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What Is Wrong with External Reasons?

Mark Shelton
Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition
Vol. 117, No. 3 (Feb., 2004), pp. 365-394
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4321452
Page Count: 30
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What Is Wrong with External Reasons?
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Abstract

In this paper I argue that only a subset of the reason statements Williams defines as external must be rejected as false. 'A has a reason to φ' is necessarily false when the ends and aims constitutive of A's good close off the deliberative route from her S to the conclusion she has reason to φ. But when less important ends are at stake, it seems that a person's needs generally provide reasons for action, contrary to Williams's internalist account. I suspect, however, that there may remain inexorable disagreement over these claims because people value things in two distinct ways. To support my suspicion, I explain how people's valuation can take either an agency-prioritizing or an end-prioritizing form. I then argue that resolving the disagreement over Williams's internalist account of reasons depends on whether it can be established that the agency-prioritizing form is the rationally superior form of valuation.

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