The Obscurity of Internal ReasonsSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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This article suggests that the argument of Bernard Williams’ classic paper ‘Internal and External Reasons’ has been widely misunderstood. The first section sketches four variants of the Standard Argument, catalogs their weaknesses and observes the exegetical obstacles they face. The second section proposes an alternative reading immune to all these objections and better supported by the text and charity. On this interpretation, Williams gives one consistent argument that unites his central concerns with (i) the ‘explanatory dimension’ of reasons statements, (ii) their conceptual content, and (iii) the connection between reasons and deliberation. His argument is normally thought to be based on the common claim that reasons must be capable of motivating; I argue that it rather begins from a substantive analysis of the concept of a normative reason: that to believe that R is for you a reason for action just is to believe that R is an explanation of why you would act if you were to deliberate soundly.