Issue 44, October 2012
The Motivational Structure in Practical Reason
A central issue in the contemporary philosophy of action focuses on the relation between reason and motivation: Internalism holds, while Externalism denies, that there is a necessary connection between reasons for action and motivational states. In 1980, Bernard Williams launched a powerful argument against Externalism in his article, “Internal and External Reasons,” which triggered influential debates in ethics, action theory, and theory of reason. Twenty years later Williams published “Some Further Notes on Internal and External Reasons” (2001), in which he refined his Humean theory so as to accommodate the many criticisms he had so far received. More importantly, he classified his major critics, in the past two decades, mainly into two groups, “the Kantian” and “the Aristotelian,” and raised objections to both. This paper explores the later development of the Kantian and the Aristotelian approaches, primarily in terms of the recent works of Christine Korsgaard and John McDowell, and argues to the effect that Williams’ objections are insufficient to refute the two approaches.