The following is conceivable: the features that make an action right are not the features which one ought to attend to when reasoning about whether to perform the action. In consequentialist lingo (I think I’m getting this correct), what’s right-making is not necessarily a blueprint for a decision procedure. For example, it might be best, on utilitarian grounds, if everyone was a Commonsense Moralist and never even attempted to maximize general utility. This divergence is possible whenever one’s theory of right-making is consequentialist of whatever stripe, and maybe even more often than that.
With that as background, I am wondering what a “reason for acting” is. Most definitions of reasons that I know of say they are something like “considerations counting in favor,” so a reason for acting in a certain way (a reason for the action) is a consideration which counts in favor of acting in a certain way (the action). My question is this: are these “considerations” the considerations that figure in the right-making theory, or the considerations that figure in the decision procedure?
Option 1: reasons for action are right-makers for the action. In that case, it is possible that, when reasoning practically, one never thinks about the reasons for action one has. And when one does act rightly, one will not be acting on the reasons for the action. Indeed, it would be possible to never act for good reasons at all, and still act rightly all the time. Bizarre.
Option 2: reasons for action are premises in decision procedures for the action. Then sometimes (when the decision procedure is imperfect) you have most reason to do what’s wrong to do, and no reason to do what’s right to do. That’s peculiar at least. Further, since what the best decision procedure is may depend heavily on contingent features of human psychology or society, what is a reason for doing X is contingent on features of human psychology or society. Moreover, reasons for action could change as human psychologies or societies change, and we might need to relativize them to cultures or even individuals, even if we are not relativists about the right-making features. Practical rationality (and probably theoretical rationality) becomes an empirical matter. I’m not totally averse to this, but it’s odd.
Option 3: we should distinguish between reasons for performing an action, which are right-makers, and reasons for deciding to perform an action, which are premises in a decision procedure. (In effect, the decision procedure for actions becomes a right-making theory for decisions to act, and reasons are fundamentally right-makers.) It would be odd if the answers to “Why should I do X?” and “Why should I decide to do X?” diverge, but maybe this is the best option.
Option 4: there is something incoherent about this whole situation, which implies or entails that allowing right-making considerations to diverge from decision-procedure considerations is a bad idea. Reasons have to be “public” in the sense that these are not allowed to diverge. I have (cautious) sympathies in this direction too.
I’m curious what others think.