Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hypothetical and Personal Reasons

As far as I can tell, ends don't have any source of importance besides their importance in realizing other ends or their importance to a person who desires them. (Or indirect importance to a person because of their importance in realizing other ends which that person desires.)

These two basic kinds of ends-importance generate two corresponding types of practical reasons:
Hypothetical reasons for action. Reasons which only take into account circumstance and an end (or a coherent aggregate of ends).

Personal reasons for action. Reasons which also take into account an agent's desires.
Hypothetical reasons for action only become reasons an agent has if appropriate desires are held. What I like about Stephen Finlay's semantics1 is that normative truths can hold independently of desires. I can deny that individuals necessarily have reason to act toward moral ends, yet affirm the truth of impersonal moral 'oughts.'

For example, I might affirm, 'It is wrong to steal' or 'It is wrong for you to steal,' but not 'Because it is wrong to steal, you necessarily have reason not to steal.'

I realize many philosophers want to compare ends in a way that's desire independent and necessarily gives personal reasons, but I'm very skeptical about that project.

1. http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/2010/12/on-oughts-and-ends.html

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