A Puzzle about Internal Reasons

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


According to Bernard Williams, all reasons for action are what he calls 'internal reasons', where an agent has an internal reason to act in some way just in case she would be motivated to act in that way if she were to deliberate correctly. Though Williams is supposed to have an anti-rationalist conception of what it is to deliberate correctly, his official account includes separate roles for knowledge and the imagination. An agent would desire something if he were to deliberate correctly, according to Williams, only if he would desire that thing if he knew all the relevant facts and only if he were to fully and accurately imagine what it would be like for that thing to obtain. This provides us with a puzzle, as rationalist accounts of deliberation can be understood as assigning separate roles to knowledge and the imagination. Williams's official account of deliberation thus looks just like the rationalist's. Solving this puzzle requires us to get clearer about what it means to deliberate correctly and about the differences between rationalist and anti rationalist accounts of desire.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLuck, Value, and Commitment
Subtitle of host publicationThemes From the Ethics of Bernard Williams
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191741500
ISBN (Print)9780199599325
StatePublished - Sep 20 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


  • Anti-rationalism
  • Bernard Williams
  • Deliberation
  • Desires
  • Direction of fit
  • Emotions
  • Imagination
  • Internal reasons
  • Rationalism


Dive into the research topics of 'A Puzzle about Internal Reasons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this