Deflationary pluralism about motivating reasons

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Introduction Let’s begin with the seemingly obvious: We believe lots of things, and we believe things for reasons. What we believe often changes - we gain and lose beliefs over time - as do our reasons for believing - we revise and update our beliefs in response to new information. However, we don’t always believe for good reasons. Instead, we sometimes believe for bad reasons - reasons that are defective in some way, whether in kind, quality, quantity, or strength. But at least in general, when we believe for good reasons, we thereby put ourselves in a position to know. The world is mostly responsible for the rest. Although it’s hard to deny the appeal of such intuitive reflections, talk of reasons for believing and believing for reasons can be confusing. That’s because there are several distinct strains in such talk, and failing to be sensitive to their differences - as well as similarities and relationship to each other - can easily lead one astray. It can also make it easy to engage in verbal disputes, or construct arguments whose plausibility or significance is merely apparent. This chapter will be concerned with one such dispute: over the nature of so-called motivating reasons. Motivating reasons are standardly characterised as the reasons for which or on the basis of which we do things - where ‘doing things’ includes performing actions as well as forming (and sustaining) beliefs, intentions, and the like. Although special attention will be paid to cases involving belief, much of the chapter will be concerned with motivating reasons more generally. Motivating reasons are standardly distinguished from the reasons there are to do things, also known as ʼnormative’ reasons. The class of motivating reasons is usually thought to be important because such reasons provide a distinctive kind of ‘rationalising’ explanation of our actions and attitudes, rendering them intelligible. They are also commonly thought to play an important role in determining whether an action or attitude is ‘properly based’ or ‘well-grounded’, and hence apt candidates for properties such as being creditworthy as well as being rational or justified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Factive Turn in Epistemology
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781316818992
ISBN (Print)9781107175655
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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