Rationality and the Good: Critical Essays on the Ethics and Epistemology of Robert Audi

By Mark Timmons; John Greco et al. | Go to book overview

14
Motivating Reasons for Action

RAIMO TUOMELA


I. Introduction

In this paper I will give a philosophical and conceptual account of motivational reasons that agents have for acting. My account covers not only the case of singleagent action and reasons for them (section II) but also the case of social reasons for action (sections IV and V). The latter topic has not been properly discussed before in the literature on reasons for action. Another aim of this paper is to relate my account to Robert Audi’s theory of reasons (section III). My account is largely compatible with his, but there are still theoretical differences. For one thing, my view is more externalist and does not connect reasons to psychological states as closely as does Audi’s account.1

To achieve a comprehensive account of reasons it is of course essential to discuss also social reasons for single-agent actions as well as joint actions. I will divide the social reasons into “private” (or “I-mode”) reasons and group reasons (or “wemode” reasons). Group reasons are institutional reasons broadly understood, as the agents here are taken to function and act as group members. Joint reasons for (wemode) joint action represent a central case here, and I will concentrate on them. In section V of this paper I will show how to extend Audi’s account to the case of social, especially joint, reasons.

Human agents are, at least largely, organisms trying to cope with their physical and social environment by means of their actions and other behaviors. The broader motivational basis of such activities is typically provided by the biological and cultural needs and desires that agents have. There are also desire-independent needs and reasons for action. Thus, for instance, promises and moral and social norms can give such reasons for action.2 In addition, there are desires and interests that are not tightly connected to coping with the demands of external physical and social nature. Agents may be curious and try to find knowledge not only about their immediate environment but to find out things that seem to have no practical significance whatsoever (at least some philosophical thinking belongs here). Here we also have

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