I will consider some of the differences between epistemic reasons and reasons for action, and use these differences to illuminate a major division between types of normative reasons, which I will call ‘adaptive’ and ‘practical’ reasons. A few clarifications of some aspects of the concept of epistemic reasons will lead to a distinction between standard and non-standard reasons (section 1). Some differences between epistemic and practical reasons will be described and explained in section 2, paving the way to generalising the contrast and explaining the difference between adaptive and practical reasons (section 3). sections 4 and 5 further explain and defend the views of the preceding sections. My ultimate goal is an explanation of normativity. But the present essay does more to explain a difficulty such an explanation faces than to resolve it.
STANDARD AND NON-STANDARD REASONS
Reasons for action, I will assume, are facts which constitute a case for (or against) the performance of an action. Epistemic reasons are reasons for believing in a proposition through being facts which are part of a case for (belief in) its truth (call such considerations ‘truth-related’). These maxims (as I shall call them) have proved controversial. Confining myself to the epistemic maxim, two clarifications and one argument may help.
The first clarification concerns the question of what determines whether available epistemic reasons are sufficient to warrant belief. It is not my view that only truth-related considerations figure among those determining the sufficiency of the case.
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