INTERNALIST AND EXTERNALIST THEORIES: THE DIVERSITY OF REASONS FOR ACTING
Paul, Linda Marie
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Although common-sense moral theories tend to hold that everyone has reason to act morally, Bernard Williams argues in "Internal and External Reasons" that an agent has no reason to act if the act in question fails to Promote any desire or project of hers. Williams considers this a logical property of reasons for acting and refers to this position as "internalism." After critically examining Williams' specific arguments, I use a heterogeneous group of arguments to show that internalism oversimplifies the logic of reasons. There are various ways in which reasons can be attributed to an agent without first examining her motives or Projects: (1) some ways of undertaking obligations give rise to reasons for acting due to rational requirements on consistency of intention; (2) Thomas Nagel's arguments that prudential reasons are best described in terms of the agent's metaphysical conception of herself allow us to attribute reasons for acting to an agent without checking her desires first; and (3) John McDowell's account of agents ''perceiving" reasons explains how an agent's conception of the facts will give rise to a reason and a motive for acting. It also appears that internalism's appeal relies in part on our prejudices in favor of self-interest theories of rationality and our tendency to view agents as more separate and independent than they actually are. As a result, internalism suffers from too narrow a value focus. The emphasis on a shared form of life that originates in the Wittgensteinian notion of a practice allows us to attribute reasons for acting to agents without considering their individual projects in each case and better suits the process of judging and understanding reasons for acting than a view which focuses as heavily on the individual as internalism does. Finally, because agents are sometimes perverse, reasons themselves do not always motivate and motivation cannot logically be part of having a reason. In conclusion, reasons for acting are significantly more diverse than internalism allows and the theory should therefore be rejected.