By Rowland Stout
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Additional resources for Action
As it stands, Williams’s claim that a person must have some preexisting motivational structure from which a reason can be derived if it is to count as a reason for them to act does not commit him to an inward-looking approach to justification. The notion of a motivational structure does not need to be taken to be the same as that of an internal emotional state or a set of desires. We might think of it as simply a commitment to a certain system of justification. Then Williams’s claim would amount to something like the following.
It is clear from the discussion so far that if it is right to characterize intentional action as subject to justification, the notion of justification in play here had better be very flexible. To put it rather strangely, the sort of justification that intentional action is subject to may itself be quite unjustified. You may have reasons for action that are bad reasons. Such reasons can still justify an action, even though the action is not in some absolute sense justified. A bad reason justifies an action according to a system of justification that is itself a bad (or unjustified) system of justification.
Recommendations for action would not be made on the basis of what mental state of belief the agent is in, but on the basis of the external considerations that the agent believes to hold. It may still be the case that these external considerations only count as reasons for the agent in virtue of the agent’s mental state; this is something I shall consider later in the chapter. But on this interpretation of the belief–desire model, we would not have to think of a rational agent as responding rationally to their own psychology as opposed to responding rationally to the way the world is.
Action by Rowland Stout