Korsgaard's Defense of Reason as a Source of Motivation

 

What does K mean by skepticism about practical reason?

 

What is the distinction between Motivational Skepticism and Content Skepticism about practical reason?

 

Classical Internalism (Falk, Frankena, Nagel):  Knowledge (or the truth and acceptance) of a moral judgment implies the existence of a motive (not necessarily overriding) for acting on that judgment.

 

Korsgaard's InternalismK Requirement on practical reasons:  Practical-reason claims, if they are really to present us with reasons for action, must be capable of motivating rational persons.  (Note:  This is not what Williams means by internalismW about practical reasons.)

 

Does Korsgaard think that classical internalism is true?  Hint:  Does the Korsgaard Internalism Requirement imply that rational considerations always succeed in motivating us? 

 

 

Korsgaard’s Key Idea

 

All reasons “motivate” us to the extent that we are rational.

 

Theoretical reason (reasons for belief):  Consider the “force” that we feel to change a belief when we recognize a reason for change.  Call this quasi-motivation. 

 

Recognizing a reason for belief produces conviction (call this motivation to believe) in a theoretically rational person.

 

What is the point of her conjunction example (17)?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Non-Moral Practical Reason (NMPR)

 

Consider the example of instrumental reasoning.

 

Consider the change in motivation that comes from recognizing that coming to class is necessary to get an A in this course, when you desire to get an A in this course. 

 

What is the point of Korsgaard’s contrast between the prudent and the imprudent person?

 

Is the difference between them a difference simply of motivation, or is it a difference of rationality?

 

What is the point of the example of a determined or resolute person? 

 

Contrast this with Hampton’s “curmudgeon” (232).

 

 

Korsgaard’s Claim:  Recognizing an instrumental or hypothetical reason produces motivation in a practically rational person.

 

 

 

 

Sensitivity to Reasons and Responsiveness to Reasons

 

Suppose that there is a reason R for X to do act A and X recognizes that R is a reason for X to do A.

 

Classical internalism implies that X will be motivated to do A.

 

Korsgaard wants to help us to realize that this is not so.  It is possible to recognize that R is a reason to do A (this is a kind of sensitivity to reason R) but not to be motivated to do R (motivation is produced by responsiveness to reason R), if one is not rational. 

 

True irrationality:  “failure to respond appropriately to an available reason.”(12)

A truly (I wish she had said deeply) irrational person would be sensitive to reasons but not responsive to them.  We can imagine this kind of true (deep) irrationality for theoretical reasons and for nonmoral practical reasons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does Korsgaard mean by saying “the necessity is in the law, and not in us”(25/91)?

Korsgaard thinks we will agree that true (deep) irrationality is possible and, thus, that rationality requires both sensitivity and responsiveness to reasons.  But the necessity is not in us, because we could lack responsiveness.

 

By analogy, if there are moral reasons, recognizing them would produce motivation in a reasonable person.  This would be an operation of pure practical reason (because not based on the contents of our SMS).

 

So the issue cannot be whether reason can produce motivation (it can), but whether there are moral reasons that apply to all rational beings regardless of the contents of their SMS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Issue Between Williams and Korsgaard (Kant)

 

Williams and Korsgaard agree that reason can produce motivation, if it has something with motivation to start with.  Williams rejects Hume’s PRAR (108).

 

Korsgaard thinks reason can do something more.  Korsgaard thinks that there are categorical reasons for action, reasons that don’t depend on the contents of one’s SMS. 

 

Continue the analogy with reasons for belief:  Some people think that there are some beliefs that it is rational for us to believe regardless of what other beliefs we have.  Reason can give us some necessarily true beliefs (e.g., Law of Non-Contradiction), beliefs that we do not need to infer from any other beliefs.  No matter what else one believes, it is not rational to believe a contradiction. So the Law of Non-Contradiction would be a categorical principle of theoretical reason.

 

Kant/Korsgaard thinks that practical reasoning can give us categorical reasons and, if we are rational, motivation (to act in accordance with the categorical reasons), independent of the actual content of our SMS.  Williams denies this.

 

[Note that Kant/Korsgaard think that we must have some motivation for reason to work on.  Kant also believes that we must have some beliefs for it to be rational for us to believe the Law of Non-Contradiction.  But it does not matter what those beliefs are.  If we have any rational beliefs at all, then it is rational for us to believe the Law of Non-Contradiction.]

 

Categorical practical reasons are practical reasons that do not depend on the contents of the agent’s SMS.  This is Kant’s conception of the categorical imperatives of morality.

 

 

Main Issue between Williams and Korsgaard: 

Are there categorical practical reasons that apply to all rational beings regardless of the contents of their SMS?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hampton's Defense of Objective Normativity

 

Hampton's "companions in guilt" strategy.

 

Recall that theoretical reason seems to be able to come up with categorical norms of epistemic rationality that apply to everyone regardless of what they actually believe (e.g., the Law of Excluded Middle or the Law of Non-Contradiction)

 

Recall that Williams denies that there are any categorical norms (or normative truths) of practical reason that apply to everyone regardless of the contents of their SMS.  According to Williams, in practical reasoning, as illustrated by instrumental reasoning, the results depend on what we start with (the contents of the SMS).  Practical reasons are hypothetical, not categorical.

 

Hampton wants to show us that most instrumentalists (not Williams) are mistaken to think that they can avoid being committed to any objective norms (or truths) of practical reason and even Williams is mistaken to think that he can avoid being committed to any categorical norms (or truths) of practical reason.  Instrumentalism itself is committed to non-instrumental, categorical norms of practical reason.

 

Hampton’s Argument:

 

(1) Expected Utility Theory is the best realization of the Instrumental Theory.

 

(2) Other attempts to cast doubt on Expected Utility Theory Fail:

       (a) Rescher and deliberation about ends.

       (b) Ruddick on maternal thinking.

       (c) Slote on satisficing rather than maximizing.

Bounded rationality literature does not support Slote.

       (d) Frank on commitment.  His defense of commitment (and thus morals) is instrumentalist.

       (e) Gauthier’s “constrained maximization” and McClennen’s “resolute choice”.  Also an instrumental defense of morality. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(3) Hampton’s Two Criticisms of Instrumentalism from within Expected Utility Theory. 

 

(a) Even Instrumentalism requires objective norms of practical reason.

 

Note what she calls the Consequentialist Norm, we will call the Instrumentalist Norm:  “Act so as to perform the most effective means to a desired end”(233).

 

What is the point of the example of the “curmudgeon”? 

 

Why does Hampton think that the instrumental model of practical reasoning has seemed “metaphysically benign” (229)?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(b) Hampton’s Deeper Point:  EUT requires non-instrumentalist (and, we would add, non-hypothetical) objective norms of practical reason.

“To be able to reason instrumentally, we must be able to reason non-instrumentally”(232).  What does this mean?

 

[Note that Hampton misinterprets Williams as denying that we can ever criticize an act as irrational if the agent is not motivated to do the act (233).]

 

Conclusion:  There are objective norms of practical reason and some are not instrumental (I would say “not hypothetical”):  “A norm purports to give us [or anyone] reason to act, choose, or believe [or, I would add, to change our beliefs or preferences] as the norm directs no matter what other reasons or motives we have, where this reason is supposed to be decisive in some circumstances”(228).


Non-Moral Norms of To-Be-Pursuedness (Rational Constraints on Preferences, Desires, or Goals)

 

Strong Norm of Transitivity:  One ought not to have intransitive preferences—for example, one ought not to have preferences of the following kind:  A > B, B > C, and C > A.

 

Weak Norm of Transitivity:  If one discovers an intransitivity in one's preferences, one ought to eliminate it.

 

 


In-Class Questions

 

In answering the following question, you should suppose that you have been diagnosed with cancer and are given a choice between two treatment options, surgery (S) or radiation therapy (R).  You should rank the two options based solely on the information provided.  The three possibilities are: 

(1) S > R (you prefer surgery to radiation therapy); (2) R > S (you prefer radiation therapy to surgery) or (3) S = R (you are indifferent between the two forms of treatment).

 

1.  You have a choice between Surgery (S) or Radiation Therapy (R):

Surgery:  Of 100 people having surgery 90 live through the post-operative period, 68 are alive at the end of the first year and 34 are alive at the end of five years.

Radiation Therapy:  Of 100 people having radiation therapy all live through the treatment, 77 are alive at the end of one year and 22 are alive at the end of five years.


In answering the following question, you should suppose that you have been diagnosed with cancer and are given a choice between two treatment options, surgery (S) or radiation therapy (R).  You should rank the two options based solely on the information provided.  The three possibilities are: 

(1) S > R (you prefer surgery to radiation therapy); (2) R > S (you prefer radiation therapy to surgery) or (3) S = R (you are indifferent between the two forms of treatment).

 

2. You have a choice between Surgery (S) or Radiation Therapy (R):

Surgery:  Of 100 people having surgery 10 die during the surgery or the post-operative period, 32 die by the end of the first year and 66 die by the end of five years.

Radiation Therapy:  Of 100 people having radiation therapy, none die during treatment, 23 die by the end of one year and 78 die by the end of five years.


1.  You have a choice between Surgery (S) or Radiation Therapy (R):

Surgery:  Of 100 people having surgery 90 live through the post-operative period, 68 are alive at the end of the first year and 34 are alive at the end of five years.

Radiation Therapy:  Of 100 people having radiation therapy all live through the treatment, 77 are alive at the end of one year and 22 are alive at the end of five years.

 

2. You have a choice between Surgery (S) or Radiation Therapy (R):

Surgery:  Of 100 people having surgery 10 die during the surgery or the post-operative period, 32 die by the end of the first year and 66 die by the end of five years.

Radiation Therapy:  Of 100 people having radiation therapy, none die during treatment, 23 die by the end of one year and 78 die by the end of five years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strong Norm of Invariance Under Equivalent Descriptions:  Let D1 be a description of a choice situation of agent S.  Let D2 be an alternative description which is equivalent to D1 (i.e., they both contain the same information, simply stated differently).  S's preferences should be invariant over the two descriptions.  For example, the following is irrational:  (1) Given only information D1 about a choice satiation, S would prefer A to B; and (2) Given only information D2 about a choice situation, S would prefer B to A.

 

Weak Norm of Invariance Under Equivalent Descriptions:  Let D1 be a description of a choice situation of agent S.  Let D2 be an alternative description which is equivalent to D1 (i.e., they both contain the same information, simply stated differently).  If S knows that the two descriptions are equivalent and that his/her preferences are not invariant over the two descriptions, S should change his/her preferences to preserve invariance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAGEL ON OBJECTIVE VALUES (i.e., OBJECTIVE TBP AND –TBP):

THE METHOD OF OBJECTIVE REFLECTION

 

I.  The Difference Between the Personal and the Impersonal Point of View. 

 

II.  Issue: Not are there objective normative entities (Plato's Forms), but are there objective normative reasons? 

 

"Whether what we have reason to do or want can be determined from a detached standpoint toward ourselves and the world”(135).

 

III.  Nagel's Epistemology:  Not Proof or Refutation, but Normative Explanation and Consideration of What is Most Plausible (i.e., What It Makes the Most Sense to Believe).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Objective Values and Objective Reasons

 

The key idea:  To believe in objective values is not to believe in a weird kind of entity, but to believe in objective reasons for action.

 

Kinds of reasons:

(a) broad vs. narrow

(b) external vs. internal.  What is Nagel’s conception of an internalN reason?  “It depends on the existence of an interest or a desire in someone”(136).

 

Nagel is an internalistN, because he believes that all practical reasons are internalN reasons.  Note that internalismN is different from classical internalism, internalismW, and internalismK.  You are responsible for understanding those three forms of internalism, but not internalismN.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Kinds of Objective Reason

 

Agent-neutral reason:  "If a reason can be given in a general form which does not include an essential reference to the person to whom it applies, it is an agent-neutral reason"(136).

 

Agent-relative reason:  "If on the other hand the general form of a reason does include an essential reference to the person to whom it applies, it is an agent-relative reason"(136).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Example of a headache or other pain.

 

1.  Is pain at least an agent-relative (dis)value?

 

2.  Is pain an agent-neutral (dis)value?  Why does Nagel think it is self-evident?  What does Nagel think is crazy?

 

 

 

 

The commitment to objectivity:  In reasoning, whether theoretical, practical, or moral, we typically assume there is a correct answer that we can be mistaken about.  To vindicate objectivity, we must try to understand what it is that we might be mistaken about.

 

 

 

How does Nagel respond to Mackie?