Reasons, desire, and ends

Date of Completion

January 2006






This dissertation defends the claim that it is a requirement of practical reason that we reason about ends. Accepting this requirement does not require rejecting the Humean theory of motivation or reason interrnalism. It is necessary because our motivational sets as they stand are often indeterminate and we must decide what kind of agent to be. This entails reasoning about ends because this self-conception must survive reflective scrutiny. To be a rational agent we must see ourselves as acting for reasons. By acting we commit ourselves to their being a rational justification of our action. All such justification must ultimately appeal to an end. This does not require that we be wholehearted concerning our ends. It can be entirely reasonable to be conflicted about what to care about. However, we must side with some consideration and take that reason to structure our deliberation. Being committed to an end shapes our future decisions. These commitments can be given an objective justification. An objective justification is one that does not solely appeal to subjective sources. We can construct an appropriate level of objectivity by considering our imaginative responses to ideals we reject, but admire. If those we admire but disagree with over what is ultimately of value, admire our actions that is evidence that our ends are objectively worthwhile. This does not entail a dangerous form of relativism nor does it necessarily undercut the force of moral prescriptions. ^