Engaging Reason: On the Theory of Value and Action

Engaging Reason: On the Theory of Value and Action

Engaging Reason: On the Theory of Value and Action

Engaging Reason: On the Theory of Value and Action

Synopsis

Engaging Reason offers a penetrating examination of a set of fundamental questions about human thought and action. In these tightly argued and interconnected essays Joseph Raz examines the nature of normativity, reason, and the will; the justification of reason; and the objectivity of value. He argues for the centrality, but also demonstrates the limits, of reason in action and belief. He suggests that our life is most truly our own when our various emotions, hopes, desires, intentions, and actions are guided by reason. He explores the universality of value and of principles of reasonon one side, and on the other side their dependence on social practices, and their susceptibility to change and improvement. He concludes with an illuminating explanation of self-interest and its relation to impersonal values in general and to morality in particular. Joseph Raz has been since the 1970s a prominent, original, and widely admired contributor to the study of norms, values, and reasons, not just in philosophy but in political and legal theory. This volume displays the power and unity of his thought on these subjects, and will be essential readingfor all who work on them.

Excerpt

Aspects of the world are valuable. That constitutes reasons for action. Because we are rational animals, ones with the power of reason, we are able to conduct ourselves in the light of those reasons. Being rational is being capable of acting intentionally, that is, for reasons, as one takes them to be, and that means in light of one's appreciation of one's situation in the world.

This book, collecting essays written over the last eight years, explores some aspects of the complex interdependence of value, reason, and the will. The first essay, 'When We are Ourselves' paints with broad brush a simple, and simplified, picture of a person relying on the thought that our life is our own when it is under our control and that means when our various emotions, hopes, desires, intentions, and action are guided by reason. Intentional action is action for reasons. Possession of features which show actions to be good in some respect constitutes reasons. 'Agency, Reason, and the Good' defends the connection between intention and reason on the one hand, and between reason and the good on the other, from objections based on people's ability to choose the bad, and to act intentionally in an expressive but unreasoned way. 'Incommensurability and Agency' adds some details to the picture by laying the foundation for an understanding of the relations between reason and the will. The theses of these essays keep cropping up, explicitly or implicitly, in all the others.

It was rather presumptuous of me to call the following two essays 'Explaining Normativity'. I plead in my defence that explanation is always relative to a puzzle, and these essays seek to explain some of the puzzles which preoccupied me, explaining them in ways which, however incomplete, satisfy me. As their titles suggest, the first deals with two topics. First, the relations between rationality and reasons. Clearly there is a connection, but what is it? Does rationality convey success in action for right reasons, or success in acting according to reasons as one sees them, or an attempt to follow reason, or success in the use of rules or reasoning? There are other possibilities. The essay does not offer a complete account of rationality. Its aim is to delineate some elements in such an account in order to help make sense of the views expressed in this book. These reflections led to a consideration of the connection between reasons and principles of reasoning,

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