Friday, October 22, 2010

Review of "Reasonably Vicious"

This morning I stumbled upon Henry Richardson's review of Candice Vogler's book, Reasonably Vicious, in which he concludes that Vogler's account of reasons is inextricably linked to Anscombe's notion of intention. Vogler puts forth a model of calculative reasoning in which sometimes actions of the set A are done as a means to actions of the set B, where actions of the set B are not done for calculated reasons at all, but simply because we feel like it or want to. For example, I go to the grocery store to get ice cream- this belongs to set A. I get ice cream to eat it, just because I want to- so this action belongs to set B. Richardson notes that either this easily invokes a regress of reasons (someone can ask, well what is your reason for wanting to eat ice cream? ad inf.) or there is some resource that justifies B actions that could also be used to justify A actions without reason. If it's really justifiable to eat ice cream just because I want to, then it is also justifiable to go to the store because I want to, even when I don't buy anything (and it's not a means).

Richardson points out that unless we see Vogler's project in light of Anscombe's, her differentiation between A type and B type actions doesn't make sense. Vogler, like Anscombe, focuses on actions already done and looks for reasons that the agent took to be a reason for action-- the de facto motivation for the act. My reasons for eating ice cream may be many-- I am hungry, my body needs a quick burst of energy and sugar will provide that, and ice cream has sugar, etc.-- but those do not have to link up to my consciousness in the same way that reasons to A in order to B do. Vogler, as Richardson says, is concerned with providing "intelligibility" to actions "by indicating an action's calculative form."

Yet this sort of theory of justification seems to be prey to the same problems of epistemological internalism. In the way that an internalist account of knowledge often fails to connect justified belief with external truth, so an internalist account of reasons may illuminate actual moral motivation in a descriptive way without capturing the external normative reasons for action that pertain to an agent, whether or not she takes them to be reasons for her to act.

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