Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Explanation, Internalism, and Reasons for Action*


These days, just about every philosophical debate seems to generate a position labeled internalism. The debate I will be joining in this essay concerns reasons for action and their connection, or lack of connection, to motivation. The internalist position in this debate posits a certain essential connection between reasons and motivation, while the externalist position denies such a connection. This debate about internalism overlaps an older debate between Humeans and Kantians about the exclusive reason-giving power of desires. As we will see, however, while these debates overlap, the new debate is importantly different from the old debate.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Bernard Williams , “Internal Reasons and the Obscurity of Blame,” in Williams, Making Sense of Humanity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 35.

John McDowell , “Might There Be External Reasons?” in J. E. J. Altham and Ross Harrison , eds., World, Mind, and Ethics: Essays on the Ethical Philosophy of Bernard Williams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

Connie Rosati , “Internalism and the Good for a Person,” Ethics 106, no. 2 (1996): 307.

Peter Railton , “Facts and Values,” Philosophical Topics 14, no. 2 (1986): 531

Robert Shaver , “Sidgwick's False Friends,” Ethics 107, no. 2 (1997): 314–20

David Sobel , “Well-Being as the Object of Moral Consideration,” Economics and Philosophy 14, no. 2 (1998): 249–83

Stephen Darwall 's “Self-Interest and Self-Concern,” Social Philosophy and Policy 14, no. 1 (1997): 158–78.

David Sobel , “Full Information Accounts of Well-Being,” Ethics 104, no. 4 (1994): 784810.

Peter Railton , “Aesthetic Value, Moral Value, and the Ambitions of Naturalism,” in Jerrold Levinson , ed., Aesthetics and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

Robert K. Shope , “The Conditional Fallacy in Contemporary Philosophy,” Journal of Philosophy 75, no. 8 (1978): 397413

Robert K. Shope , “Rawls, Brandt, and the Definition of Rational Desires,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 8, no. 2 (1978): 329–40.

Connie Rosati , “Persons, Perspectives, and Full Information Accounts of the Good,” Ethics 105, no. 2 (1995): 296325.

David Sobel , “Subjective Accounts of Reasons for Action,” Ethics 111, no. 3 (2001): 461–92.

Christine Korsgaard , “Skepticism About Practical Reason,” in Korsgaard, Creating the Kingdom of Ends (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)

David Sobel , “Do the Desires of Rational Agents Converge?Analysis 59, no. 3 (1999): 137–47.

David Sobel and David Copp , “Against Direction of Fit Accounts of Belief and Desire,” Analysis 61, no. 1 (2001): 4453.

Robert Johnson 's excellent “Internal Reasons and the Conditional Fallacy,” Philosophical Quarterly 49, no. 194 (1999): 5371

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Social Philosophy and Policy
  • ISSN: 0265-0525
  • EISSN: 1471-6437
  • URL: /core/journals/social-philosophy-and-policy
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 25 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 139 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 25th May 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.