University of Hertfordshire

By the same authors

Are Reasons Like Shampoo?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Explanation in Action Theory and Historiography: Causal and Teleological Approaches
EditorsGunnar Schumann
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780429506048
ISBN (Print)9781138584402
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2019


This essay considers various constraints placed by philosophers on what they take to be a shared concept of a reason for action. I try to show that these constraints are incompatible with one another, proceeding to argue that we would therefore do better to embrace a conceptual pluralism. On such a pluralism, there is no such thing as the concept of a reason for action. Interminable debates about the nature of reasons for action arise precisely because no single thing called a 'reason for action' can perform all the varying functions that philosophers require of it. As with products such as three-in-one shampoos, each individual function is performed at the expense of others. Unlike such stuffs, however, some of the desired functions of reasons cannot be combined at all. I conclude that neither disjunctivist nor anti-disjunctivist accounts of reasons for action are capable of providing a unifying account of them.

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