New PDF release: Action

By Rowland Stout

ISBN-10: 1844653544

ISBN-13: 9781844653546

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They say that what you should do rationally – what you are justified in doing – is determined by what you believe and by what you want; and your beliefs and desires 34 ACTION are metal states. If you do not want to support the English football team you have no reason to cheer when they score a goal. And even if you do want to support them you have no reason to cheer if you do not believe that they have scored a goal, whether or not they have. There are two ways of spelling out the idea that an agent’s reasons for action are determined by their states of mind: beliefs, desires and so on.

One’s tongue is probing around in one’s mouth seeking out bits of food left hanging around there. You usually only realize your tongue is doing this when it keeps coming up against a new filling or a newly chipped tooth and cannot leave it alone. According to O’Shaughnessy, when I become aware of my tongue, “I become aware, not merely of a movement of my tongue, but of a movement that I have executed. But more, I become aware of an activity of moving that is being performed by me” (1980: 60). So he is arguing that the tongue is not merely moving; it is being moved by me.

So there can be no motivation REASONS AND PASSIONS 47 of an action in line with a justification of that action by reason; and so an action can only be motivated by something external to reason, that is, desire or some other emotion. But the assumption that reason is either deductive or inductive just begs the question against the sort of conception of reason that I introduced in Chapter 2. There I talked about a system of practical justification as a way of deriving recommendations for action. This system embodies various rules of inference that are neither deductive nor inductive.

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Action by Rowland Stout

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