Action by Rowland Stout

By Rowland Stout

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He accepts that you might have a reason for acting even though you do not believe that you do. The invigilator has a reason not to stop the exam even though she does not realize this. He also accepts that you might have a reason to do something even when you do not want to do it. You might not want something that you should want. For example, suppose I do not want to work really hard to achieve the goal of getting a good degree. Later on, when I have wasted a lot of time and at the same time not got a good degree, I think I should have wanted to get a good degree.

Would recommend that I work hard. REASONS AND PASSIONS 43 Williams’s claim is that a person must have some pre-existing motivational structure from which a reason can be derived if it is to count as a reason for them to act. Because I valued the idea of fulfilling one’s potential and saw myself as a person with some potential, I should have seen that I had a reason to work hard. According to the motivational structure I had back then there was a reason for me to work hard even though I had not worked it out as such then.

But for the time being I shall try to remain neutral as to whether the idea of being subject to justification is a causal idea, partly because Anscombe and many other like-minded philosophers of that period thought that it was not. What is a system of justification? It is clear from the discussion so far that if it is right to characterize intentional action as subject to justification, the notion of justification in play here had better be very flexible. To put it rather strangely, the sort of justification that intentional action is subject to may itself be quite unjustified.

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