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robert audi

Subject Philosophy » Epistemology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631192589.1993.x


The distinction between reasons and causes is motivated in good part by a desire to separate the rational from the natural order. Historically, it probably traces back at least to Aristotle's similar (but not identical) distinction between final and efficient cause. Recently, the contrast has been drawn primarily in the domain of actions and, secondarily, elsewhere. Many who have insisted on distinguishing reasons from causes have failed to distinguish two kinds of reason. Consider my reason for sending a letter by express mail. Asked why I did so, I might say I wanted to get it there in a day, or simply: to get it there in a day. Strictly, the reason is expressed by ‘to get it there in a day’. But what this expresses is my reason only because I am suitably motivated; I am in a reason state: wanting to get the letter there in a day. It is reason states – especially wants, beliefs and intentions – and not reasons strictly so called, that are candidates for causes. The latter are abstract contents of propositional attitudes; the former are psychological elements that play motivational roles. If reason states can motivate, however, why (apart from confusing them with reasons proper) deny that they are causes? For one thing, they are not events, at least in the usual sense entailing change; they are dispositional states (this contrasts them with occurrences, but does not imply ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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