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Being More Realistic About Reasons: On Rationality and Reasons Perspectivism

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-627
JournalPHILOSOPHY AND PHENOMENOLOGICAL RESEARCH
Volume99
Issue number3
Early online date20 May 2018
DOIs
E-pub ahead of print20 May 2018
Published26 Nov 2019

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Abstract

This paper looks at whether it is possible to unify the requirements of rationality with the demands of normative reasons. It might seem impossible to do because one depends upon the agent's perspective and the other upon features of the situation. Enter Reasons Perspectivism. Reasons perspectivists think they can show that rationality does consist in responding correctly to reasons by placing epistemic constraints on these reasons. They think that if normative reasons are subject to the right epistemic constraints, rational requirements will correspond to the demands generated by normative reasons. While this proposal is prima facie plausible, it cannot ultimately unify reasons and rationality. There is no epistemic constraint that can do what reasons perspectivists would need it to do. Some constraints are too strict. The rest are too slack. This points to a general problem with the reasons-first program. Once we recognize that the agent's epistemic position helps determine what she should do, we have to reject the idea that the features of the agent's situation can help determine what we should do. Either rationality crowds out reasons and their demands or the reasons will make unreasonable demands.

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