Reasons without Rationalism

Reasons without Rationalism

Kieran Setiya
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 131
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Reasons without Rationalism
    Book Description:

    Modern philosophy has been vexed by the question "Why should I be moral?" and by doubts about the rational authority of moral virtue. InReasons without Rationalism, Kieran Setiya shows that these doubts rest on a mistake. The "should" of practical reason cannot be understood apart from the virtues of character, including such moral virtues as justice and benevolence, and the considerations to which the virtues make one sensitive thereby count as reasons to act.

    Proposing a new framework for debates about practical reason, Setiya argues that the only alternative to this "virtue theory" is a form of ethical rationalism in which reasons derive from the nature of intentional action. Despite its recent popularity, however, ethical rationalism is false. It wrongly assumes that we act "under the guise of the good," or it relies on dubious views about intention and motivation. It follows from the failure of rationalism that the virtue theory is true: we cannot be fully good without the perfection of practical reason, or have that perfection without being good.

    Addressing such topics as the psychology of virtue and the explanation of action,Reasons without Rationalismis essential reading for philosophers interested in ethics, rationality, or the philosophy of mind.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2772-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-20)

    This is a book about how one should live. And since I take it for granted that what one should do, all things considered, is what there is most reason to do, it is at the same time a book about practical reason. The view it defends is roughly this: that one should live and act as a person ofgood characterwould live and act, if she were in one’s place; one should imitate the ethically virtuous person.

    There are complications here. What am I to do when I have managed to end up in a ditch in which...

  5. PART ONE Explaining Action
    (pp. 21-67)

    According to an ancient tradition of thought about human action, whatever we do intentionally is done “under the guise of the good”: we must see something worthwhile in what we are doing—though we may of course be wrong about it. This idea finds its strictest expression in the infamous Socratic doctrine that no one errs willingly.¹ But it survives in theRepublictoo: “Every soul pursues the good and does whatever it does for its sake” (505e).² There are complications here, in Plato’s account of non-rational (appetitive and spirited) desires.³ But he surely saw some grain of truth in...

  6. PART TWO Why Virtue Matters to the Study of Practical Reason
    (pp. 68-115)

    It is a commonplace that you get to know people’s characters only partly and imperfectly in seeing how they act. Through ignorance and inadvertence, their actions may not correspond to their intentions. And even when they do, what they tell us is limited. How did they reach this decision? How do they feel about it? Would they do the same thing again?

    The first of these three questions concerns the connection between an agent’s character and the content of her practical thought. This can have a complex texture, as in the following narrative:

    Marge is taking the Tube home on...

    (pp. 116-120)

    The argument of this book begins with the fact that dispositions of practical thought belong to one’s character. Its crucial premise—which depends on rejecting the guise of the good—is that they are not distinguished from other traits of character in a way that would explain why they are subject to their own evaluative standard; ethical rationalism is false. Its conclusion—which follows by the Difference Principle—is that the property of being good as a disposition of practical thought is the property (of such dispositions) of being good as a trait of character. That is why the virtue...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 121-128)
  9. Index
    (pp. 129-131)