Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Anthony Skelton


My concern is the ongoing debate regarding the relationship between the reasons for which an agent acted (motivating reasons) and the reasons which count in favour of that action (normative reasons). Normative reasons seem to be facts, whereas motivating reasons seem to be psychological states. Agents look to be capable for acting for the reasons that favour an action, which would require that motivating reasons are capable of being the same kind of thing as normative reasons, which in turn is in conflict with the different natures of normative and motivating reasons. My object in my dissertation is to resolve this conflict.

I examine Bernard Williams’ “reasons internalism” and Michael Smith’s Humean account of motivating reasons. Both argue that motivating reasons are psychological states. I disagree. I argue, based on Smith's position, that the right account of the psychological states that make up motivation is not identical to our theory of motivating reasons. I then discuss Dancy's argument for an anti-psychological account of reasons, according to which no reasons are necessarily psychological states of the agent. His position is unable to account for agents acting in the light of false beliefs. Drawing on McDowell's epistemological disjunctivism, I conclude that the correct account of reasons is that when an agent is acting in the light of true beliefs, an agent's reasons are anti-psychological, whereas when an agent acts in the light of false beliefs, the agent's reasons are psychological.