Harm and Culpability

By A. P. Simester; A. T. H. Smith | Go to book overview

5
Justifications and Reasons

John Gardner*


ISOLATING THE ISSUE

Nobody seriously denies that there is a close relationship between justifications and reasons. To claim that one has justification for doing or believing as one does is to claim, at the very least, that one has reasons for so doing or so believing. The question which arouses disagreement is merely how the reference to 'reasons' here is to be interpreted. For reasons may be either guiding or explanatory.1 Guiding reasons are reasons which apply to one. They bear on what one ought to do or believe. One may, however, overlook or ignore these reasons. Then, even though one acts or believes exactly as the guiding reasons would have one act or believe, they are not the reasons for which one so acts or believes. They are not, in other words, the explanatory reasons. Explanatory reasons are logically related to guiding reasons, for it is necessarily true of every explanatory reason that the person who acts on it, or holds beliefs on the basis of it, also believes it to be a guiding reason for the action or belief in question.2 But it may or may not be the guiding reason that she believes it to be. Just as guiding reasons need not be explanatory reasons, in other words, so explanatory reasons need not be guiding reasons. Thus there arises an issue, current in epistemology as well as moral and legal philosophy, about whether justification depends on guiding reasons or on explanatory reasons. Are one's actions and beliefs

____________________
*
This paper was written during my tenure of a British Academy research leave award, and I am grateful to the Academy for the opportunity to develop this and the larger project of which it forms part. Versions of the paper were presented at seminars in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Tel Aviv. I benefited greatly from the ensuing discussions, and would like to thank all those who contributed. For incisive written comments, thanks also to Tony Honoré, Stephen Shute, Andrew Simester, and Andrew von Hirsch.
1
See Joseph Raz, Practical Reason and Norms ( 2nd edn., Princeton, 1990), 16-20.
2
Some apparent counter-examples to this are mentioned by E. J. Bond in Reason and Value ( Cambridge, 1983), 29. They cannot be dealt with here. But I should stress that 'believes' here, and throughout this paper, carries its widest connotations. It covers everything from the firmest conviction to the merest inkling, everything from knowing to imagining, and everything from explicit awareness to latent or subconscious recognition., Cf. the remarks on 'vindication' in n. 39 below.

-103-

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