/ What Is It to Be Happy That P?

Abstract

This paper offers a new argument that your reasons for believing or acting need not be true. It proceeds indirectly through an account of what it takes to be happy that p. To be happy that p is for p to be among your reasons for being happy. That’s because questions about why you’re happy and what you’re happy is the case are interchangeable. But, I argue, it is possible to be happy that p even when p is false. In cases in which you believe falsely that p and sincerely assert that you are happy that p, you are still expressing happiness about something. To be happy about something is to be happy that some proposition is the case. In the cases in question, it is implausible that the proposition you are happy is the case is a proposition about the evidence or how things seem or what you believe. The only other option is that the proposition you are happy is the case is p itself. Along the way, I discuss linguistic data that seems to counter the view that you can be happy that falsehoods are true. Though initially suggesting a more principled argument that you can only be happy about truths, both the linguistic data and the principled argument can ultimately be defused. A similar principled argument for the factivity of ‘knows,’ however, remains happily untouched.

1. Factualism About Motivating Reasons

Lots of philosophers think that your reasons for believing or acting have to be true.[1] If you’re not out of bread, the reason you go to the store can’t be that you’re out of bread. Call this view ‘factualism about motivating reasons’: if p is among your reasons for φ-ing, then p.[2] I disagree. Your reasons for believing or acting can be false. The reason you go to the store might be that you’re out of bread, even if you’re not out of bread.

Minimally, motivating reasons have to explain your actions or beliefs when you act or believe for those reasons. As Jennifer Hornsby (2007) says, “When you learn what someone’s reasons were for acting as they did, you know why they acted: you have an explanation of their acting” (286). Clayton Littlejohn (2012) makes a stronger claim, positing an equivalence between

Leo’s reason for running down the hall was that there was a killer running after him. (150)

and

Leo ran down the hall because there was a killer running after him. (150)

It is natural to construe the sense in which motivating reasons have to explain your actions as straightforwardly causal. If your reason for going to the store is that you are out of milk, that you are out of milk must play a causal role in your going to the store. On the plausible assumption that only truths can play a causal role in your behavior, factualism follows.

We should not be led to factualism by the minimal requirement that reasons have to explain your actions when you act for those reasons. Katia Saporiti (2007) notes that

even in the case in which it is true that p it is in an obvious sense not the fact that p which causes our agent to act the way she does, but her belief that p—just as it is not the fact that p, but the fact that she believes that p, which explains her action to us… Does this mean that reasons aren’t causes any more? No. It does not mean that. To have a reason to act the way one does just means to act in a way that is caused by and can be explained with reference to one’s beliefs and desires. (306)

Reasons can explain your actions even if the truth of those reasons doesn’t cause your actions. It is sufficient that there be a causal role for the attitudes that take the reasons as objects. Reasons can also explain your actions if the fact that something is your reason causes your actions. We should not conflate

A) If p is your reason for φ-ing, then you were caused to φ by p

with

B) If p is your reason for φ-ing, then you were caused to φ by p being your reason for φ-ing.

Because the minimal requirement on motivating reasons—that they must explain your actions when you act for those reasons—is satisfied by the consequent either of A or B, factualists can’t simply assume A is true; they need to argue for it.[3] The debate between factualists and non-factualists is a debate about reasons that satisfy the minimal explanatory requirement. Argument is required either way.

This paper is about the nature and factivity,[4] not only of motivating reasons, but also of states referred to by various emotion-verbs (like ‘is happy that’). Aside from their intrinsic interest, the nature and factivity of these states is important because the issue is closely related to the nature and factivity of motivating reasons. In conversations with philosophers who think that motivating reasons must be true, the topic often switches quickly to whether it’s possible to regret that p when p is false or to be upset, happy, or sad that p when p is false. Anecdotally, there is a correlation between holding the view that your reasons must be true or known and holding the view that you can regret that p, be happy that p, be sad that p, etc., only when p is true.

Focusing for convenience on being happy that p, the simplest explanation for this correlation would be that there is a metaphysical connection between your being happy that p and p being among your reasons for doing or believing something. In particular, we might think, you’re happy that p just in case p is among your reasons for being happy. Call this the Reasons Account of Happiness-that (RAH):

(RAH) You are happy that p iff p is among your reasons for being happy.

If this account is correct, then we can explain why discussions of whether falsehoods can be among your reasons often devolve into discussions of whether you can be happy that some falsehood is true. For, if RAH is true, then if you can be happy that p when p is false, then p can be among your reasons even if p is false. In other words, if RAH is true, then factualism about motivating reasons requires factualism about happiness-that: if you are happy that p, then p.

We should accept RAH and deny factualism about happiness-that. This constitutes a new argument against factualism about motivating reasons:

P1) RAH is true.

P2) Factualism about happiness-that is false.

Therefore, C) factualism about motivating reasons is false.

In this paper I defend RAH and the denial of factualism about happiness-that.

2. RAH and Motivating Reasons

According to RAH, you are happy that p just in case p is among your reasons for being happy. RAH relates being happy that p to your motivating reasons, not to your normative reasons. We have seen that, minimally, motivating reasons must explain your actions when you act for those reasons. But your motivating reasons for φ-ing need not move you to φ.[5] A reason for φ-ing can be among your motivating reasons for φ-ing even if you don’t φ for that reason (because you don’t φ at all). Let us say that motivating reasons are distinguished from normative reasons in that, roughly, normative reasons are reasons that go some distance toward justifying or conferring some other normative status on whatever it is they are reasons for, while your motivating reasons are reasons that go some distance toward moving you to do whatever it is the reasons are reasons for, even if they don’t get you all the way there.

To be clear, motivating reasons must move you. They just need not move you to do the very thing they are reasons for. They need to move you to do something, have some attitude, or be in some state that is closer to whatever they are reasons for. That the defendant’s fingerprints are on the gun is among your motivating reasons for believing that the defendant is guilty only if that the defendant’s fingerprints are on the gun moves you to be in some state closer to that belief than, say, you would otherwise be. It might be enough, for example, if that the defendant’s fingerprints are on the gun moves you to be more confident that the defendant is guilty—if you are more confident for the reason that the defendant’s fingerprints are on the gun. If a reason fails to move you into any state closer to the state the reason is a reason for, it can’t count among your motivating reasons to be in that state.

RAH is not true if ‘among your reasons’ is read as ‘among your normative reasons’. You might have normative reasons for being happy but, because you irrationally deny the truth of those reasons, you shouldn’t count as happy that those reasons are true. Suppose all your evidence suggests that you have been offered your dream job—you are reading the emailed offer right now—but because you are irrationally pessimistic you refuse to believe that the offer is legitimate. That you have been offered your dream job might still be thought to be among your normative reasons for being happy; it goes some way toward making it the case that you should be happy. Still, it is implausible to count you as happy that you have been offered your dream job, given that you don’t believe you have been offered your dream job. So, RAH is only true if the reasons invoked are motivating reasons for being happy.[6]

Like Schroeder’s ‘subjective reasons,’ motivating reasons in my sense are to be distinguished from objective reasons. Objective reasons are reasons that favor what they are reasons for, even if the relevant subject is ignorant of the truth of the reasons. To use Schroeder’s example, that Max is smiling is an objective reason for you to believe he’s happy, even if you are unaware that he is smiling. When you come to know that Max is smiling you acquire a subjective reason to believe he’s happy. Likewise, a reason cannot be your motivating reason if you are ignorant of it. Only by being the object of, say, a belief, can a reason move you some distance toward what it’s a reason for.[7]

There are different ways for a reason to move you some distance toward being happy, and some of those ways don’t suffice for you to be happy that those reasons are true. For example, there might be causal reasons for being happy even though you’re not happy that those reasons are true. Causal reasons are reasons there can be even for purely sensory states like being in pain or seeing a red patch. That you dropped the telephone on your toe is, in a sense, among your reasons for being in pain. But it’s not a reason of the same sort that you can have for being happy. Bacteria of the right sort in your brain can cause you to be happy, even if you aren’t aware of the bacteria in your brain. But even if you’re aware of them and even if you’re aware of the fact that they are causing you to be happy, that they are in your brain and making you happy serves a different role in your being happy than the kind of reason for being happy involved in RAH does.[8]

In order to be among your motivating reasons, the way a reason has to move you toward being happy is not simply causal. One way this can happen is if the reason convinces you to be happy. If your friend is a Red Sox fan and the Red Sox have just won the World Series, you might question your friend’s sadness in the following way: “Why are you so sad? The Red Sox just won the World Series. It’s what you always wanted.” In questioning your friend in this way, you are making an implicit argument:

The Red Sox just won the World Series.

So, you should be happy.[9]

Even if your friend should be convinced to be happy by this argument—even, that is, if that the Red Sox just won the World Series is a normative reason your friend has for being happy—this argument may leave your friend cold. They may not be moved in the slightest by it. In that case, that the Red Sox just won the World Series is not among your friend’s motivating reasons for being happy. But if your argument convinces your friend—your friend becomes happy for the reason that the Red Sox just won the World Series—then that the Red Sox just won the World Series is among your friend’s motivating reasons for being happy.[10] Contrast this with a similar argument: “Why are you so sad? There are Happiness Bacteria in your brain.” It would be very odd to be convinced to be happy by the argument implicit in this line of questioning.

Now, one could be happy for the reason that there are Happiness Bacteria in one’s brain. One might have been trying for years to successfully introduce Happiness Bacteria into one’s brain. If one finally has done that, that there are Happiness Bacteria in one’s brain could be among one’s motivating reason for being happy. This suggests that one thing that distinguishes a motivating reason for being happy from a merely causal one is that one wants the reason to be true and that this desire plays an important role in one’s being happy.[11] But we need not take a stand on this here. It is enough to note that there can be motivating reasons for being happy that aren’t merely causal reasons. Happiness, in at least one sense, unlike pains and itches, is responsive to reasons.

There is some disagreement about whether motivating reasons are psychological states—like beliefs—or the objects of those states—like facts or propositions. Suppose you ask me why I’m going to the movies rather than out to dinner and I answer you by saying that I already ate. What is my motivating reason for going to the movies? ‘Psychologists’ like John Gibbons (2010), John Turri (2009), and Michael Smith (2003) say that my motivating reason is my belief or my knowledge that I already ate. ‘Anti-psychologists’ like Jonathan Dancy say that my motivating reason is something else—perhaps the fact or the proposition that I already ate, or the state of affairs of my having already eaten. At first blush, the way RAH is formulated looks much friendlier to the anti-psychologists; it says that you are happy that p iff p is among your reasons for being happy. Taken at face value, p is a proposition or, perhaps, a fact: either way, not a psychological state.

This appearance is misleading. Psychologists should not be committed to the denial of RAH simply because they take motivating reasons to be psychological states rather than the objects of those states. The debate about RAH cuts across the debate between psychologists and anti-psychologists.[12] Psychologists should read RAH as expressing a claim about the objects of those psychological states that are among your reasons for being happy:

(RAH-psychologized) You are happy that p iff among your reasons for being happy is a state that has p as its object.

If motivating reasons are beliefs—so, it’s the belief that, say, you have won the lottery that is your motivating reason for being happy—RAH-psychologized says that you are happy you won the lottery iff your belief that you won the lottery is among your motivating reasons for being happy. I take RAH to be neutral between its face-value reading and RAH-psychologized and, so, RAH remains neutral on the debate between psychologists and anti-psychologists.[13]

3. The Case for RAH

RAH has two directions:

(Left-to-Right) If you are happy that p then p is among your motivating reasons for being happy.

(Right-to-Left) If p is among your motivating reasons for being happy, then you are happy that p.

The argument that motivating reasons can be false requires only Left-to-Right. Nonetheless, a single style of argument establishes both directions. Start with a simple case in which you are happy for a reason; that the Red Sox won the World Series has convinced you to be happy. Noting your happiness, I can ask you either “Why are you happy?” or “What are you happy is the case?” Answers to the first question provide answers to the second, and answers to the second provide answers to the first, as long as the first question is taken to be a request for motivating reasons for being happy. Suppose I ask you why you’re happy and you respond by saying that the Red Sox just won the World Series. I could equally well have asked you what you are happy is the case and, if I had, you could have responded by saying that the Red Sox just won the World Series. If I ask you why you’re happy and you respond by saying that the Red Sox just won the World Series, it would then be odd indeed for me to follow up by asking “But are you happy that the Red Sox won the World Series?”, still odder for you to answer “No”. Likewise, if you express your happiness by telling me how happy you are that the Red Sox won the World Series, it would be odd indeed for me to follow up by asking, “So why are you happy?” You’ve already answered that question.[14]

So much for the clear cases, in which you’re happy that p and happy for the reason that p. There are also unclear cases in which you are happy that p, but not happy for the reason that p. You can be happy that p while failing to be happy at all, and you can be happy that p, and happy, but not for the reason that p. I’ll consider the possibilities in order.

First, there are cases in which you are happy that p but fail to be happy. For example, you might be in a deep depression – so, be very unhappy – but still be happy that, say, the Nazis lost the war.[15] If you tell your friend that you are deeply depressed, it is inappropriate for your friend to respond, “What?! So, you’re saying you aren’t happy that the Nazis lost the war?” One of the many reasons it’s inappropriate is that it doesn’t follow from the fact that you aren’t happy that you aren’t happy that p. As Wayne Davis (1981) says, “John may be happy on Friday that he is leaving town for the weekend even though he is not happy (he had a bad week)” (111). A quick Google search for the relevant terms tends to confirm this with such examples as, “Overall, I’ve been in a negative mood for the last couple days—not happy. But I’m happy that this is the worst low point I’ve had in months,”[16] and “I’m not happy, but I’m happy that I’m here.”[17]

In such cases, the questions, “What are you happy is the case?” and “Why are you happy?” are not interchangeable. If you are in such a situation and I ask you what you are happy is the case, you may say that you are happy that the Nazis lost the war. But that is not the answer you’ll give if I ask you why you’re happy. To that question you’ll say, “I’m not.” Fortunately, RAH doesn’t predict that the questions are interchangeable in these cases, because RAH only says that you are happy that p iff p is among your motivating reasons for being happy. As long as what you’re happy is the case is among your motivating reasons in such cases, they will not be counterexamples to RAH.

What you’re happy is the case not only can but must be among your motivating reasons in such cases. Suppose you’re happy, in such a case, that the Nazis lost the war. It would be absurd to insist that you’re happy that the Nazis lost the war while in the next breath denying that the Nazi loss moves you any distance toward being happy. For example, you might say that the Nazi loss moves you to be happier than you’d otherwise would be. Or you might say that the Nazi loss moves you believe that you should be happy. Or you might say that the Nazi loss moves you to believe you should be happier than you otherwise would be. If, on the other hand, you claim to be happy that the Nazis lost while denying that the Nazi loss moves you to have any of these attitudes or be in any of these states, it’s unclear what your claim to be happy that the Nazis lost amounts to. When you’re happy that p, p has to play some role in your motivational set—either doxastic or affective—or else it’s unclear in what sense you’re happy that p rather than simply happy.

Likewise, it would be absurd to claim that p plays the appropriate role in your motivational set, while denying that you’re happy that p. If in one breath you say, “That the Nazis lost the war makes me happier than I’d otherwise be” you can’t sensibly say in the next breath, “I’m not happy that the Nazis lost the war.” It might seem sensible to say this in cases in which you’re deeply depressed. You might say, in one breath, “Well, I guess that the Nazis lost is some reason to be happier than I’d otherwise be, but I’m not happy they lost the war.” By putting the right stress on the final “happy” perhaps you can communicate that what you mean is that you aren’t happy for the reason that the Nazis lost the war. But in the sense in which you can be happy that the Nazis lost even while you fail to be happy, it is absurd to claim both that the Nazi loss motivates you to be happy even though you’re not happy that they lost.[18]

This discussion provides the resources for dealing with the other kind of case that might seem problematic for RAH. Even if you’re happy that p, and happy, you might not be happy for the reason that p. For example, you might be happy both that the Red Sox won the World Series and happy that the Nazis lost the war, but happy only for the reason that the Red Sox won the World Series. It might only be that reason that in fact is motivating you to be happy right now. But even in such a case—even when that the Nazis lost the war is not one of the reasons for which you are happy—that the Nazis lost can be among your reasons for being happy; that the Nazis lost can move you to be more happy than you’d otherwise be, for example. Again, RAH only requires, when you’re happy that p, that p be among your motivating reasons for being happy, even if p is not in fact the reason for which you are happy.[19]

A further difficulty for RAH is suggested by cases in which p is among your motivating reasons for being happy but you fail to be happy that p. This is a difficulty for the right-to-left direction which is not necessary in the argument against factualism about motivating reasons, but is worth discussing nonetheless. The issue is this: that you have promised someone to be happy can count as among your motivating reasons for being happy. But you need not thereby be happy that you promised to be happy. You might regret you ever made the promise, though it still moves you some distance toward being happy; it can figure in an argument convincing you to be happy.[20]

The best thing to do, I think, is to distinguish between different kinds of motivating reasons for being happy and to restrict RAH to only one of those kinds. Again, even when your motivating reason for being happy is that you promised to be happy, it is not in virtue of your desiring that you so promised (or, better, in virtue of this desire being satisfied) that the fact that you promised motivates you to be happy. You wish you hadn’t promised, so there is no desire there to be satisfied. Compare this to a case in which a rich eccentric offers a million dollars to anyone who has promised to be happy. Here, that you’ve promised to be happy is a motivating reason for you to be happy; you’re happy you’re going to get that million dollars, after all. If I ask you why you’re happy, you’ll say that it’s because you promised to be happy, and you’ll mean this in a very similar sense to the sense in which you mean it when you say that you’re happy for the reason that the Red Sox won the World Series.

I don’t assume a hard connection between being happy that p and desiring that p. But that shouldn’t stop us from recognizing that there are two kinds of motivating reasons for being happy. Normally, that you promised to be happy is merely a moral motivating reason for being happy: being happy in such a case best conduces to fulfillment of moral duty. You might be able to have such reasons for belief, as well; you can have a moral reason to believe your friend is innocent of a crime if you have promised to do so or if duties of friendship require that kind of trust. But this kind of reason for belief is distinct in kind from any epistemic reasons you might have—fingerprint evidence, confessions, eyewitness testimony, etc.[21]

There can’t be epistemic reasons for being happy, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t non-moral, non-pragmatic reasons for being happy, just as there are non-moral, non-pragmatic reasons for belief. When you’re happy for the reason that you promised to be happy because someone is paying a million dollars to those who have promised to be happy, then that you’ve promised to be happy is among your non-moral, non-pragmatic reasons for being happy. To borrow a term from the literature on value theory, we might say that being happy is the fitting response to getting what you want (much as belief that p is the fitting response to conclusive evidence for p).[22] It’s in this latter sense of motivating reason—motivating, non-pragmatic, fitting reason—that RAH is true.

RAH, then, does not admit of easy counterexamples. Furthermore, as argued, RAH explains the interchangeability of the questions, “Why are you happy?” and “What are you happy is the case?”, as well as the absurdity of answering ‘p’ to one of those questions while denying that ‘p’ answers the other question. It also explains why it’s absurd to claim to be happy that p while denying that p moves you any distance toward being happy (and vice versa). This completes the argument for RAH.

4. The case against factualism about happiness-that

If RAH is true, then if happiness that p is factive, then (given some plausible auxiliary assumptions[23]), having a reason for φ-ing is factive as well. If RAH is true, then if happiness that p is not factive, then having a reason for φ-ing isn’t factive either: if RAH is true, then if factualism about happiness-that is false, then factualism about motivating reasons is false. To complete the argument against factualism about motivating reasons, I argue next that factualism about happiness-that is false.

It will be handy to have a running example, so here’s the one I’ll use: the feeling I had on election night, 2000, when I falsely (though justifiedly[24]) believed that Al Gore had won the U.S. Presidential Election. I think I was happy, that night, that Gore won. Whether that’s true, it’s what I claimed at the time. For, on that night, I uttered this sentence: “I am happy that Al Gore has won the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election.”

There is reason to think that what I said was untrue. According to Robert Gordon (1987),

a person is amazed (etc.) that p only if he knows or has a true belief that p…. it would be unnerving to hear: “Yes, and some people are quite upset that there are Martian space-ships circling the earth.” Or: “I have a crazy friend who is glad that there are Martians flying around up there.” For, no one, crazy or not, is upset or glad that p, unless p. (36)

And Peter Unger (1975), likewise, says,

Just as we may spot a difference between ‘John noticed Mary was home’ and ‘John believed Mary was home,’ we may spot one between ‘John is happy Mary was home’ and ‘John is convinced Mary was home.’ In each case, only the first of the pair entails that Mary was home. Just as we may reasonably say that the verb ‘noticed’ entails its completing clause, we may say that the adjective ‘happy’ entails its completing clause. (170)

Both Gordon and Unger go on to say that being happy that p not only entails p, it entails that p is known, a position “presupposed” as well by Davis (1981b):

Happy that expresses a propositional attitude. A is happy that p only if A believes and desires that p. It is presupposed in addition that the person knows that p. (305 ff.)

The weaker claim—factualism about happiness-that—is sufficient, however, to falsify what I said on election night: if I was happy that Gore won, then Gore won.[25]

The most important case for factualism about happiness-that is one alluded to by both Gordon and Unger: ‘is happy that’ behaves linguistically like a factive. For example, on both of the following tests, ‘is happy that’ behaves more like ‘knows that’ than like ‘believes that’:

  • Temporal Test:
  • (1) Gore didn’t win the election, but I believed that he won the election.
  • (2) #Gore didn’t win the election, but I was happy that he won the election.
  • (3) #Gore didn’t win the election, but I knew that he won the election.
  • Third-Personal Test:
  • (4) Gore hasn’t won the election, but she believes that he has won the election.
  • (5) #Gore hasn’t won the election, but she is happy that he has won the election.
  • (6) #Gore hasn’t won the election, but she knows that he has won the election.

(1) and (4) sound perfectly fine. (2), (3), (5), and (6) sound absurd. The natural explanation for these facts is that, while it is possible to believe a falsehood, it is impossible to know or be happy that a falsehood is true.

Other tests yield similar results. Even when it isn’t asserted that Gore lost the election—when it is merely wondered about—it can seem as odd to say that a subject is happy that Gore won as it is to say that a subject knows that Gore won:

  • (7) She believes that Gore won the election, but I wonder if Gore won the election.
  • (8) #She is happy that Gore won the election, but I wonder if Gore won the election.
  • (9) #She knows that Gore won the election, but I wonder if Gore won the election.

Finally, there is a tension even between the assumption that Gore didn’t win the election and the assumption that a subject is happy that Gore won the election:

  • (10) Assume that Gore didn’t win the election but she believes that Gore won the election.
  • (11) #Assume that Gore didn’t win the election but she is happy that Gore won the election.
  • (12) #Assume that Gore didn’t win the election but she knows that Gore won the election.[26]

In all these cases, ‘is happy that’ behaves more like ‘knows that’ than like ‘believes that’. This is compelling evidence that it is impossible to be happy that Gore won the election without Gore having won the election. If so, then on election night, 2000, I was not happy that Gore won the election.

Given RAH, a promising attempt to mitigate the evidential force of the absurdities might mirror Jonathan Dancy’s attempt to deal with related seeming absurdities associated with falsehoods serving as reasons and rational explanations. Dancy (2000: 133) thinks sentences like ‘My reason for being happy was that, as I wrongly supposed, Gore won the election’ are free of whatever absurdity some might think attaches to ‘Gore didn’t win the election, but my reason for being happy was that Gore won the election’. So too we might think that a well-placed addition of an ‘as S wrongly supposed’ or its like might mitigate some of the problematic sentences adduced in favor of factualism about happiness-that. Does it? Compare the original absurd-sounding (2) and (3) to the appropriately modified (2a) and (3a):

  • (2) #Gore didn’t win the election, but I was happy that he won the election.
  • (3) #Gore didn’t win the election, but I knew that he won the election.
  • (2a) I was happy that, as I wrongly supposed, Gore won the election.
  • (3a) #I knew that, as I wrongly supposed, Gore won the election.

To my ear, (3a) retains all the absurdity of (3), while (2a) does not retain the absurdity of (2). The same holds true of the other troubling sentences:

  • (5a) She is happy that, as she wrongly supposes, Gore won the election.
  • (6a) #She knows that, as she wrongly supposes, Gore won the election.
  • (8a) She is happy that, as may or may not be true, Gore won the election.
  • (9a) #She knows that, as may or may not be true, Gore won the election.
  • (11a) Assume that she is happy that, as she wrongly supposes, Gore won the election.
  • (12a) #Assume that she knows that, as she wrongly supposes, Gore won the election.

As I say, to my ear (5a), (8a), and (11a) do not retain the absurdity of the originals. But Dancy himself recognizes that “not everyone’s ears agree with me about this” (2000: 132).[27] I don’t think the reconstructions fully tell against the force of the linguistic evidence. I have something to say in the next section about what generates this linguistic data (spoiler: it’s an error theory) and offer, as a bonus, a new argument for factualism about knowledge. In this section I offer a principled argument against factualism about happiness-that.

As a first step in that argument, notice that when I uttered my sentence that night, I at least expressed happiness. I was happy that night, and I expressed that happiness by my utterance. This is not how it works with knowledge; when p is false, and so you fail to know that p, your utterance of “I know that p” not only fails to express knowledge that p, it fails to express knowledge at all. Perhaps the difference is explained by the fact that, unlike knowledge (and belief), happiness need not take an object. I can be happy, but not that something is the case and not about anything at all. Perhaps what I expressed that night were mere feelings of happiness, and perhaps happiness feelings are not a kind of happiness that can be about anything. Such might be Fred Feldman’s view about pleasure. Feldman distinguishes between ‘sensory pleasure’ and ‘attitudinal’ (or ‘propositional’) pleasure. Sensory pleasures

are feelings – things relevantly like feelings of heat and cold; feelings of pressure, tickles, and itches; the feeling you get in your back when getting a massage. (2004: 56)

On the other hand,

we ascribe propositional pleasure to a person when we say that he is pleased that something or other is the case; when we say that he takes pleasure in something or other’s being the case; when we say that he is pleased about something or other’s being the case, etc. (1997: 83)

Elsewhere, Feldman refers to propositional pleasures as ‘attitudinal pleasures’ and says that,

a person takes attitudinal pleasure in some state of affairs if he enjoys it, is pleased about it, is glad that it is happening, is delighted by it… Attitudinal pleasures are always directed onto objects, just as beliefs and hopes and fears are directed onto objects. (2004: 56)

Though Feldman does not explicitly say that sensory pleasures cannot be directed at objects, in drawing the distinction the way he does, it seems plain that the difference between sensory and attitudinal pleasures is that, not only must the latter be directed at objects, only the latter can be.[28] You can be pleased that the fireplace is working. But you can’t have a pleasurably warm sensation that the fireplace is working. Following Feldman on pleasure, we might distinguish between sensory happiness and propositional happiness. If so, then in denying that I was happy that night that Gore won, the factualist need not deny I was happy; I might have been happy in that I had sensory happiness—sensory happiness I mistook for happiness that Gore won.[29]

There is prima facie reason to reject this maneuver. I know what it’s like to have mere happiness sensations (I’m one of the lucky ones). The happiness I expressed when I uttered the sentence, “I’m happy that Al Gore has won the 2000 U.S. Presidential election” was not like this. I was expressing happiness about something. That’s what distinguished my happiness from the happiness that a hypothetical Bush supporter could have had that very same night. Such a supporter might well have believed, like me, that Gore had won the election. But the Bush supporter, being a generally content and cheery person, might have remained happy despite what seemed to them like unfortunate results. The happiness I expressed and the happiness that the Bush supporter had—though both happiness—are importantly different; a theory of what it takes for happiness to be about something should respect this difference.

Nor is it plausible to claim that I was not happy about anything but merely thought I was, and that this is the difference between Bush supporter’s happiness and mine. When it comes to knowledge that p, finding out that p is false leads to exactly this retreat: “I guess I didn’t know, but I thought I did.” When it comes to happiness, we do not retreat the same way. We don’t say, “I guess I wasn’t happy about anything, but I thought I was.”[30] But if I wasn’t happy about nothing, then what was I happy about? I’d like to say that I was happy about who had won the election, except that here’s who had won the election: George W. Bush. Let’s all agree I wasn’t happy about that. But at least I was happy about who I thought had won. Here we have a difference between my happiness and the Bush supporter’s. I was happy about who I thought had won. The Bush supporter was not.

What is it to be happy about who I thought had won the election? Is it like what it is to know about who I thought had won the election? That’s doubtful. I know about who I thought had won the election just in case I know what I thought about who had won the election. My knowledge about who I thought had won is knowledge of my thought. To be happy about who I thought had won the election is not to be happy about a thought I had, the way that knowing about who I thought had won is knowing about a thought I had. In being happy about who I thought had won, I wasn’t happy, say, that I thought Gore won. I wasn’t happy about my thought. I was happy about the object of that thought. But the object of my thought was false. The factualist needs an alternative account of what it is to be happy about who I thought had won the election.

Perhaps to be happy about who I thought had won the election is to have thought I was happy about who had won the election. This account would favor the factualist, because I would not have been happy about a falsehood or a non-existent state of affairs. I would have been in error about whether my happiness was about a state of affairs at all. But this account isn’t plausible, either. I can be happy about X while failing to think I am happy about X. Suppose I overhear a misleading conversation and form the false belief that my colleague’s career is going badly. Being prone to schadenfreude, I become happy. What am I happy about? Not, surely, about how my colleague’s career is going, because my colleague’s career is in fact going well, and let’s all agree that I’m not happy about that. As in the election case, we should retreat: I’m happy about how I think my colleague’s career is going.

However, because I am also prone to denial about my baser tendencies, I fail to think I am happy about how my colleague’s career is going. I notice that I am happy, but I think I am happy about the sunny day and not, what is in fact the case, that I am happy about how my colleague’s career is going. So, the equivalence doesn’t hold. I am happy about how I think my colleague’s career is going but I do not think I am happy about how my colleague’s career is going. Likewise, I can be happy about who I think had won the election without thinking that I am happy about who had won election. The factualist is still left without a friendly answer to the question: what is it to be happy about who I think had won the election?

The natural answer is that the retreat to happiness about who I thought had won the election serves simply to note that my happiness was directed at the propositional object of the thought about the election and not at the proposition that in fact correctly described the election. But the propositional object of the thought was false. The factualist would be well-served, then, to insist that what I was happy about—what distinguished my happiness from that of the hypothetical Bush supporter—was not propositional at all. Perhaps I was happy about the election itself, but not happy that any proposition about it was true.

This, too, is implausible. It takes more to be happy about something than for that thing to cause you to be happy. Again, otherwise harmless bacteria—even those whose existence and effects you are aware of—might cause you to be happy. But you would not thereby be happy about the bacteria.[31] To be happy about the bacteria you must also be happy that something about them is the case, e.g., that they’re there or that they’re causing you to be happy. To be happy about the election is just to be happy that some proposition about the election is the case—just as to have a belief about the election is to believe some proposition about the election and to know about the election is to know some proposition about the election. For example, I might have been happy that the election was taking place or that the election was exciting or that the election was almost over. I was happy about the election in only some of these ways.

Is there another way to be happy about something without being happy that anything about that thing is the case? Perhaps it’s enough for you to want something about it to be the case and to believe that your desire is satisfied. This seems to be what Davis has in mind in his account of enjoyment: for A to enjoy X is for A to “be happy in large or significant part because A wants X to be the way A believes it to be” (1982: 247). This suggests a Davis-inspired account of what it is to be happy about something:

For A to be happy about X is for A to be happy in large or significant part because A wants X to be the way A believes it to be.

On this Davis-inspired account, for me to be happy about the election is for me to be happy in large or significant part because I want the election to be the way I believe it to be: won by Gore. Because my belief is false, I will not count as happy that Gore won unless factualism about happiness-that is false. But I’ll still, on the current proposal, be happy about the election. So, it’s possible (if factualism about happiness-that is true) to be happy about the election without being happy that some proposition about the election is the case.

What sense should we give to the word ‘because’ in the Davis-inspired account? Suppose the ‘because’ is causal. Then it seems like a bad account of what it takes for a state to be about something. Itches, pains, and color sensations, for example, can be caused by attitudes about objects, as long as one’s mental architecture is set up the right way. But they can’t be about things the way that happiness can. So, if that I believe and want Gore to have won causes me to have an itch in my left foot, it had better not follow that my itch is about the election. If that I believe and want the election to have been won by Gore causes me to have the sensation of the color red, I should not thereby be appeared-to-redly about the election. As a general theory, the Davis-inspired account would entail that itches, pains, and color sensations could be about things if the ‘because’ is causal. It seems unmotivated, then, for the mere fact that a state of happiness is caused by a certain belief and desire to constitute happiness about the election.

Alternatively, the ‘because’ might be the ‘because’ of motivating reasons. On this construal, the Davis-inspired account would say that my being happy about the election is constituted by my wanting and believing as I do to be my reason for being happy. If I want Gore to have won and believe that he has, and am happy for those reasons, then I am happy about the election. Appropriately interpreted, this may well be an acceptable account of what it is to be happy about the election. But it is not an account that is friendly to the factualist about motivating reasons;[32] it is not an account that allows the factualist to say that I was happy about the election. What is it for my belief to be among my motivating reasons for being happy? On psychologist accounts, it is for the belief itself to be my reason. Factualist psychologists claim that only beliefs with true contents can be motivating reasons. Here the relevant belief has a false content. So, factualist psychologists are committed to saying that it is not among my motivating reasons for being happy. Therefore, factualist psychologists are committed to saying that I am not happy about the election.

On anti-psychologist accounts, for my belief to be among my motivating reasons for being happy is for the content of my belief to be my motivating reason. Here, too, factualist anti-psychologists get the wrong result. The content of my belief is false, so can’t, according to factualists, be my motivating reason. Therefore, according to factualist anti-psychologists, my belief can’t be my motivating reason. Therefore, on the Davis-inspired account, I can’t have been happy about the election. It won’t do to insist that my belief contributes causally to my being happy because, as we’ve seen, once the ‘because’ in the Davis-inspired account is construed causally, we are left without an explanation of why itches and sensations can’t be about anything.

To be clear: I’m not arguing that the Davis-inspired proposal is a bad account of what it is to be happy about something. I’m arguing that if it’s a good account, it’s only good because satisfying the antecedent—being such that A is happy in large or significant part because A wants X to be the way A believes it to be—is sufficient for A to be happy that X is that way. Therefore, this account cannot be used to argue that it’s possible to be happy about something without being happy that some proposition about it is the case.

Therefore, when I was happy about the election, I was happy that some proposition about the election was the case. What was I happy was the case? What I said I was happy was the case was that Gore won the election. But factualism about happiness-that tells us that this cannot be so. In that case, there had better be something else I was happy was the case. And there are some available options. I might have been happy that it seemed that Gore won the election or that the evidence suggested that Gore won the election or something more specific, e.g., that the networks had announced that Gore won the election.

Such options are not plausible. I know what it’s like to be happy that something seems to be the case or that the networks announce that something is the case. They are different things from being happy that that very thing is the case. As Chisholm says (about a related case involving Charles Evans Hughes ultimately losing to Woodrow Wilson), “Shall we say that Hughes was pleased to come to believe that he had won the election? This does not seem right. Surely the object of his pleasure was his winning the election – not his coming to believe that he won the election” (1986: 29). Likewise, Feldman (2002: 608), after asking us to “suppose I mistakenly think that I will be meeting G. E. Moore soon” says that “It seems wrong to say that what I am pleased about is the fact that I think I will meet Moore. It seems better to say that I am pleased that I am going to meet him (even though I am not going to meet him)” (2002: 608).

These intuitive points can be supplemented by argument. I might be quite unhappy something is the case but happy that the networks announce it, that the evidence suggests it’s so, and that it seems so. Conversely, I can be happy that something is the case while being unhappy that the networks announce it, that the evidence suggests it’s so, and that it seems so. If my stock is going to rise, I might be very happy that it’s going to. But I might not want news of the stock’s rise to get out, and so be unhappy that the networks announce it. The same goes for election night, 2000. Perhaps I’d arranged a side-bet on the election coverage – that, regardless of the outcome, the networks would not announce that night that Gore won the election. I would thus have been unhappy that the networks announced Gore as the winner, while being happy that Gore was the winner. (Similar arguments show that what I was happy was the case on election night couldn’t just have been that it seemed that Gore had won the election or that the evidence suggested that Gore had won the election.)

Therefore, on election night, I was not expressing happiness that it seemed that Gore had won the election nor that the networks had announced he had won the election nor that the evidence suggested he had won the election. I was expressing happiness, though, and the happiness I expressed was about something; it was happiness that something was the case. The only option left is the simple one—that what I was happy was the case was what I had said: that Gore had won the election.

5. A New (Ultimately Unsound) Argument for Factualism About Happiness-That

If factualism is false, we go wrong when we claim that I was not happy that Gore won. This is an error theory. Error theories should be motivated. There should be some explanation for why we falsely deny me happiness that Gore won.[33] What is that explanation? I suggest that the explanation derives from a similarity between how ‘knows’ and ‘is happy’ behave toward embedded questions. ‘Knows’ uncontroversially takes both declarative sentences and questions as complements: you can know that Bush won the election and know who won the election. ‘Is happy’ can’t take embedded questions in the same way; it makes no sense to say that I was happy who won the election. However, ‘is happy about’ can: you can be happy about who has won the election.[34] ‘Is happy about’ and ‘knows’ behave toward embedded questions in ways that uncontroversial non-factives like ‘agrees on’ and ‘has a belief about’ do not.

The most plausible treatment of embedded questions in ‘knows’ and ‘is happy’ contexts has it that there is a true answer to the embedded question and you know or are happy that this answer is the case.[35] If the election is taking place on Tuesday, then if you know when the election is taking place, you know that the election is taking place on Tuesday. If Gore is the Democratic nominee, then if you’re happy about who the Democratic nominee is, then you’re happy that Gore is the Democratic nominee. If the election is going well for Gore, then if you’re happy about how the election is going for Gore, then you’re happy that the election is going well for Gore. If your polling place is at the local elementary school, then if you know where your polling place is, you know that your polling place is at the local elementary school. Call this feature of how a verb behaves around embedded questions ‘veridicality’.[36] A verb displays veridicality just in case, if you <verb> [embedded question] then there is a true answer, A, to that embedded question such that you <verb> that A.[37]

Is the fact that a verb displays veridicality evidence that the verb is factive? We might think so. After all, neither ‘has a belief that’ nor ‘agrees that’ is factive, and neither ‘has a belief about’ nor ‘agrees on’ display veridicality. If Bush has won the election, and you have a belief about who won, it doesn’t follow that you have a belief that Bush won the election. If you and I agree on who won the election, we need not agree that Bush (the actual winner) won. It seems that verbs that display veridicality—like ‘knows’—tend to be factive while verbs whose cognates don’t display veridicality—like ‘believes’—tend to be non-factive.

There is a more principled argument that verbs that display veridicality are factive, but it requires an additional premise. If you have a propositional attitude whose object is a complete[38] answer to some embedded question, then if the attitude can be directed at embedded questions, then you have that attitude toward the embedded question. So, if you have a belief that Gore has won the election, then you have a belief about who has won the election. If you have made a promise that Gore has won the election, then you have made a promise about who has won the election. If you have a desire that Gore has won the election, then you have a desire about who has won the election. If you know that Gore has won the election, then you know who has won the election. Generally, it seems to follow from

S <verbs> that p (where p is a complete answer to some embedded question)

that

S <verbs> [embedded question].

Therefore, because the proposition that Gore has won the election is a proposition that completely (though falsely) answers the question ‘who has won the election?’, it seems to follows from

S is happy that Gore has won the election.

that

S is happy about who has won the election.

This is confirmed by reflection on the absurdity of affirming an instance of the premise while denying the corresponding instance of the conclusion: “I was happy that Gore had won the election, but I wasn’t happy about who had won the election.”

Call this inference ‘Aboutness-Transitivity’ or, for short, ‘transitivity’. Now, suppose Gore didn’t win the election and suppose, for reductio, that I am happy that Gore won the election (and not happy that Bush won). That Gore won is a complete (though false) answer to the question of who won. Therefore, if ‘is happy’ respects transitivity, I am happy about who won. If I am happy about who won then, given that ‘is happy’ displays veridicality, it follows that, if there is a winner, then there is a person who won such that I am happy that they won. Because Bush is the only winner, it follows that I am happy that Bush won. But I am not happy that Bush won; I am happy that Gore won. Contradiction. The supposition for reductio is false: I am not happy that Gore won the election. This is an argument for factualism about happiness-that that follows from two claims: that ‘is happy’ displays veridicality and that transitivity is valid.

Is transitivity valid? Transitivity is respected by ‘believes’ and ‘knows’. Because ‘knows’ also displays veridicality, factualism about knowledge is—as expected—true. But there are some verbs that do not obviously always respect transitivity. The most well-known class of such verbs are so-called ‘communication verbs’, like ‘announces,’ ‘says,’ ‘tells,’ and ‘predicts’. Suppose one network tells you that Gore has won the election and another tells you that Gore has lost the election. Only one of these networks has told you who has won the election. Or suppose a friend asks you, after the fact, which pundits predicted who won the election. Your answer will include only those pundits who predicted that Bush won. So, even if pundit A predicted that Gore won, pundit A will not be in your list of pundits who predicted who won. ‘tells’ and ‘predicts’, then, on at least one reading, don’t respect transitivity.[39] This is so despite it seeming absurd to affirm the relevant premises while denying the conclusions:

  • (A)#The network told me that Gore won, but they didn’t tell me who won.
  • (B)#Pundit A predicted that Gore won, but Pundit A didn’t predict who won.

At best this data shows that utterances of ‘S tells me that p’ sometimes presuppose that p. This is a mere presupposition, though, because adding ancillary information cancels whatever generates the absurdity. For, though (A) and (B) sound absurd, (C) and (D) do not:

  • (C) The network told me, incorrectly, that Gore won, so they never told me who won.
  • (D) Pundit A incorrectly predicted that Gore won, so Pundit A didn’t predict who won.

Contrast this with ‘agrees’ and ‘belief’:

  • (E) #You and I agreed, incorrectly, that Gore won, so we never agreed on who won.
  • (F) #I had an incorrect belief that Gore won, so I never had a belief about who won.

(E) and (F) retain the absurdity of their unmodified versions. (C) and (D) do not. This is evidence that ‘tells’ and ‘predicts’, while seeming sometimes to respect transitivity, do not generally do so. If that’s right, then transitivity is not generally valid.

There is no logical requirement that a verb that displays veridicality also respects transitivity. Still, because emotive factives display veridicality, even if they fail to respect transitivity, the pressure to hear them as respecting transitivity is very seductive—as seductive as an unnoticed fallacious affirmation of the consequent.[40] Therefore they will seem to respect transitivity even if they do not. Because factualism follows from transitivity and veridicality, it will seem, misleadingly, as if factualism about happiness-that is true.[41] This, I suggest, is what’s going on with the linguistic data that is so problematic for the denial of factualism about happiness-that. It is supposed to be problematic to say, “Gore didn’t win the election, but I was happy that he won the election.” Suppose that ‘is happy’ displays veridicality but does not respect transitivity, though it seems that it does. Then, in saying, “I was happy that he won” I seem to be implying—by transitivity—that I was happy about who won. By veridicality, then, what I have seemed to imply entails that Gore won. Therefore, to conjoin my statement with—in the same breath—a denial that Gore won seems to entail a contradiction. If transitivity is not generally valid and, in particular, not valid for ‘is happy’, the seeming contradiction is no contradiction at all.

6. Conclusion

I have focused on a single state—the state of happiness. But if the offered account of ‘is happy that’ is correct, then it is generalizable to other emotional states—like being sad, afraid, pleased, glad, angry, annoyed, surprised, amazed, and shocked that p. It is arguably true of all such states that you can have reasons to be in them. It is also arguably true of all such states that asking why one is in them and asking what those states are about (e.g., what you are sad about) are interchangeable questions. Therefore, by the argument rehearsed above, to be sad that p is for p to be among your reasons to be sad; to be afraid that p is for p to be among your reasons to be afraid; etc.

Why not belief? To believe that p is not for p to be your motivating reason for believing. For example, suppose I believe that the defendant is guilty on the basis of the fact that their fingerprints are on the gun. My motivating reason for believing is that the defendant’s fingerprints are on the gun, but my belief is that the defendant is guilty. What’s the difference between belief and emotional states that makes emotional states conducive to the reasons account while belief is not? I suspect that the difference is that happiness, sadness, and the rest admit of free-floating variants while belief does not: happiness need not take an object, but belief does. You can be happy or sad that p and you can be happy or sad full stop. But you can’t believe, but not believe anything at all.

Therefore, there is no such thing as having a reason for believing period. You can have reasons for believing p (for some specific p). You can have reasons for believing something rather than nothing. But you can’t have reasons for believing full stop. You can, though, have reasons for being simply happy, because there is a state of being simply happy. When you do have reasons for being in that state, you are happy those reasons are true. When you are in that state for no reason, you are in the very state you can be in for reasons.[42] Because RAH is about your reasons for being simply happy, rather than happy that p, an analogous proposal for belief is as incoherent as the possibility of belief without an object.[43] Because there’s a state of happiness that you can have reasons to be in but also be in without reasons, given RAH, happiness—unlike pains and itches—can be directed at objects and—unlike belief—it need not.

Acknowledgements

My thanks to Fred Feldman, Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins, Faye Halpern, Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa, Leonard Katz, Lauren Leydon-Hardy, Clayton Littlejohn, Matthew McGrath, Mark Migotti, Kate Moran, two anonymous referees for Ergo, and audiences at the Western Canadian Philosophical Association, MIT, Brandeis University, and UMass Amherst.

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Notes

    1. Some philosophers go further and require of your reasons that they be known. See Unger (1975: 200), Hyman (1999), Williamson (2000: especially ch. 9), Hornsby (2007: 300), and Littlejohn (2012: 144-55).return to text

    2. This is a view about motivating reasons—reasons that go some distance toward getting someone to act or believe. It is distinct from what Juan Comesaña and Matthew McGrath (2014) call “factualism about reasons-had,” (59) which is a factualist view about normative reasons—reasons that go some distance toward justifying (at least subjectively) some action or belief. Comesaña and McGrath argue against this view on the basis of connections between reasons and rationality. I endorse their arguments. Others who deny factualism about (subjective) normative reasons include Mark Schroeder (2008), Jeremy Fantl and Matthew McGrath (2009), and Lauren Leydon-Hardy (2015).return to text

    3. Hornsby (2007) vacillates between the two. While arguing that p is your reason only if you know that p, she says that “a reason which x had is given by ‘x φ-ed because p’” (297). But two pages earlier, in objecting to Rowland Stout, she says, “the difficulty is to see why someone having a reason to φ should ever explain why they φ-ed” (2007: 295).return to text

    4. In the sense in which I am using the term, ‘factivity’ refers to the feature that a verb has when it entails the truth of any declarative sentences that serve as the verb’s complement. This is different from the sense in which it is used by some linguists, according to which a verb is factive if it presupposes that its complements are true. ‘I didn’t know that p’ presupposes—but does not entail—that p is true.return to text

    5. Here, my use of ‘motivating reason’ may depart from what Mark Schroeder (in press) calls “motivating reasons” —namely, when it comes to belief, “reasons for which someone believes something”. In this sense, your motivating reasons must move you all the way to what they are reasons for. However, it’s possible Schroeder would allow that your motivating reasons for believing p do not require that they be reasons for which you believe p; all he commits to is that your motivating reasons are reasons for which you believe something. Suitably developed, this would make my sense of ‘motivating reason’ and Schroeder’s more in line with each other.return to text

    6. It might be suggested that the word ‘motivating’ is misleading because it implies some sort of voluntary control over your happiness and so we should talk instead of reasons for which you are happy. I don’t like the latter proposal for two reasons. First, it doesn’t adequately distinguish causal reasons for which you are happy from other kinds of reasons for which you are happy. Second, you can have reasons for being happy without actually being happy. That is why you can say, “I really should be happy; the Red Sox won the World Series. Why aren’t I?” Here, that the Red Sox won the World Series is among your reasons for being happy, but because you are not happy at all, you are not happy for the reason that the Red Sox won the World Series. Both difficulties are avoided— without the implication of voluntary control over your happiness—by construing motivating reasons to be happy as reasons that go some distance toward moving you to be happy, in the way described in the body of the text.return to text

    7. Still, what I mean by ‘motivating reason’ differs from Schroeder’s subjective reasons. Suppose you irrationally believe that Max is smiling and you also are, doubly irrationally, completely unmoved by this to believe he’s happy or to be in any state closer to believing that he is happy. Then that Max is smiling is among your subjective reasons to believe that Max is happy: as Schroeder says of his preferred view, “for there to be a subjective reason for Danny to do A is just for it to be the case that if Danny’s beliefs were true, holding fixed their content, there would be an objective reason for him to do A” (2008: 67). Even if you are entirely unmoved to believe that Max is happy, were your belief that Max is smiling true, there would be an objective reason for you to believe that Max is happy. Therefore, that Max is smiling is among your subjective reasons, in Schroeder’s sense, for believing that Max is happy. But, in my sense of motivating reasons, it is not among your motivating reasons for believing that Max is happy. It moves you no distance toward believing that Max is happy. Therefore, motivating reasons in my sense differ from subjective reasons in Schroeder’s sense. Subjective reasons, unlike motivating reasons in my rough sense, need not move you some distance toward whatever it is that the reasons are reasons for.return to text

    8. Fred Feldman (1997: 92) uses a similar example to reject a causal account of attitudinal pleasure.return to text

    9. The conclusion could be put, rather, as an imperative. From a first-personal point of view, the conclusion could be in the indicative mood, as it is here. It could also be put as a practical syllogism, with a decision or intention as its conclusion.return to text

    10. I’ll suggest below other ways for a reason to motivate other than by convincing a person to do or believe whatever the reason is a reason for. For example, that the Red Sox won the World Series might be among your motivating reasons for being happy just in case it convinces you that you should be happy or should be happier than if the Red Sox hadn’t won. Likewise, that the Red Sox won the World Series might be among your motivating reasons for being happy if that they won convinces you to be happier than you would otherwise have been, even if you are not convinced to be happy. I construe ‘motivating reason’ fairly liberally, for it is the liberal construal of ‘motivating reason’ on which RAH is least subject to counterexample.return to text

    11. Given RAH, this fits well with some philosophers’ requirement that to be happy that p requires desiring that p. See, for example, Davis (1981: 305). But the relationship between desire and happiness is complicated, so it’s best not to rest too much on any tight connection between the two. See Feldman (1988).return to text

    12. The debate between psychologists and anti-psychologists also cuts across the debate about factualism about motivating reasons. Gibbons, for example, is a psychologist but thinks that knowledge – not merely belief – is the essential mental state needed for explaining reasoned action (see Gibbons 2001).return to text

    13. There is also a debate about which of facts, propositions, or states of affairs can count as motivating reasons. Turri (2009: 492) distinguishes between “abstractionism” according to which “reasons are the propositional contents of the subject’s mental states” and “factualism” according to which “reasons are non-mental facts or states of affairs.” This debate, too, should cut across the debate about psychologism, though Turri includes his own psychologist view as a competitor to abstractionism and factualism. To the extent that a psychologist thinks motivating reasons must be true, the psychologist will gravitate toward the view that the objects of the motivating psychological states are facts or states of affairs, not just propositions. Because I use RAH in an argument against factualism about motivating reasons, I cannot assume that the motivating reasons referred to in RAH can be false. Therefore, I remain initially neutral on the question of whether motivating reasons are facts, propositions, or states of affairs. (I don’t, of course, end up neutral; motivating reasons are sometimes false and, thus, aren’t always facts.)return to text

    14. One might worry about the following potential counterexample to RAH. You become happy that the Red Sox won the World Series because you are hit on the head by a falling flowerpot. Here, you have no motivating reason for being happy that the Red Sox won the World Series. But you nonetheless count as happy that the Red Sox won the World Series. This might seem like a counterexample to the left-to-right direction of RAH. But the appearance is misleading. RAH does not say that if you are happy that p then p among your motivating reasons for being happy that p. It says that if you are happy that p, then p is among your motivating reasons for being happy. In the case in which you are struck by a flowerpot, that the Red Sox won the World Series is among your motivating reasons for being happy. If you are asked why you’re happy, you’ll say “The Red Sox just won the World Series.” By hypothesis, if you are pressed to give reasons for being moved to be happy by the Red Sox’s win, you will fail to do so. But RAH does not require you to do so. I thank an anonymous referee for pressing this worry.return to text

    15. Thanks to Mark Migotti for suggesting this example.return to text

    16. http://ragnor-blaze.blogspot.ca/2010/12/ive-been-depressed-for-last-several.htmlreturn to text

    17. http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=354998return to text

    18. It might also seem less absurd if the “makes” in your utterance of “That the Nazis lost the war makes me happier than I’d otherwise be” is meant merely causally. Following up such an utterance with an insistence that you are not happy that the Nazis lost the war need not be absurd. But if the “makes” is construed in terms of motivating reasons, so that you are saying that in being happier than you otherwise would be you were, say, convinced by the reason that the Nazis lost the war, it is then absurd to follow up your utterance by insisting that you are not happy that the Nazis lost the war.return to text

    19. An anonymous referee suggests a second brand of counterexample: a diehard Yankee fan is caused by a sharp blow to the head to be happy that the Red Sox won the World Series. Still, the Yankee fan can deny they have any reason to be happy. I answer that the hypothetical Yankee fan is committed to an absurdity: “They won and that’s no reason to be happy, but I’m happy they won.” A blow to the head can cause a Yankee fan to be happy that the Red Sox won, but it can only do it by causing them to be responsive to the right reason.return to text

    20. My thanks to Fred Feldman for the example. There can also be purely pragmatic reasons among your reasons for being happy, even if you aren’t happy those reasons are true. For example, that happiness feels good can be among your motivating reasons for being happy, even if you’re not happy that happiness feels good. My response to the example in the body of the text covers examples involving purely pragmatic reasons for being happy.return to text

    21. For an argument that our concept of epistemic rationality requires revision to take into account moral duties to trust, see Baker (1987).return to text

    22. There’s a similar “wrong kind of reason” problem for RAH. Any argument to the conclusion that you be happy can be construed as having two premises: a premise stating some proposition about the world, and a premise to the effect that the proposition’s obtaining is desired or valuable. It is implausible to claim that in being convinced to be happy by such an argument that you are happy that the second premise is true: you are not happy that the proposition’s obtaining is desired, nor that it is valuable. But if the first premise counts among your reasons to be happy in virtue of its position in such an argument, why not the second?

      It is not clear how to distinguish between wrong and right kinds of reasons in general. But I don’t think that should lead us to classify the fact that p’s obtaining is desired or valuable as a reason to be happy in the same sense as p itself. Consider: you are a Red Sox fan convinced to be happy by the Red Sox’s victory in the World Series. What are your reasons for being happy? When you list your reasons, I think you will list this one: the Red Sox won the World Series. You won’t, I think, list this one: it’s good that the Red Sox won.return to text

    23. The primary auxiliary assumption required is that there is nothing distinctive about happiness that would make p’s being among your reasons for being happy factive while p’s being among your reasons for believing or doing other things non-factive.return to text

    24. To borrow a phrase from Dave Barry, “This all seems like a dream now” (158). The outcome was not officially decided for more than a month. But on election night, between 7:50 p.m., when the Associated Press called the State of Florida for Gore, and 10:00 p.m., when the major television networks that had done the same began retracting their projections, it looked like Gore had won the election and would be the 43rd President of the United States. To be clear: major television networks between 7:50 and 10:00 p.m. projected that Gore had won Florida and, given the other states that were falling into Gore’s hands, a win in Florida gave Gore the presidency. The language used by the networks, though initially—but only initially—put in terms of “calls”, “projections”, and “estimates”, was hardly equivocal:

      Peter Jennings on ABC: “ABC News projects that Al Gore wins the state of Florida and its 25 electoral votes. Give him the first big state momentum of the evening. This is the biggest state where the race has been close. The fourth biggest electoral prize.” (Shepard 2001: 22)

      Judy Woodruff on CNN: “A big call to make. CNN announces that we call Florida in the Al Gore column…. this is something that is not making the Bush campaign happy tonight.” (Marriott 2007: 206)

      Dan Rather on CBS: “Florida goes for Al Gore. Now, folks, the equation changes. CBS News estimates when all the votes are in and counted, the Sunshine State will have plenty of sunshine for Al Gore.” (Jamieson & Waldman 2003: 78)

      As the evening progressed, whatever equivocal language these quotes contained was dropped. Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Paul Waldman (2003) note that, “Between the first call and the retraction, Rather and others on air at CBS referred to their projection as an actual event: ‘Gore has won Florida…Florida went for Gore…Gore—blue—has captured Florida…Florida dropped for Gore…Al Gore’s victory in Florida interrupted us…Gore got Florida.’” (78). Alicia Shepard (2001) quotes Associated Press Executive Editor, Jonathan Wolman’s ruefully acknowledgement that “The sad fact is that was a straightforward call” (21), though Shepard also points out that Wolman’s contention is disputed by Kenneth Goldstein and Christopher Achen, political scientists advising ABC News (21).return to text

    25. ‘is happy that’ is one of a number of so-called “emotive factives”, like ‘regrets that’, ‘is pleased that’, ‘hates that’, and ‘is sad that’. In linguistics, the classic treatment of factives in general and emotive factives in particular is Paul Kiparsky and Carol Kiparsky’s “Fact”. Kiparsky and Kiparsky and their followers talk in terms of what speakers – rather than sentences – presuppose. It is not always clear in the linguistics literature whether this presupposition is supposed to amount to entailment. But at least one influential view – Lauri Karttunen’s (1971) “best proposal” about the distinctive semantic properties of emotive factives – for example, ‘regrets’ – has it that whenever S regrets that P it is true that P. (58)return to text

    26. My thanks to Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa for pressing the last two bits of linguistic data.return to text

    27. See, for example, Hornsby (2007: 292).return to text

    28. According to Feldman, it’s possible to have attitudinal pleasure while lacking sensory pleasure. For dissent, see Elinor Mason (2007).return to text

    29. Note that Feldman isn’t committed to this conclusion, because Feldman rejects factualism about being-pleased-that and so allows that I was expressing pleasure about something that night.return to text

    30. Michael Zimmerman (2001) makes the stronger claim “that one cannot be mistaken concerning the object of one’s attitude” (197). If you think that the object of your pleasure is the music you are listening to, then that is the object of your pleasure. This is so even if you are hallucinating and there is no music at all. As Zimmerman says, “I grant that it can be misleading in this case to say that the person is pleased at the music; but it would be just as misleading to say that he is pleased at nothing” (2001: 197). To make this case, Zimmerman distinguishes between “the intentional object of the experience and the actual object” and notes that “how this should be done is a very difficult matter that I cannot try to settle here” (2001: 197). Like Zimmerman, I make no attempt at explaining the metaphysics, but note only that in cases of false belief, there is no temptation to say that the belief has no object.return to text

    31. I presume something like this is behind Wayne Davis’ requirement that to be “made happy” by something (in his sense), you must be aware of what is making you happy (1981b: 310).return to text

    32. It is possible to endorse factualism about happiness-that while denying factualism about motivating reasons, as long as suitable modifications are made to RAH (specifically, the right-to-left direction would have to be modified to read “If p is among your true motivating reasons for being happy, then you are happy that p”). Because the goal of this paper is to argue against factualism about motivating reasons, I do not address this combination of positions, though it would need to be eliminated to unhedgedly endorse RAH and the denial of factualism about happiness-that. Thanks to Joe Levine for bringing this possibility to my attention.return to text

    33. This might be putting things too strongly in favor of the factualist. I don’t think the temptation to deny me happiness that Gore won is very strong. That is, after the fact, I won’t say, “I wasn’t happy that Gore won”. Partly this is because denials of being ‘happy that p’—as with denials of ‘knows that p’—presuppose (without entailing) the truth of p. Still, if we aren’t tempted to explicitly deny that I was happy that Gore won, we still are tempted to retract or reject my claim to have been happy that Gore won. Why do we have this temptation if I was, in fact, happy that Gore won?return to text

    34. Some verbs—what Utpal Lahiri (2002) calls ‘rogative’—only take embedded questions and do not take propositions as objects. You can ‘wonder’ and ‘ask’ who won the election. You can’t wonder or ask that Gore won. Other verbs—like ‘knows’, ‘is happy about’, and ‘believes’—can take either embedded questions or propositions as objects. Lahiri calls these verbs ‘responsive’.return to text

    35. Classic treatments of embedded questions include Hamblin (1958; 1973), Karttunen (1977), Groenendijk and Stokhof (1982), and Heim (1994). Their differences all allow them to agree with the assumption I make here—that if a person won the election then you know who won the election only if you know that the person won. There are differences in the classic treatments of embedded questions in cases in which no one won the election and you know that no one won. Such cases are not relevant here because in the election in question, there was a winner. ‘knows’ is also usually thought to take a ‘strongly exhaustive’ reading in that if you know who has finished the race, then you know of anyone who hasn’t finished the race, that they haven’t. Emotive factives, like ‘is happy’ are usually taken to be only ‘weakly exhaustive’: you are surprised about who finished the race even if there is a person who didn’t finish the race and you aren’t surprised that they didn’t finish. See Heim (1994) for evidence that emotive factives don’t have a strongly exhaustive reading. See Hagstrom (2003: especially 188-190) for a general discussion of exhaustivity.return to text

    36. Groenendijk and Stokhof (1997) use the term ‘extensional’ for a similar feature.return to text

    37. I have claimed that, when I think Gore has won and I am happy about who I think won, then I am happy that Gore has won. But when I think Gore has won, and I know who I think won, then I know that I think Gore won. Is there a violation of veridicality here? No. What counts as a true answer to the question differs in the context of a knowledge claim and a happiness claim. In the knowledge claim, the true answer to the question is “I think that Gore has won.” Therefore, in knowing who I think won, I know that I think Gore has won. In the context of the happiness-claim, the true answer to the question, “Who do I think won?” is “Gore.” Therefore, in being happy about who I think won, I am happy that Gore won.return to text

    38. The ‘complete’ is necessary because, again, ‘knows’ normally takes a strongly exhaustive reading. If I know only that Leslie finished the race, it doesn’t follow that I know who finished the race. If Pat also finished, but I don’t know that Pat did, then I don’t know who finished the race. However, if what I know is a complete answer to the question, “Who finished the race?” —that is, if my answer includes all the people who did and leaves out all the people who didn’t—then in knowing that answer, I know who finished the race. See Spector and Egré (in press) for discussion of the different ways that ‘completeness’ figures in the classic treatments of embedded questions.return to text

    39. Benjamin Spector and Paul Egré (in press) can be interpreted as mounting an argument that communication verbs can be read in such a way that they appear to respect transitivity. Transitivity would have the following inference be valid:

      (G) The network told me that Gore won the election.

      (H) The network told me who won the election.

      This inference is invalid only if there is a case in which (G) is true and (H) is false. According to Spector and Egré, in the relevant cases, there is a way of reading (G) such that it appears false and a way of reading H such that it appears true, and that any single reading of both will make it appear that (G) is true only if (H) is. However, all they strictly conclude is that ‘tells’ admits of a reading according to which when it is claimed that you tell someone that p, it is presupposed that p. This is the reading on which “The network told me that Gore won the election but they didn’t tell me who won the election” is absurd. As I argue in the body of the text, this is a mere presupposition; because it can be cancelled, there is no evidence that (G), on any reading, entails (H) on the same reading. What is more, it had better not, because if ‘tells’ does respect transitivity then, given that ‘tells’ displays veridicality, factualism about ‘tells’ would be true.return to text

    40. Here’s why it’s as seductive as a fallacious affirmation of the consequent. A verb displays veridicality just in case this conditional is true: if you <verb> [embedded question] then there is a true answer, A, to the question such that you <verb> that A. A verb respects transitivity just in case, if you <verb> that A (where A is a complete answer to an embedded question) then you <verb> [embedded question]. Transitivity only follows from veridicality, then, if the affirmation of the consequent (or something very much like it) of transitivity’s corresponding conditional entails the affirmation of the antecedent.return to text

    41. ‘Tells’, also, displays veridicality and ‘tells’, also, fails to respect transitivity. Why does the similar pattern not tempt us to think that factualism about ‘tells’ is true? The answer is that we are tempted to think it is, or at least that ‘tells’ sentences presuppose the truth of their complements. As Spector and Egré (in press) point out, Kai von Fintel’s (2004) “Wait a Minute Test” provides evidence for the kind of presupposition required. The sentence “Sue didn’t tell Jack that Fred is the culprit” prompts the felicitous response, “Hey wait a minute! I didn’t know that Fred is the culprit!” That this is only a presupposition, though, and not an entailment is evidenced by the further felicitous response, “He isn’t. That’s why Sue didn’t tell Jack that he is.”return to text

    42. Here I am not saying that to be in a state of objectless happiness is to be in the same state you are in when you are happy that p. You can be happy that p even when you’re not happy, so they can’t be the same state. But when you are happy, that state of happiness can take an object: if you are in that state for the reason that p, then that state of happiness is a state of happiness that p.return to text

    43. It might be worth exploring a parallel account of belief in terms of reasons to believe something. Consider RAB:

      (RAB) You believe that p iff p is among your reasons to have some belief or other.

      The left-to-right direction, while not obviously true, seems not obviously false, either. If you believe that p, then p seems likely to be a motivating reason of yours to have some belief or other. For instance, that p is true seems a particularly convincing reason to believe p. Likewise with the right-to-left direction. If p is among your reasons to have some belief or other, it seems like you must believe that p. So I do not here mean to commit to a denial of RAH-type accounts of believing that p. I mean only to say that there are differences between happiness and belief that make it that an advocate of RAH need not commit to a corresponding view of belief.return to text