as obvious how this is the case. By claiming that an agent has a reason to do

what will bring about the ends that are established by what he really wants rather than the ends

established by what he thinks he wants, Williams is assigning the agent's "real desires" some

normative force. Korsgaard claims that if Williams assigns the agent's real desires some

normative force, then he is offering a theory about how an agent's ends are established that is

distinct from the instrumental theory itself.

It appears that the primary worry Korsgaard is voicing is perhaps something like this.

Korsgaard thinks as long as the Humean makes a distinction between what an agent has reason to

do and what he actually does, the Humean is offering a theory of how an agent's ends are

established. By offering a theory outlining how an agent's ends are established, the Humean is

relying on some principle that is distinct from the instrumental principle. Korsgaard demands

that the Humean offer an argument for why an agent's ends are established by his own desires.


1 Korsgaard, Christine. "The Normativity of Instrumental Reason." In Cullity and Gout, Ethics and Practical
Reason (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997): p. 230.









The instrumental principle, because it tells us only to take the means to our ends, cannot by
itself give us a reason to do anything. It can operate only in conjunction with some view
about how our ends are determined, about what they are. It is routinely assumed, by
empiricists who see themselves as followers of Hume, that absent any contenders, our ends
will be determined by what we desire. But if you hold that the instrumental principle is the
only principle of practical rationality you cannot also hold that desiring something is a
reason for pursuing it. The principle: 'take as your end that which you desire' is neither
the instrumental principle itself nor an application of it.2

Korsgaard thinks that in order to claim an agent has a reason to take the appropriate means

to ends that are established by his desires, rather than claiming than simply claiming that an

agent has reason to take the appropriate means to some end or ends (perhaps established by

something other than the agent's own desires), the Humean must rely on something other than

instrumentalist. Rather, he must use instrumentalism in conjunction with some theory that

shows how an agent's ends are established, making his theory no longer a purely instrumentalist

theory.

At this point in Korsgaard's argument, it is particularly important to note the difference

between the way in which Korsgaard defines the instrumental principle and the way in which the

neo-Humean instrumentalist defines the instrumental principle. Once again, Korsgaard claims

that the instrumental principle is simply about the transmission of reasons, and that you go

beyond the instrumental principle whenever you claim that reasons are transmitted from a

particular source. She claims that the neo-Humean instrumentalist goes beyond the

instrumentalist principle by claiming that reasons are transmitted from what the agent really

wants. Let us call Korsgaard's definition of the instrumental principle the Open IP. Korsgaard

thinks that the Open IP cannot operate alone, and that it needs to work in conjunction with some

theory about how agents' ends are established. According to the neo-Humean instrumentalist,

the instrumentalist principle requires agents to take the means to ends that are established by


2 bid, p. 223.









their own desires. Let us call the neo-Humean instrumentalist's definition of the instrumental

principle the Agent's Desires IP. Neo-Humean instrumentalism does not go beyond the Agent's

Desires IP, but it does go beyond the Open IP.

Now that I have pointed out the different definitions that Korsgaard and the neo-Humeans

have of the instrumental principle, it should be easier to pinpoint the real source of disagreement

between them. Korsgaard's real demand is not really that neo-Humean instrumentalism fit some

specific definition of instrumentalism. Rather, she is demanding that the Humean explain why

an agent has a reason to take the means to his ends rather than some other ends. In other words,

Korsgaard thinks that the neo-Humean theorist, just like the externalist, needs to provide an

argument for which ends we should pursue and why.

Donald Hubin attacks Korsgaard's argument by addressing each horn of Korsgaard's

dilemma. He focuses on the second horn, claiming it is clear that neo-Humean theories do

indeed distinguish between what best serves an agent's ends and what the agent actually does. In

his argument against the second horn, Hubin claims that Korsgaard is unjustified in claiming that

the instrumental principle can only operate in conjunction with some other theory. In order to be

thorough, I will first deal with Hubin's response to the first horn of Korsgaard's dilemma.

Hubin's Objection to the First Horn of Korsgaard's Dilemma

Once again, Korsgaard claims that neo-Humean instrumentalists either (1) do not draw a

meaningful distinction between an agent's actual actions and what the agent has reason to do, or

they (2) do draw a meaningful distinction between an agent's actual actions and what the agent

has reason to do. Both Hubin and Korsgaard seem to think that neo-Humean theories do in fact

draw a meaningful distinction between an agent's actual actions and what the agent has reason to

do. Still, Hubin argues Korsgaard's argument that option (1) does not work is problematic.

Korsgaard claims that for any acceptable principle yielding reasons for action, we should be able









to find some example in which that principle is violated. If we cannot find such an example,

then the theory offering that principle is normatively trivial.3

Hubin challenges this point by arguing that it is possible for an agent to be guided by a

principle or norm even if one does not have the capacity to violate it. To illustrate this point,

Hubin asks us to suppose that he is one of Stanley Milgram's subjects in one of Milgram's

experiments on obedience to authority and Hubin is ordered to push a button that he is told will

give an electric shock to a person in another room.4 Suppose that he refuses to push the button

because he does not wish to harm another human being. However, in these experiments, the

subjects who were ordered to push the button did not actually harm anyone by pushing the

button-actors in the other room were simply told to scream as if they were in pain to make the

subjects of the experiment think they were harming others by pushing the button. In this case,

Hubin would have been guided by the moral principle that one should not hurt others even

though it was not possible for him to violate it in this case (i.e. even if he had pushed the button,

he would have been unable to harm the other person). If Hubin is right, Korsgaard is not

justified in claiming that a neo-Humean instrumentalism is normatively trivial unless it is

possible to find an example in which the instrumental principle is violated.

However, even if this horn of Korgaard's dilemma does not go through, this does not

cause such major problems for her argument against Humean theories. Both Korsgaard and

Hubin think that Humean theories do in fact draw a distinction between what an agent has reason

to do and what he actually does.






3 Ibid, p. 228.
4 Hubin, Donald Clayton. "The Groundless Normativity of Instrumental Rationality." The Journal of Philosophy 9
(2001), p. 445-468.









Hubin's Objection to the Second Horn of Korsgaard's Dilemma

I shall now describe Hubin's argument against the second horn of Korsgaard's dilemma.

Hubin claims that what Korsgaard really finds problematic is that Humean theories claim

rationality simply consists in the instrumental principle, and that there is no further normative

principle that establishes what we have reason to do. As I mentioned before, this conflict arises

from the different ways in which the Humean and Korsgaard define the instrumental principle.

Korsgaard thinks a theory that simply consists in the Open IP incoherent, and that it does not

make sense to claim that the instrumental principle can operate without a theory that explains

how an agent's ends are established. Hubin's interpretation of Korsgaard is revealed in the

following passage.

The worry, then, is fairly simply put. The principle of pure instrumentalism ensures the
transmission of reasons from ends to means, but the neo-Humean, no less than anyone else,
needs a substantive and non-instrumental principle of rationality to give rational
endorsement to the ends-to ground the chain of reasons. No reasons will be transmitted
to the means unless there is a reason for the ends.5

While Hubin's interpretation of Korsgaard picks out many important points in her

argument, Hubin fails to understand that Korsgaard and Humean theorists operate according to

differing definitions of the instrumentalist theory. In response to Korsgaard's claim that by

making a psychological distinction between what an agent thinks he wants and what he really

wants the Humean relies on something beyond the instrumental principle, Hubin claims the

following.

This charge is initially puzzling. The alleged step beyond instrumental rationality-the
assertion that "a person ought to pursue what he really wants"-is just a reassertion of the
neo-Humean instrumental principle. As David Lewis says in another context, "what is
already there cannot be added'; one does not take a step beyond neo-Humean
instrumentalism by repeating the thesis of neo-Humean instrumentalist.6


5 Ibid, p. 462.
6 bid, p. 458-459.









This passage reveals that Hubin fails to understand that Korsgaard is using a different

definition of instrumentalism than the neo-Humean instrumentalist is using. Korgaard's

argument is based on the Open IP definition of instrumentalism, while the arguments offered by

neo-Humean theorists are based on the Agent's Desires IP definition of instrumentalist. In

order to truly respond to Korsgaard's argument, Hubin needs to address her definition of

instrumentalist.

As I mentioned above, it seems that Korsgaard's real demand here is that the neo-

Humean explain why an agent has a reason to take the means to ends that are established by his

desires rather than ends that are established in some other way. It is not acceptable for the neo-

Humean to endorse ends that are established by the agent's desires without doing the work to

explain why we should accept those ends rather than ends that are established by prudence or

morality.

While Hubin may not disagree with Korsgaard's demand that the neo-Humean provide an

argument for why an agent's ends are established by his desires (which seems to be Korsgaard's

most critical point), he argues that Korsgaard is wrong in accusing the Humean of relying on

something further than the instrumental principle. However, Hubin is operating according to the

Agent's Desires IP definition of the instrumental principle, and in order to truly address her

argument against neo-Humean instrumentalism Hubin needs to address Korsgaard's definition of

instrumentalism (the Open IP). Korsgaard argues that the problem with neo-Humean

instrumentalism is that it makes a distinction between what the agent does and what he has

reason to do. If the neo-Humean theorist wishes to claim there is such a distinction, he must find

some way to draw this distinction. Every option open to the theorist as to how to draw such a

distinction involves moving beyond the instrumentalism associated with the Open IP. Therefore,









the real criticism Korsgaard offers in the second horn of her dilemma is that the first move by the

neo-Humean instrumentalist (drawing a distinction between what the agent does and what he has

reason to do) requires another move that ends up relying on something beyond the Open IP.

If Hubin understood that Korsgaard and the Humeans operated according to different

definitions of the instrumental principle, it seems that he would have to accept Korsgaard's claim

that by claiming that the agent's ends are determined by what the agent desires, the Humean is

moving beyond the Open IP. By making a distinction between what agents think they want and

what they really want, the neo-Humean is grounding the idea of what counts as a reason in his

beliefs about how ends are established, and so there is more going on than the transmission of

reasons.

Given the distinction that I have pointed out between Korsgaard's definition of

instrumentalism (Open IP), and the Humean's definition of instrumentalism (Agent's Desires

IP); I can think of two ways in which Hubin might proceed. First, he might argue that making a

distinction between what an agent thinks he wants and what he really wants does not require

moving beyond the Open IP. Second, he might concede that making such a distinction requires

moving beyond the Open IP, but that this does not matter as long as (a) the theorist offers an

argument for why we should believe that an agent's ends are determined by his real desires, and

(b) the theory stays within the bounds of the Agent's Desires IP.

I can think of only one way in which the Humean might argue that making a distinction

between what an agent thinks he wants and what he really wants does not require moving beyond

the Open IP. The neo-Humean instrumentalist does not claim that everyone has reason to do

some particular action regardless of what their ends are-at least not in the same way that an

external account of reasons does. The neo-Humean does not make claims such as "Everyone









should do what maximizes their own benefit throughout their lives," or "Everyone should choose

their greater good over their lesser good." Rather, the only thing that Humean theorists claim

that what we have reason to do is to bring about the ends that we have, regardless of what those

ends are. This means that neo-Humean instrumentalists would claim that in some situations,

depending on the agent's true desires, an agent might have a reason to do what is certain to make

his life worse in the future. At first glance, it does not appear that there is any fundamental

normative principle within this theory. Rather, it might appear that an agent discovers his

reasons through a simple application of the instrumental principle.

However, the fundamental normative principle is actually worked into the neo-Humean

instrumentalist's definition of the instrumental principle. The Agent's Desires IP declares that

you have a reason to do what is necessary to bring about any ends that you have that are

established by your own desires rather than doing what you might be inclined to do. It appears,

therefore, that the normativity is worked into the neo-Humean's very definition of the

instrumental principle. Perhaps this is why so many philosophers have been confused about why

Korsgaard would claim that neo-Humean instrumentalism moves beyond instrumentalism. Neo-

Humean instrumentalism operates according to the constraints of the Agent's Desires IP, but not

according to the constraints of the Open IP.

In the remainder of this chapter I will explain the way Hubin uses his analogy between

legal positivism and neo-Humean instrumentalism to argue that neo-Humean instrumentalism

does not rely on anything further than the instrumental principle itself. Further, I will try to show

how Hubin might use this analogy to demonstrate that even though Humeans rely on something

other than the Open IP, this does not matter as long as (a) the theorist offers an argument for why









we should believe that an agent's ends are determined by his real desires, and (b) the theory stays

within the bounds of the Agent's Desires IP.

Hubin's Analogy

Hubin claims that the neo-Humean instrumentalist does not rely on anything further than

the instrumental principle. In order to demonstrate this, Hubin offers an analogy between neo-

Humean instrumentalism and legal positivism. Hubin explains two versions of legal

positivism-the hybrid theory and the non-hybrid theory. Hybrid theories of legal positivism

incorporate some elements of the natural law theory. According to natural law theories, the

validity of any law is judged against the requirements of a natural law, which exists

independently of human activity.7 Non-hybrid theories of legal positivism do not incorporate

any elements of the natural law theory, and laws are judged to be valid or invalid only within a

system of law. Hubin claims that the hybrid theory is problematic, but the non-hybrid theory is

not. He claims that in the same way, a hybrid instrumentalist theory would be problematic, but a

non-hybrid instrumentalist theory is not. Hubin seems to think that Korsgaard mistakenly judges

neo-Humean instrumentalism to be a hybrid theory. He claims that because neo-Humean

instrumentalism is a non-hybrid theory, Korsgaard's argument against the neo-Humean

instrumentalist does not succeed.

Hans Kelsen offers a hybrid version of legal positivism.8 Kelsen claims that the validity of

the fundamental law, through which the validity of all other laws is determined, is presupposed.

Given that he makes room for questions about the validity or invalidity of the fundamental law,

Kelsen is not offering a pure legal positivist theory. By claiming that the validity of the

fundamental law is presupposed, it seems that Kelsen is positing a fundamental law that looks a


SIbid, p. 462.
8 Ibid, p. 463.









lot like a natural law-only the source of the fundamental law's validity is somehow more

mysterious.

H. L. A. Hart offered a non-hybrid version of legal positivism.9 Hart claimed that the

fundamental law is not subject to questions of validity or invalidity, and the validity of other

laws is determined within the legal system in question. The non-hybrid legal positivist

apparently escapes objections regarding how to ground the validity of the fundamental law by

claiming that the fundamental law is not subject to questions of validity in the first place.

Making legal validity and the existence of legal reasons depend on a logically and morally
arbitrary social fact is unacceptable if we want claims of legal validity and what one has
legal reasons to do to have all of the grandeur that the natural-law theorist invests in them.
But this is a reason to reject a hybrid theory that takes the account of legal validity and
legal reasons from the positivist and the significance of legal validity and legal reasons
from the natural-law theorist. It is not a mark against the legal positivist. 10

Similarly, Hubin claims that a hybrid version of instrumentalist, which rationally

endorsed certain ends, would be problematic. However, Hubin thinks that non-hybrid versions

of instrumentalism such as neo-Humean instrumentalism, which do not rationally endorse certain

ends ends, are not problematic.

But no neo-Humean should think that, at bottom, actions are rationally advisable because
they are instruments to rationally advisable ends (aims, projects, the satisfaction of desires
or preferences, or the promotion of values). Certainly, actions can be rationally advisable
for this reason, but this cannot be what rational advisability is at bottom. For at bottom,
there is a fact-a brute fact-about the agent's subjective, contingent conative states. And
the critics of neo-Humeanism are right to say that, on the neo-Humean view, this fact is not
intrinsically rationally appraisable. Their mistake, the neo-Humean contends, is in
thinking that it must be.11

Hubin defines the difference between hybrid and non-hybrid versions of instrumentalist

as follows: A theorist is positing a hybrid instrumentalist theory if actions are considered to be

rationally advisable insofar as they are instruments to ends that are rationally advisable. A


9 Ibid, p. 463.
10 bid, p. 465.
11 Ibid, p. 466-467.









theorist is positing a non-hybrid instrumentalist theory if actions are considered to be rationally

advisable because they are properly related to the agent's subjective, contingent, conative states,

which have no normative standing in themselves.

Whether neo-Humean instrumentalism is a hybrid theory depends on which definition of

the instrumental principle you accept. If you accept the neo-Humean instrumentalist's definition

of the instrumental principle, the Agent's Desires IP, then neo-Humean instrumentalism is

consistent, and it does not go beyond instrumentalist. However, if you accept Korsgaard's

definition of the instrumental principle, the Open IP, then neo-Humean instrumentalism is not

consistent, and it does go beyond instrumentalist. Since neo-Humean instrumentalism goes

beyond the Open IP, Korsgaard would claim that it is indeed a hybrid theory.

While the question of whether neo-Humean instrumentalism is a hybrid theory can only

be answered once the conflict between the different definitions of instrumentalism is resolved,

the real conflict between Korsgaard and the Humeans is related to the question (1), whether the

Humean needs to provide an argument for why we should believe that an agent's ends are

established by his desires, and (2) whether it is possible for the Humean to provide such an

argument and while managing to avoid turning his theory into a hybrid theory under Hubin's

definition. While Hubin might agree with Korsgaard that the Humean needs to provide an

argument for his claim that an agent's ends are established by his desires, he does not think that

providing such an argument would expose neo-Humean instrumentalism as a hybrid theory

(under his own definition).

For the neo-Humean, the agent's ultimate ends (I would say, "her intrinsic values") are
neither rationally advisable nor rationally inadvisable, in themselves. They are, rather, the
brute facts about the agent's psychology in virtue of a relationship to which policies, plans,
and actions can be rationally advisable or inadvisable. The agent's ultimate ends confer
this status on policies, plans, and actions not because these ends have some normative









standing in themselves. They do this because the particular property of being rationally
advisable just is the property of being properly related to these brute facts. 12

In conclusion, Hubin demonstrates that Korsgaard's criticism that any attempt to explain

how an agent's ends are established involves relying on something further than the

instrumentalist principle fails-at least under one acceptable description of instrumentalism (the

Agent's Ends IP). However, Korsgaard does make one strong point that holds up against

Hubin's objection to Korsgaard. The Humean still needs to provide an argument for why an

agent's ends are established by his own desires rather than by something else (such as prudence,

morality, or what the agent thinks he desires). Unless the Humean can provide such an

argument, neo-Humean instrumentalism is in trouble.































12 bid, p. 467.









LIST OF REFERENCES


Cullity, Garrett. and Berys Gout. Ethics and Practical Reason. New York: Oxford Univerity
Press, 1997.

Darwall, Stephen. and Alan Gibbard and Peter Railton. Moral Discourse and Practice. New
York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Hubin, Donald Clayton. "The Groundless Normativity of Instrumental Rationality." The
Journal of Philosophy 9 (2001): 445-468.

Korsgaard, Christine. "The Normativity of Instrumental Reason." In Cullity and Gout,
Ethics and Practical Reason.

Korsgaard, Christine. "Skepticism about Practical Reason." In Darwall, Gibbard, and
Railton, Moral Discourse and Practice.

Williams, Bernard. "Internal and External Reasons." In Darwall, Gibbard, and Railton,
Moral Discourse and Practice.









BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Maranatha Joy Hayes is a PhD student in philosophy at the University of Florida. She

specializes in meta-ethics.