No State-Given Reasons

Reasons are facts that count in favor of some intentional attitude, such as a belief, a desire, or an intention to act. And reasons to A (where ‘A’ stands for some intentional attitude) can be divided into two subcategories. First, there are those reasons to A that are provided by facts about the  intentional object of A. For instance, the fact that some state of affairs is one in which many people experience pleasure is an object-given reason to desire that that state of affairs obtains. Second, there are those reasons to A that are provided by facts about the state of A-ing. The fact that an evil demon will cause me to suffer if I don’t desire that P is a state-given reason to desire that P.  In this post, I hope to provide a simple argument for the conclusion that so-called state-given “reasons” are not genuine reasons. The argument will be stated mainly in terms of reasons to believe, but I think that it applies mutatis mutandis to reasons for other intentional attitudes.

The argument starts off with the assumption that there are certain plausible principles that describe the transfer of reasons from one intentional object to another. I’ll call these principles transfer principles. One plausible transfer principle holds that a reason to believe that P is equally a reason to believe what P entails (whether or not one knows that such is entailed by P). Another holds that a reason to adopt an end is equally a reason to intend to perform the necessary means to achieving that end (whether or not one knows that such is a necessary means to achieving that end). The problem with state-given “reasons” is that they don’t seem to transfer from one intentional object to another in accordance with plausible transfer principles. Yet genuine reasons do transfer in accordance with plausible transfer principles — that’s what makes reasoning possible, after all. Thus state-given “reasons” are not genuine reasons.

To illustrate, take the case where an evil demon has threatened to punish me if and only if I don’t believe that the shape of my computer screen (hereafter “CS”) is a triangle, when in fact CS is a rectangle. If the above transfer principle is correct and if the fact that the evil demon has threatened me is indeed a reason for me to believe that CS is a triangle, then it would follow that I have a reason to believe that the sum of CS’s angles is 180°, for this is entailed by the proposition that CS is a triangle. But, of course, I have no reason to believe that the sum of CS’s angles is 180°. I don’t even have a state-given reason to believe this, for the evil demon has threatened to punish me only if I don’t believe that CS is a triangle. I may believe that the sum of CS’s angles is 360° without incurring the demon’s wrath. In fact, I may even have a reason to believe that the sum of CS’s angles is 360°; suppose that I’ve measured them and recorded their sum.

Now someone might object that to have a belief that P is to be disposed to rely on P as a premise in further reasoning, and thus, to sincerely believe that P, one must be disposed to believe what one believes that P entails. But just assume that I’m a complete novice regarding geometry who doesn’t know that the sum of the angles of a triangle is 180° or that the sum of the angles of a rectangle is 360°. If that’s so, I can sincerely believe that CS is a triangle (and everything that I believe that this entails) while also believing that the sum of its angles is 360°.

It seems, then, that we must either reject very plausible transfer principles or reject the notion that state-given “reasons” are in fact genuine reasons. The correct choice is obvious: we should reject the notion that that state-given “reasons” are genuine reasons. For one, rejecting such plausible transfer principles would severely impair our ability to reason. If reasons don’t transfer from one intentional object to another, then how can we reason from one intentional object to another (e.g., from one proposition to another or from ends to means)? For another, whatever intuitive force there is to thinking that the fact F (i.e., that an evil demon has threatened to punish me unless I believe that P) is a reason for me to believe that P can be captured, as Parfit has pointed out, by the thought that F is a reason to want to believe that P and to intend to do whatever might cause one to believe that P. If we have such reasons, it seems entirely unnecessary to posit that, in addition to these reasons, we also have a reason to believe that P.

What do others think?

68 Replies to “No State-Given Reasons

  1. Hi Doug,
    Interesting stuff. Question: could your objector utilize a distinction between direct reasons and transferred reasons? On this kind of distinction, you would have a direct state-given reason to believe that CS is triangular, and a transferred state-given reason to believe that the sum of CS’s angles is 180 degrees. If I follow correctly, your ground for rejecting such state-given reasons is that (in this case) the demon won’t punish you for believing that the sum of CS’s angles is 180 degrees. So that’s a basis for saying there is no direct state-given reason here. But could your objector maintain that since transfer principles apply to all reasons to believe, there must be another kind of reason, a transferred state-given reason?

  2. I’m not sure of the force of the argument. It’d take it as an argument to reformulate the transfer principles. We could think that their failure with state-given reasons show that the principles have a more limited domain of application. They tell us that an object-given reason to believe that p is equally a reason to believe the logical consequences of p and that an object-given reason is equally a reason to perform the necessary means to achieving that end. Having these more limited principles does not yet limit our ability to reason.
    I guess my basic intuitions are that there are state-given reasons like the ones you plausibly describe. To give up those reasons would require that there is something more plausible that requires one to do so. The general transfer principles would be reason to do this but as there are plausible limited versions of them available I’m not quite yet feeling the pressure from the most general ones.

  3. Doug,
    I think it’s a nice little argument, although I’m not a terribly big fan of state-given reasons.
    Jussi,
    I’m curious. If you divide up reasons into those reasons that transfer principles apply to and those that don’t, haven’t you effectively distinguished between the reasons that can figure in reasoning and the ones that cannot?

  4. The argument looks nice. But I wonder more generally what is implied by the non-existence of state-given reasons. A reason to F is state-given if it is provided by some aspect of F-ing as opposed to some aspect of the intentional object of F-ing. If there are no such reasons, then no reason to F can be provided by some aspect of F-ing as opposed to some aspect of the intentional object of F-ing. It seems to follow that all reasons to F are exclusively provided by some aspect of the object of F-ing. But take reasons for attitudes like compassion. I have reason to feel compassion for another’s undeserved pain, but this reason is provided exclusively by the object of compassion, another’s undeserved pain. On this picture, the nature of the feeling of compassion does not even partly constitute the reason to feel compassion, but only gives reason to approve, cultivate, encourage… compassion. This seems to me incredible. An explanation of why there is reason to F in response to O should include some story about why F is an appropriate response to O. The nature of the very state we have reason to be in is relevant. I wonder whether the non-existence of state-given reasons implies the denial of this point.

  5. Hi Doug,
    You wrote: “whatever intuitive force there is to thinking that the fact F (i.e., that an evil demon has threatened to punish me unless I believe that P) is a reason for me to believe that P can be captured, as Parfit has pointed out, by the thought that F is a reason to want to believe that P and to intend to do whatever might cause one to believe that”
    I have question about whether this strategy can apply to all state-given reasons.
    Consider this case:
    (EI) Frank believes that p, that p entails q, and that not-q.
    Baring special circumstances Frank is, or at least his beliefs are, open to epistemic criticism because he is (they are) irrational. We can gloss this by saying that Frank has reason to not simultaneously hold logically inconsistent beliefs – reason to not be in a state of holding inconsistent beliefs.
    I doubt that this reason can be captured by the thought that Frank has a reason to want to not have inconsistent beliefs or to intend to do whatever might cause him to not have inconsistent beliefs. After all, Frank might recognize the later reasons and even have the relevant desire and intention and still hold three inconsistent beliefs. If so, he (or his beliefs) will still be irrational and we will want to say there is (epistemic) reason to not be in the state he is in – he will fail to believe as there is reason to, even though he desires and intends as the Parfit reasons would have him.
    Of course this whole line of thought assumes there are norms of consistent belief that should be understood in terms of state-given reasons and you might have an argument for rejecting that assumption.

  6. Hey Doug,
    I might just be missing something, but maybe this is a plausible transfer principle in accordance with which state-gives reasons transfer:

    If S has reason to want e to occur, and e will occur only if S Ψ’s, then S has reason to Ψ,

    where ‘Ψ’ ranges over actions as well as attitudes.
    Maybe this principle explains why I have reason to eat (since I have reason to want to live [or at least let’s pretend this for the sake of the example], and I will live only if I eat).
    Applying it to your case, since you have reason to want not to be punished, and you will avoid punishment only if you believe CS is a triangle, you have reason to believe CS is a triangle, a state-given reason.
    Another thing I was wondering about is, Can’t a person have a basic state-given reason to have an attitude? E.g., maybe we all have reason to be happy that the sky is blue, not because the sky’s being blue is good, but because it is good for us to be happy about stuff. If so, is this enough to vindicate state-given reasons?

  7. I’m with Jussi — I think the argument shows that you need to reformulate the transfer principles. After all, suppose you go ahead and, in order to avoid punishment, find a way to believe that CS is a triangle. (Or take steps to.) Someone asks you why you’re doing this. Aren’t you going to give them a reason?
    In response to Clayton, I think you have distinguished between reasons that can figure in reasoning (or at least theoretical reasoning, in the example) and those that don’t. But the state-given reasons figure in practical reasoning, e.g. they give you reason to do whatever it is that will get you to believe that CS is a triangle. And the distinction is itself formulated in terms of principles of reasoning, so it’s not as if you have a tool by which you can look at a reason and see if it figures in reasoning (of some kind) or not.
    Full disclosure: I don’t think “state-” and “object-given” reasons are the right way to parse the relevant distinction, but they’re close enough for the present. Pamela Hieronymi makes the point about why not in a J Phil article a few months ago. And I have my own view on this question forthcoming in J Moral Phil.

  8. Josh,
    Do you find it intuitive to think that, in the case described above, I have any reason of any sort to believe CS’s angles is 180 degrees? I don’t, but I don’t have any argument for this intuition. It’s just an intuition that I have.
    Jussi,
    The main assumption of the argument is
    (x) (if x is a genuine reason, then x transfers from one intentional object to another according to certain very plausible transfer principles).
    Call this assumption A1. Now you suggest that A1 is false, and thus that there are some genuine reasons that don’t transfer from one intentional object to another according to certain very plausible transfer principles. These reasons, then, can’t be relied on in further reasoning, as Clayton points out. The idea that there are genuine reasons that can’t be relied on in further reasoning seems quite counter-intuitive to me. But I have to admit that I have nothing more to add to get you to “feel it.”
    Francesco,
    I don’t see why one who denies that facts about the state of S’s A-ing constitutes reasons for S to A would have to also deny that the nature of an attitude A (as opposed to facts about S’s A-ing) is relevant to whether or not the fact that P (where P is not some fact about the state of S’s A-ing) constitutes a reason for S to A.
    Brad C.,
    Like Parfit, I think that we need to distinguish between whether it is rational to hold a certain attitude and whether there is a reason to hold a certain attitude. The former depends on one’s beliefs, that latter depends on the facts. So suppose that not-Q is true. I don’t think that the fact that S believes both that P and that P entails Q is a reason to believe that not-Q. I do grant, though, that it makes S’s believing that not-Q irrational.
    Chris,
    How does your proposed transfer principle affect the argument? I should have been more clear. I don’t pretend to have shown that state-given reasons don’t transfer according to any plausible transfer principles only that they don’t transfer according to very plausible transfer principles, in particular, the one that says that reasons to believe that P are equally reasons to believe what P entails.
    On your second point: if there are state-given reasons, then one may (depending on his orher epistemological views) want to hold that some of these are basic. But if these reasons don’t transfer according to some very plausible transfer principles, then I’m suggesting that we shouldn’t believe that they’re genuine reasons, especially when we can account for the fact that the evil demon’s threat does provide us with object-given reasons to, say, want to belief that CS is a triangle and to intend to do what will make it more likely that I will believe that CS is a triangle.
    Heath,
    You write, “After all, suppose you go ahead and, in order to avoid punishment, find a way to believe that CS is a triangle. (Or take steps to.) Someone asks you why you’re doing this. Aren’t you going to give them a reason?” Absolutely, as I said, I think that I do, given the evil demon’s threat, have a reason to intend to take whatever steps are necessary to cause me to believe that CS is a triangle. This is an object-given reason; the object is an action and the reason to intend to perform it is that it will have good consequences – a fact about the object.
    Heath: Would you send me your paper please. I would like to read it.

  9. I have four thoughts
    1. Certainly the distinction looks murky as Doug characterizes it. In the circumstances he describes, it’s a fact about the proposition that CS is triangular that a demon will punish him if he does not believe it. That proposition is the intentional object of said belief so an object given reason, right? Likewise it’s a fact about the STATE of believing that London is the capital of the UK that it is a state of believing something well supported by empirical evidence. So state-given, right? In the context of belief, I have at least an intuitive grip on the distinction between epistemic reasons and pragmatic or moral reasons for believing. But in the context of reasons generally the distinction remains somewhat obscure.
    2. Sticking to the context of belief, my instincts are with Jussi. If you will kill me if I do not form a belief that Tony Blair is a bachelor I surely have a reason to form a belief that Tony Blair is a bachelor. It’s a non-epistemic reason, a reason of a different kind than I might come to have if some evidence emerged that Tony Blair were a bachelor, but I don’t see what illumination would come from denying it was a reason at all.
    It does seem plausible to suppose that perhaps we would not count as believing at all if object-given reasons were not the NORM for how our beliefs evolve in response to reasons. But that doesn’t rule out a place for state-given reasons.
    3. RE Doug’s argument again Jussi seems right. We have a hypothesis:
    H: All genuine reasons are subject to transfer principles.
    And we have a datum:
    D: No state-given reason is subject to transfer principles.
    You could say, ah, so given H, D follows. Or we could say that D falsified H. One man’s ponens, another man’s tollens. To get more than a stalemate we need to find some way of motivating H as having quite general application. SO motivating it by reference to examples involving object-given reasons would be no good. How else might it be motivated?
    4. Moreover, aren’t things quite complicated here? Suppose I have a set of beliefs that include the following.
    Tony Blair’s wife is celled ‘Cherie’.
    Tony and Cherie Blair married each other many years ago and have children together.
    Tony Blair has never been divorced.
    Cherie Blair is alive and well and in excellent health.
    Now suppose, or try to, I add to this set, in response to your threat, the belief:
    Tony Blair is a bachelor
    But otherwise make no changes. I say “try to” because it’s not clear that if I believe all those other things I can count as believing that Tony Blair is a bachelor at all. If you are as good as your word, you will still kill me. (Cf. if I remember rightly Dennett’s discussions of bizarre cases where people may or may not believe McKinley was assassinated.)
    Even if we allow that I would count as believing that Tony Blair is a bachelor things remain complicated. Suppose I have got myself to believe that Blair is a bachelor by taking a come-to-believe-that-Blair-is-a bachelor-pill. That might work but not, as Millgram has stressed, for long if nothing else changes. Because that Blair is a bachelor is inconsistent with too much other stuff I believe. If to stop you killing me I must form a belief that Blair is a bachelor that is reasonably stable under reflection what I need to find is a belief that both gets me to believe Blair is a bachelor and reshapes my other beliefs in such a way as to make their broadly cohere with this new belief. Which is not the same as the way transfer principles function in the normal cases but perhaps weakens the contrast DP draws.

  10. Jimmy,
    My attempts at responses to your four thoughts are numbered correspondingly.
    1. I agree that the distinction is murky. If I’m not mistaken, your point is along the same lines as R&RR objection to the distinction in “The Strike of Demon.” They say, “[(a)] If a pro-attitude toward an object A would have a property P, then ipso facto, A has (or would have, if it existed) the property P’ of being such that a pro-attitude toward it [the object] would have the property P. Consequently, [(b)] to the attitude-given reason, provided by P, corresponds the object-given reason, which is provided by P’” All I have by way of response is that I agree with Stratton-Lake’s response to them: First, the principle of parsimony may make us hesitant to accept (a). Second, (b) doesn’t follow from (a). Indeed, as Stratton-Lake argues, there’s a good reason to think that even if (a) is true, these corresponding facts about the object are not reason-providing facts. But I have nothing to add to what Stratton-Lake has said on this point.
    2. I’ve got nothing. We just have different intuitions, I guess. But it’s good to know that my intuitions might be idiosyncratic.
    3. The only thing that I can, at this point, offer in favor of resolving the stalemate in favor of concluding that there are no state-given reasons is that it’s more parsimonious and that it seems impossible to respond directly to state-given reasons and I think that genuine reasons can be responded to directly – this is Parfit’s point. Admittedly, this isn’t much of response and it would require some fleshing out, but can you offer anything in favor of resolving the stalemate the other way?
    4. I’ll need to think about this point, which is not to say that I don’t need to think about the others as well; I do.
    Everyone:
    Thanks for these very helpful comments. I hope that they keep coming even if my responses seem inadequate at times.

  11. Doug,
    thanks for the very interesting post. It has given a lot to think about and located new issues on which the debate can continue. Quick point on your point 3. I think Parfit has given up the direct-response argument – not that that makes it a bad one. The reasons you give in three seem to be slightly of the wrong kind. They are not really arguments for the global transfer principle but against the state-given reasons. Of course, if they succeed in arguing against the state-given reasons, then they will support the general principle against the counter-example. But, in that case the general principle will not provide further warrant in arguing against the state-given reasons than you already had against them.
    I guess my vague thoughts for the more limited principle of warrant were based on the idea that from the reasoners perspective it is transparent which reasons are object-given and which state-given at least in the epistemic case. In that case, you will not that the good evidence-like object-given reasons will increase the likelyhood of the truth of your belief. If valid arguments are truth-preserving, then you know that the likelyhood of the truth of the conclusion increase the same amount as that of the premises’s. But, of course, about the state-given reasons you know that they don’t make the truth of the belief any likelier and so the conclusion of the inference is not any likelier even when the argument is valid. So, this would be an independent line of though for why the more restricted transfer principle would hold in the epistemic context.

  12. Suppose the demon gives you two pills. Taking one, X, will cause you to believe that CS is a triangle; taking the other, Y, will cause you to believe that the sum of the interior angles of CS is 180˚. The demon will torture your family if you don’t take X, but will do nothing if you don’t take Y. I would say you surely have a reason to take X, but no reason to take Y. If that’s inconsistent with one of your transfer principles (is it?), I’d have little hesitation in rejecting the principle.

  13. Jussi,
    These are all good points which I need to think about. I have a few questions, though.
    Do you know why Parfit has given up the direct-response argument? Is there some example that makes clear that we can directly respond to state-given reasons, or is there some reason to think that you needn’t be able to directly respond to reasons?
    I find your thoughts about the more restricted transfer principle interesting. But here’s a worry. Isn’t it constitutive of your belief in a proposition that you are willing to rely on it as premise in further reasoning? If so, I don’t see how you can stop yourself from believing what your belief entails (even if the state-given reasons that got you to believe it are, as you know, not evidential). Do you? So I guess I don’t see how you can believe that P and not believe that you have reason to believe what P entails.

  14. Campbell,
    I don’t see that your views are incompatible with either transfer principle that I cited. I think that you have a reason to adopt the end of ensuring that your family is not tortured. Thus, according to the means-end transfer principle that I cited, you have a reason to intend to take X, i.e., to do that which is necessary to ensure that your end is achieved. Am I missing something? You have no reason to take Y, because it is neither a good end itself nor a means to achieving a good end.

  15. The answer to the first question is that I don’t know why. I mentioned the discussions we had here about the direct-response argument and I think his reply was that the later drafts no longer have the argument.
    I see the second point. I’m not sure what to say. I haven’t even probably made up my mind what to think about beliefs. I do know that I have some contradictory beliefs and I believe that most people have such beliefs. I even know that often it is rational to have some contradictory beliefs – given that the evidence we get will support beliefs that cannot all be true together. I also know that contradictory propositions entail all possible propositions. But, I don’t find it hard to stop myself from believing all possible propositions. Neither do I think I have any reason to do so. This probably doesn’t respond to the worry though.

  16. I’m very unconvinced by Parfit’s Direct Response Argument. I guess we’re talking this bit of a recentish draft of CTM:
    “Suppose that it would be better for me if I were six inches taller, or if I were healthier, or if I knew how to get home. These facts could not give me reasons to be six inches taller, to be healthier, or to know how to get home. I could not have reasons to be in these states, because I could not possibly directly respond to these reasons. I could at most have reasons to want or wish to be in these states, and to cause myself to be in them, if I can. While it is obvious that I could not have reasons to be six inches taller, or to be healthier, it may seem that, as well as having reasons to want to have some belief or desire, and to cause myself to have them if I can, I could also have state-given reasons to be in these states. But, if this claim seems plausible, that may be only because we can have object-given reasons to have beliefs or desires: reasons to which we can respond in direct though non-voluntary ways.”
    My main problem is with the slipperiness of all these modal terms, “could” and “can”. If I were an anatomically and physiologically very different kind of beast I surely COULD directly respond to a reason to grow six inches, perhaps by extending some weird muscle on my neck. So it’s a CONTINGENT fact about me that I couldn’t have this reason. Presumably Parfit would want to say it’s more than just a contingent fact about me that I can’t directly respond to putative state-given reasons to believe. But there’s no argument here for THAT. A different kind of psychology might move very readily and directly from seeing a state-given reason to believe something to believe it and this movement might be voluntary. Perhaps the response would be that that would not count as RESPONDING. Or it didn’t count as RESPONDING TO REASON. But we’d need an argument for such claims.

  17. I thought it was now pretty clear that the state-given vs. object-given distinction doesn’t help. Justin D’Arms and Dan Jacobson have a perfectly good counterexample of the same general sort as the demon which uses only object-given reasons.
    I’m working on something related to this question and unsurprisingly I do remember my own example.
    Military engineers at Washington University have developed the Narcissus Bomb, which, once it is activated, will detonate unless it is being admired. One of these bombs has accidently been triggered in your office, where you are sitting, alone. You have reason to admire this bomb. The reason is given by the properties of the bomb, which is the intentional object of the admiration. But, the bomb is not good, valuable, admirable, etc.
    Anyone remember Justin and Dan’s example?

  18. Ahh. We weren’t yet talking about that… I think the object/state given reasons distinction is quite interesting independent of whatever work it could do in defending the bpa against its critics. Even if that account was false anyway, we still would have two interesting different classes of reasons.
    The evil demon. hmh. I’ve still haven’t been convinced about the problem. First, in the cases like yours it’s not clear that the fianl reason for admiration is the features of the bomb but rather your own health and the fear of loosing it. That seems to be pretty statish rather than objectish.
    And, also if you read carefully, Scanlon limits the relevant reason-providing to ‘under right circumstances’. The sort of situations in which your admiring attitude or lack of it would have a crucial effect on the significant features and actions of the object (like in the thought-experiments) don’t seem to be like that.

  19. Jussi,
    What is the independent interest of state vs. object -given reasons?
    I am in fact inclined to doubt that the alleged state-given reasons are reasons, at least reasons for what they are alleged to be reasons for. However, it seems perfectly obvious to me that if there is a reason to admire the Narcissus Bomb, then it is object given. (Suppose it were an ordinary bomb. Then its dangerous properties would give you a reason to defuse it. Let nobody complain that it is your soft tissue, rather than the explosive potential of the bomb, that gives you a reason to defuse.)

  20. I’m not sure what to say. It does seem like an illuminating distinction between the kinds of reasons we can have. If our task is to understand the practical reality we live in, coming to understand this sort of differences just seems to be the right thing to do. It helps us to talk about various paradoxical cases like Kavka’s toxin puzzle in a clearer way. I take it that Parfit in 2001 did not introduce that distinction to solve the wkr problem even when he talked about bpa in the same paper. Surely he had some reason to talk about it.
    That doesn’t seem perfectly obvious for me. Even in the normal case, it looks to me that the reason-fact statement is what one would say but elliptical as stated. When we explain the rational for doing things like defusing the bomb, we omit the things that are too obvious to state – like that we would be blown to pieces if we didn’t. But, once we reflect on why we do so, it doesn’t seem out of place that there is more to the story of what really counts in favour of defusing the bomb.

  21. Jamie,
    Along with Jussi, I was thinking that whether state-given “reasons” are genuine reasons has interest independent of whether or not it solves the wrong-kind-of-reason problem associated with the buck-passing account of value. Isn’t it important to know whether the fact that an evil demon has threatened to punish me unless I believe that P constitutes a reason for me to believe that P? So I think that the issue of what sorts of facts constitute reasons to A is interesting in itself even if the account in question doesn’t help us to solve any puzzles or problems. And I think that there are other puzzles/problems/arguments that the claim that there are no state-given reasons might help us to address: Kavka’s toxin puzzle, Pascal’s wager, and, perhaps, more.
    FYI everyone: I’ll be AWOL until tomorrow morning, but I’ll respond to comments tomorrow as appropriate, and everyone should continue the interesting discussions without me.

  22. Just a couple of things, too quickly. These internets move too quickly for me to keep up.
    1. I (we) don’t think the object/state-given reasons distinction holds up under the weight it’s supposed to bear. However, with Jamie, we think that there are some reasons which, if they can be placed in either class, must be considered object-given, yet which deliver WKRs (wrong kinds of reason) for FA (fitting attitude) theories of value — such as sentimentalist accounts like ours.
    Not sure which example of ours Jamie had in mind, but here are a few:
    “Don’t envy his possessions, he’s your friend.”
    “Don’t be amused by that joke, it’s cruel.”
    “Don’t desire that new computer, the one you have is almost as good.”
    In each case a property of the object (in the last case a relational property) — or at any rate clearly not a property of an evaluative attitude — is being adduced as a reason not to feel F at X. However, the reason seems of the wrong kind: it doesn’t bear on whether the object has the relevant evaluative property.
    You’ll have noticed that these are all “negative” reasons: reasons not to feel; we’ve got some positive examples as well, but they’re somewhat more contentious.
    2. We’re inclined to agree with Jimmy that — even if the paradigmatically state-given, strategic reasons (such as the demonic incentives) are not reasons to feel F(X) — nevertheless surely they are reasons to do or feel something. Do you mean to be denying that, Doug? Or just that they’re not reasons for the same attitude as RKRs?
    In Parfit’s examples he takes them to be reasons to want or try to feel the relavent evalutive attitude. In other cases they seem better understood as reasons to feel guilty or ashamed of feelign F(x).
    For those of you going to SPAWN in July, Justin and I will be previewing a paper called “Sentimentalism and the Wrong Kind of Reasons” there. Or so we hope.
    How do you folks get anything done besides blogging, I wonder…Which is an excuse for my prospective failure to keep up my end of the conversation.

  23. Two more points before I sign off for today:
    Jamie and Dan:
    First Jamie: Your case sounds a lot like the cases that R&R-R and Stratton-Lake discuss in their respective strike of demon articles, cases where the demon threatens to punish you unless you admire him for the fact that he is willing to punish you. When I read it, I believe that I was convinced that Stratton-Lake effectively addressed these sorts of cases. The solution involved, in part (but only in part), an appeal to the object-given/state-given reason distinction. So the claim that there are no state-given reasons, besides being of independent interest, might be part of a solution to the wrong-kind-of-reasons problem even if it alone doesn’t deal with all the problematic cases.
    Dan:
    What do you guys think of the Stratton-Lake solution that appeals in part to the object-given/state-given reasons distinction? Last time that I spoke to Justin, he hadn’t read Stratton-Lake’s article.
    Also, you ask: “We’re inclined to agree with Jimmy that — even if the paradigmatically state-given, strategic reasons (such as the demonic incentives) are not reasons to feel F(X) — nevertheless surely they are reasons to do or feel something. Do you mean to be denying that, Doug? Or just that they’re not reasons for the same attitude as RKRs?”
    I certainly don’t deny that the facts that supposedly count as state-given reasons to have one attitude don’t count as reasons to have some attitude or another. Specifically, I think that a fact that putatively provides a state-given reason to have a particular attitude A1 does provide genuine state-given reasons for wanting to have attitude A1 and for doing what will make it more likely that one will have attitude A1.

  24. Apologies if this continues the veering off topic that some have already begun, but I’m on the side of the object-given/state-given distinction not really being that interesting – actually, I think it’s more properly a failed attempt to capture a distinction that does have intuitive interest, in addition to being relevant to counterexamples to buck-passing.
    Some reasons to do something contribute to the correctness conditions of doing that thing, but others do not. For example, beliefs are correct if true, and some reasons for belief – evidential ones – bear on whether the belief is true, while other reasons for belief – pragmatic ones – only bear on whether it is useful to believe it, and hence don’t connect with whether it is correct to believe it. Kavka’s toxin puzzle poses a similar distinction for reasons for intention – it is correct to intend something just in case it is correct to do it, and so reasons for intention bear on the correctness of the intention only if they bear on the correctness of the action, which the incentive to intend to drink the toxin does not. And famously, there are similar distinctions to be drawn when it comes to admiration, amusement, blame, and many other attitudes.
    This restricted range of examples makes it sound like the distinction has something to do with attitudes, because these are all examples of reasons to have some attitude. But it looks to me like these are all only special cases, and hence that no account of what is really going on in them that is limited to reasons to have attitudes – such as the state-given/object-given distinction, but also including many other ways of trying to carve this up – could be on the right track. This is because there are activities other than attitudes that are governed by standards of correctness.
    Take the reasons in favor of and against castling out of check (or imagine another case of cheating at a game, if you think that any game in which someone castles out of check is ipso facto not a game of chess). Against castling out of check, there are all of the reasons that have to do with its legality within the game. In favor, in particular cases, might be the fact that your opponent isn’t paying attention and that it will help you win the game. But these latter considerations don’t bear on whether it is correct to castle out of check. Stack them up how you will, it is still an incorrect move in chess.
    I think the relationship between incentives to cheat and the correctness of moves in chess (or some other game) are exactly analogous to the relationship between rewards for belief and the correctness of belief, between rewards for intention and the correctness of the intention, and so on. They all look like the same kind of situation. So when I hear about the state-given/object-given distinction I always think, who cares? Castling out of check isn’t a state, and it doesn’t have an object. At best the state-given/object-given distinction would be a descriptive generalization covering only a limited range of cases. It can’t be the root of the phenomenon.

  25. My view is in the same neighborhood as Mark’s. I’m not sure that ‘correctness conditions’ is the right, or most helpful, way to pick out that class of reasons, but I agree that each type of doing has its own characterization (maybe via correctness, maybe something else) that will determine what counts as a reason to do it. (I use ‘do’ in the very broadest sense here, as a kind of pro-verb.)
    Jussi,
    First, I don’t believe the state/object –given distinction helps us talk about the Toxin Problem in a clearer way. I think it muddles things up. We can reconstruct the Toxin example so that the reasons for intending to drink it are object-given even though when the time comes there will be no reason to drink it. Just make it parallel to the Narcissus Bomb.
    And second, if you think that the reasons to defuse an ordinary ticking bomb are state-given, then you should be even more skeptical about the distinction than I am! That one is supposed to be an object-given reason. Can you come up with a genuine object-given reason? Your reason to eat a grapefruit will not be object-given, your reason to step out of the way of an oncoming truck will not be object-given. If particularism is true, there will be no object-given reasons at all.
    Doug,
    First: well, it may be important to know whether those certain alleged reasons are in fact reasons, and on that score I tend to agree with you (that they are not reasons). But if it turns out that they are not reasons, then this will not, I am saying, be because they are state-given.
    Second: yes, the example is like the R&R-R examples, except that in mine the reason is object-given. That’s my point: the type of counterexample does not depend on the reason being state-given.
    Dan, I don’t think it’s any of those I was thinking of! Do you have an example of someone who will become very angry if he is envied, or if he isn’t envied, or something like that?

  26. Jamie: Yes, we’ve got an example like that but it seems to be decently well treated as a state-given reason. Jonas Olson discusses it a bit in his WKR paper (Phil Quarterly).
    It’s the wealthy and generous but touchy friend who, if he suspects that you envy him, will curtail his largesse.
    But the fear of losing one’s invitation to the Cape is an incentive that attaches to having the attitude: he’ll cut you off if (he thinks) you envy him. (And since we’re fairly transparent about these things, the best way not to appear to envy him is not to envy him.) So this case doesn’t seem so problematic for the distinction.
    However, the consideration that envying your friend his well deserved accomplishment makes you a bit of a schmuck — that sort of reason doesn’t seem to fit neatly into either class. It’s not merely an incentive that attaches to your envy. “He’s your friend” is the schmuck-making property, presumably (though one could also adduce his deservingness); in any case, though, both considerations are properties of the attitude’s object. And this without any of the funny business about properties of an attitude coming “in the guise” of properties of the object, which Olson worries about wrt the R&R-R demon.
    We’re inclined to think that, properly specified, the consideration makes essential use of both properties of the object (he’s your friend, his accomplishment is well deserved) and the attitude (if it were admiration rather than envy, you wouldn’t be vicious for feeling it).
    Yet none of these considerations bear on the fittingness of your envy — or so Justin and I claim about all these cases. Some cruel jokes are funny; some deserved accomplishments, even by friends, are enviable (i.e., befit or merit envy); the next line of computers is always (well, usually) better than the previous models, etc. So, as we put it, there’s a conflation problem about reasons, involving genuine confusion about what certain reasons are reasons for doing, which outstrips the WKR objection to FA theories of value — as it’s developed in the literature to date (including, I think, in Stratton-Lake).
    I fear that Mark is correct that this thread has been hijacked a bit, and that I’m partly to blame. I think he’s right about other things in the post too, but pursuing that would just take us further afield.
    So, finally, Doug: It sounds to melike you’re basically offering a new argument for the GPS (Gibbard, Parfit, Skorupski) view, yes? If so, I suggest that instead of saying these are “not genuine reasons” you say (at most) that they’re not genuine reasons to have A. It’s not just that for any consideration you can always come up with some crazy thing it’s a reason for; rather, these WKRs are reasons to “do” (in Jamie’s broad sense) something in the neighborhood of feeling F.
    Among the many complications here is that, of course, some perfectly right kind of reasons are substantively wack. Those, I’d say, come closer to not being reasons at all. If the GPS view is right, putative WKRs to feel A are better regarded (Parfit’s phrase) as RKRs to want or try to feel A.
    Just one problem with this is that, as Gibbard points out, some WKRs to feel A are best regarded as RKRs to feel some other attitude entirely toward feeling A.
    But those of us who are skeptical of the distinction — for various reasons, which might be compatible — think it’s not really state-givenness that’s at the root of the problem.

  27. [Tags in for Dan.]
    Evidently most of us agree that the object/state distinction will not carve reasons where they would need to go in order to save an analysis of value in terms of reasons to feel, want, etc. (“FA analysis” hereafter) from the WKR problem. Like Jamie, I/we think that the central interest of Parfit’s distinction is in service of that larger goal (or one like it). So, Mark S, when you suggest that we replace that distinction with the one between reasons that contribute to the correctness conditions of doing the thing they are reasons for and reasons that don’t, I have two reactions. First reaction: But that won’t do the job that the original distinction was potentially interesting because it might have done. FA analysts can’t distinguish kinds of reasons by correctness conditions, because they (we) were trying to understand (evaluative) correctness in terms of kinds of reasons. Of course that may not bother you, Mark, because it sounds like you are not an FA analyst anyway. But it explains why those inclined toward FA analysis were interested in trying to make the object/state distinction work. Second reaction: Yes, the distinction you are drawing does seem like one that is useful and important independently of FA analysis, unlike the object/state distinction. At least it is in the case of reasons for belief, where (if it is teh distinction I think it is) it has of course been widely drawn. It’s not obvious to me that there is a univocal notion of standards of correctness to be applied across all the other things there are reasons for, and the generality of the distinction of course depends on that. But no doubt you have more to say about this.
    Doug: I think your transfer principles are interesting, but I’m afraid my only helpful qualms have already been expressed by others. In answer to your question, I/we don’t think Stratton Lake’s proposal works as a general solution. As I recall, besides the object-state distinction, his other main device is to rule out instrumental reasons for attitudes as WKRs. First of all, I am not sure he can distinguish instrumental from non-instrumental reasons for attitudes without helping himself to the notion of value that his FA analysis seeks to explain using the distinction. But even if he can, the proposal won’t handle all the problem cases. It might be ok for handling R&R-R’s demon cases, but it won’t handle cases where the wrong kinds of reasons are both apparently object-given and not merely instrumental–the sorts of cases Dan mentioned above. We pressed the significance of a couple of these cases in a paper called “The Moralistic Fallacy” (PPR, 2000—I gather that shameless plugging is par for the course in these parts.) One point of that paper is that moral reasons not to have emotions are wrong kinds of reasons. But (a point we were not yet pressing then) some such reasons are as object given as any reasons get (which is only partly object-given, btw), whilst being of the wrong kind.
    Jamie: Perhaps the case you have in mind (or rather, out of it) is your rich and generous but touchy friend whom you have object-given wrong kinds of reasons not to envy. I presume Stratton-Lake will say those reasons are instrumental, and that that is also what he will say about the reasons for admiring your bomb. But this thread is about the object-state distinction I guess, and I agree that it handles neither of these cases.

  28. Well, for all their professed naivety about the blogosphere, DJ and JD can sure hop into the thick of it! Bravo.
    I agree with everything Justin said in response to me, except for the conjecture about whether I’m sympathetic to FA-style accounts. Just to clarify, I do like FA-style analyses of all of those things, although I don’t always think that it is attitudes that the reasons are for. I think, for example, that humorousness, admirableness, and blameworthiness are to receive FA analyses, as is the notion of the weightiness of a reason (though the reasons here are not for attitudes), something’s being a good knife or a good thief (again, not attitudes), something’s being good for someone, something’s being good simpliciter, and something’s being the correct move to make in chess (not an attitude).
    I didn’t mean my quick and dirty formulation in terms of correctness conditions to be explanatory (which wouldn’t be consistent with the FA accounts of these things in terms of the RKR), but just to help get, in a more general way, at the thing to be explained, noting that it has to be general enough to not just come up in the case of mental states. I’m friendly to the idea that the only thing that all correctness conditions, in my sense, have in common, is that they derive from the ‘right kind of reasons’ in the relevant domain, so the answer to what makes the reasons of the right kind is explanatorily primitive. I happen to have a different account of what this explanatory feature is, which I’ll modestly plug only obliquely, as it’s probably wrong, anyway.

  29. Daniel,
    I’m puzzled by these examples:
    “Don’t envy his possessions, he’s your friend.”
    “Don’t be amused by that joke, it’s cruel.”
    “Don’t desire that new computer, the one you have is almost as good.”
    I know of no buck-passer who would have thought that value properties are to be accounted for in terms of envy, amusement, or mere desire. Why are these relevant then?
    Jamie,
    Yes, if you make the toxin case like the Narcissus bomb base, then the state-given/object-given distinction doesn’t help to talk about it. But, does this make talking about the original case in those terms in more difficult.
    You are right about the second point. I shouldn’t have said that the reason in that case is a state given reason. I should have said that it is object given reason but just that the object is not the just the bomb. The object is supposed to be the state of affairs in which you are still intact. That object gives you a reason to adopt a plan that gets you to it by defusing the bomb.

  30. I’ll add my voice to those who are skeptical that the distinction has much philosophical value. To me, Doug’s problem is a nice illustration of the limitations of taking reasons as primitives, and then formulating the norms that govern them. The analysis of reasons that I favor explains quite nicely, I think, why the transfer rules are different for these kinds of reasons. The following suggestion is similar to things that Jussi and Mark have said.
    By an ‘object-given reason for believing that p’, I suggest, we can mean two different things. First, we can mean approximately a fact that indicates that p is (epistemically) likely to be true. That is, it’s really a reason why p is likely true. It is not strictly speaking a normative reason for the attitude of belief.
    A normative reason for A-ing, I suggest, is approximately a fact that indicates that A-ing is likely to promote some valuable end E. We differentiate different kinds of normative reasons by different ends. A normative reason for believing that p is thus a fact that indicates that believing that p is likely to promote some valuable end. One kind of valuable end is truth. Epistemic reasons to believe that p are (approximately) facts that indicate that believing that p is likely to give you a true belief that p. (There are problems here, of course, but I’m glossing.) Therefore any reason why it is likely that p will also be an epistemic reason for belief. It’s relatively harmless to conflate the two.
    But there other valuable ends, such as survival. A prudential reason to believe that p is a fact that indicates that believing that p is likely to be conducive to your survival. A moral reason to believe that p may be a fact that indicates that believing that p is likely to be conducive to others’ wellbeing. Here are your ‘state-given’ reasons for belief.
    So interpreted, we can explain the transfer principles. Epistemic reasons for belief are reasons of truth-conduciveness. The transfer principles for epistemic reasons are simply logical principles, which are the laws of truth. If a fact indicates that p is likely true, then it similarly indicates that the logical consequences of p are likely true. But non-epistemic normative reasons are based on ends other than truth, so the logical principles are irrelevant. Suppose you have a reason to believe that p in order to save your life. That doesn’t give you a prudential reason to believe the entailments of p, because doing so is not conducive to saving your life.
    If I’m right about all this (a very big if), then the ‘transfer principles’ are merely principles governing the nature of the particular end on which a domain of reasons is based, and has nothing to do with reasons per se.

  31. Doug, a few comments:
    1. It seems that sometimes merely reflecting on one’s mental state can reveal reasons to adopt a new mental state. Suppose one day, sitting in your armchair introspecting, you notice that your overall mental state S is subtly inconsistent. It contains beliefs which together imply a contradiction. (The implication is not obvious; that’s why you didn’t notice before.) You come to see that the best way to resolve the inconsistency would be to adopt a new mental state S*. It seems you have a reason to adopt S*. And it seems to be a state-given reason; it’s “given” by facts about S and S*.
    2. It might be helpful to point out that your “transfer” principle is essentially a closure principle. It may be stated thus:
    (P) The set of every proposition you have reason to believe is closed under entailment.
    To say that a set is closed under entailment is just to say that anything entailed by anything in the set is also in the set. So, for example, the set of true propositions is closed under entailment, but the set of false propositions is not.
    (P might not be exactly what you have in mind. One thing you say suggests that, on your principle, the reason you have for the entailed belief must be given by the same fact as the reason you have for the entailing belief. This isn’t required by P. But we could revise it: for any fact F, the set of every proposition that F gives you a reason to believe is closed under entailment.)
    3. You’ve claimed that P (or something very similar) is “very plausible”. But I don’t think you’ve really given an argument for that claim. (You do hint at an argument. You say that if principles like P were false, reasoning would be impossible. But that argument seems hopeless. How could the existence of state-given reasons make reasoning impossible?) And, as others have suggested, I doubt that a non-question-beggin argument could be given.
    One kind of argument would be to say: “Look, there are no counter-examples to P. Go ahead and try; I be you won’t be able to think of one.” But of course state-given reasons, if there are any, provide plenty of counterexamples. In order to disqualify them, you’d first need to show there are no state-given reasons. So this approach goes nowhere.
    Another kind of argument would appeal to considerations of the kind raised by Jussi and Steve above. You might argue thus: a reason to believe a proposition is a fact that reveals the proposition is likely to be true; and the set of true propositions is closed under entailment; therefore, the set of propositions that there are reasons to believe must also be closed under entailment. But the first premise is false if there are any state-given reasons. So again this seems to go nowhere.

  32. Doug, here’s a more fleshed out argument for state-given reasons.
    Let S be the smallest belief set supported by your object-given reasons. So for any proposition φ, φ ∈ S iff you have an object-given reason to believe φ. Assume S is consistent and closed under entailment.
    Consider two extensions of S:
    S’ = S ∪ {p}
    S” = S’ ∪ {q},
    where p ∉ S, q ∉ S’, and p entails q.
    Suppose that believing S is not possible for you. You have no choice but to believe p (because of brain surgery or hypnosis or whatever). Then which of S’ and S” should you believe? This is essentially the question whether to believe q. I see reasons on both sides. Each belief set has a virtue that the other lacks. S’ is more conservative, but only S” is closed under entailment. Both seem like desirable properties of belief sets; both seem to provide reasons. So it seems there is a reason to believe that q. But, by hypothesis, it cannot be an object-given reason. It must therefore be a state-given reason (assuming these are exhaustive).

  33. Jussi — you wrote:
    I know of no buck-passer who would have thought that value properties are to be accounted for in terms of envy, amusement, or mere desire. Why are these relevant then?
    Minor point: I don’t think this has anything to do with buck passing per se, which seems to me to be an accounting problem about how many reasons there are. But FA analyses of value and buck passing are commonly run together in the literature, I think misleadingly.
    Less minor point: Sure you do (know buck-passers, or rather FA analysts) who want to understand value in terms of evaluative attitudes such as desire, envy, admiration, amusement, etc — or, rather, reasons to have these attitudes. Or, more precisely, reasons of a certain kind: reasons of fit. (Hence, “fitting” attitudes.)
    Thus Parfit: “Something’s being good is the same as its having certain natural properties that would, in certain contexts, give us reason to want this thing” (“Rationality and Reasons, p. 20). That’s an analysis of the good in terms of what one has reasons to desire.
    The WKR objection to FA analysis comes about from the fact that we seem to have various reasons to desire objects (like the cup of mud that Crisp’s demon favors) that do not bear on their desirability, value, goodness. The state/object given reason distinction is put forward to rescue the view from these sort of counterexamples, by suggesting that demonic incentives and the like are “better regarded” not as reasons to desire but as reasons to want or try to desire the mud (e.g.).
    Or take Gibbard. He wants to understand wrongness in terms of what it’s fitting to feel guilty about, or to resent. And he explicitly wants to understand the shameful in terms of what it’s fitting (he uses “rational” or “makes sense” or “warrants,” but these are merely terminological varients for him) to be ashamed of, etc.
    More generally, a sentimentalist will want to understand a core class of values (the funny, shameful, enviable, etc — and perhaps the wrong and the good as well) in analogous terms.
    Scanlon, Wiggins, R&R-R, JD & DJ. I take it that FA analyses are defined by that aspiration — though one need not think FA analysis works for all evaluative properties or concepts equally (and indeed, we at any rate do not).

  34. Daniel,
    few things.
    1. I cannot see how funny, shameful, or enviable are evaluative properties – let alone ‘core values’. It seems to be that funniness, shamefulness or enviability of something can be good or bad (and often is). I don’t think if we judge that something is funny we have made an evaluative judgment in the way we would if we made a value judgment. Accidents are funny occasionally but none the better for it.
    2. I can see that admiration is an evaluative attitude. And buck-passers have tried to account for value with that very attitude. But, again, I haven’t seen anyone giving an account in terms of envy or amusement of the form to be valuable is it to be fitting to envy it or be amused by it. That sounds like a non-starter. Desires are trickier. Not many FA attitude accounts talk in terms of occurent, phenomal desires of the directed attention sense (like in your case) but rather like Ewing about conative tendencies which are motivational dispositions. Others are happy to talk about preferring, respecting, promoting, liking, cherishing, caring and so on. These seem rather different kettle of fish than envy and amusement.
    I know that you can get the WKR objection for FA accounts that use the plausible attitudes involved in valuing objects. But, those cases are rather different than the ones you cite.

  35. I knew this would happen…..I’m afraid this will be my last post, as I’ve got a paper to write.
    Jussi: If you don’t think the funny, the shameful, and the like are values (or disvalues) then we’ve got fundamentally different conceptions of what values are. No one, of course, is putting forward an account of the good in terms of (reasons to feel) amusement, envy, etc. — but it’s not all about goodness.
    I’ll just end by quoting Scanlon, who I think is exactly right on this point:
    Once one recognizes the variety of things that can be valuable and the variety of responses that their value calls for, it becomes highly implausible that there could be a systematic “theory of value.” Understanding the value of something is not just a matter of knowing how valuable it is, but rather a matter of knowing how to value it—knowing what kinds of actions and attitudes are called for. (Scanlon 1998: 99)
    Happy blogging, all.

  36. Jussi,

    Yes, if you make the toxin case like the Narcissus bomb base, then the state-given/object-given distinction doesn’t help to talk about it. But, does this make talking about the original case in those terms in more difficult.

    Yes, I think so. It shows that the odd feature of the reason to intend, in the original example, doesn’t have anything to do with the reason being state-given.

    You are right about the second point. I shouldn’t have said that the reason in that case is a state given reason. I should have said that it is object given reason but just that the object is not the just the bomb. The object is supposed to be the state of affairs in which you are still intact. That object gives you a reason to adopt a plan that gets you to it by defusing the bomb.

    Good. And likewise for the object (that you are still intact) in the example of the Narcissus Bomb. So that reason is also object-given.

  37. Jimmy and Jussi:
    Regarding general versus restricted transfer principles, I guess the reason that I favor general transfer principles (e.g., that, for all x, if x is a reason to believe that P, then x is a reason to believe that which P entails) is that I think that it is constitutive of S’s believing that P that S is willing to reason, on the basis of P, to propositions entailed by P (as well as to propositions that are entailed by the conjunction of P and the other propositions that S believes). So I guess that the thought would that if reasoning in accordance with transfer principles is constitutive of belief in general, then the transfer principles should apply generally to all reasons for belief. This is just my initial thought anyway.
    Jamie:
    You think that if the fact that a demon will punish you if you don’t believe that P is not the sort of fact that constitutes a reason to believe that P, then this will not be because it is state-given. Okay, I’m beginning to think that that might be right. Might it, though, be because it violates certain (general) transfer principles? Or, at least, might that be a good reason for thinking that such a fact doesn’t constitute a reason for believing that P (which is not to say that there couldn’t be other reasons as well)?
    You say, “yes, the example is like the R&R-R examples, except that in mine the reason is object-given.” Yes, I got that. My point was that, in theirs too, the reason is object-given. Here’s Stratton-Lake: “The distinction between state-given and object-given reasons does not, however, help deal with the problem introduced by ED2 and ED3. According to ED2, the demon threatens me with severe pain unless I admire him for his own sake, and according to ED3, he threatens me with extreme pain unless I admire him for his own sake on account of his threat. In both of these cases a reason to have the pro-attitude toward the demon seems intuitively to be given by a feature of the demon.” So Stratton-Lake admits that the object-given/state-given distinction won’t deal with all proposed counter-examples to buck-passing, but he argues that it’s still part of a solution to the WKR problem. But, admittedly, I’m coming around to the idea that the object-given/state-given distinction may not be the salient one. So, point taken on that front.
    Dan:
    Thanks for the suggestion. I never meant to suggest that these sorts of facts (i.e., those involving a demon’s threat) don’t constitute reasons for having some sort of attitude, only that these facts don’t constitute reasons for having the attitudes that those who believe in state-given reasons think that they are reasons for. Indeed, as I said at the end of my post, I think that these sorts of facts are (object-given) reasons to want to have the relevant punishment-shielding attitude as well as reasons to intend to do what will make it more likely that you will have the relevant punishment-shielding attitude.
    Justin:
    Thanks for your thoughts on Stratton-Lake. I’ll need to look back at his article. I remember that I thought it worked, but you might be right that it doesn’t work.
    Steve:
    You have an interesting view that I’ll need to think more about.
    Campbell:
    Regarding (1), I think that the inconsistency must be due to your having false beliefs and I deny that such false beliefs can provide reasons for adopting S*. Believing S* may be what it is most rational to believe, but that doesn’t mean that you have any reason to believe S*. Reasons are based on facts, not beliefs.
    I take your point regarding (3). Perhaps, an argument can be made in terms of what is constitutive of belief – see the top of this comment.
    Your argument for state-given reasons made my brain hurt. I’ll try to come back to it when it doesn’t hurt anymore.

  38. Jussi, it doesn’t matter whether admirableness is a ‘value’. I don’t like that use of the word ‘value’, either, so you and I might share a ‘fundamentally different conception of what values are’ from DJ. Still, it’s highly plausible that being admirable is being appropriately admired. In fact, for cases like ‘admirable’ and ‘blameworthy’, this kind of account has a lot more surface plausibility than similar accounts do for ‘good’. But that’s an FA account of admirableness, whether or not it’s an FA account of any kind of value, and it is subject to a WKR problem. If, as I noted, the FA account is more compelling for ‘admirable’ than for ‘good’, you might even think that this constitutes an argument that there must be a satisfactory solution to the WKR problem – one that could be adapted from the case of ‘admirable’ to the case of ‘good’.

  39. Reasons are based on facts, not beliefs.
    I was thinking some reasons might be based on facts about beliefs, or about sets of beliefs. Roughly, my thought was that certain “internal” properties of a set of beliefs S, such as being consistent or being closed under entailment, might give you reasons to believe S. These reasons would be given by facts, sure enough, but facts about relations between beliefs, rather than facts about the objects of beliefs.
    Your argument for state-given reasons made my brain hurt. I’ll try to come back to it when it doesn’t hurt anymore.
    Sorry, I probably put it excessively formally. Let me try a less formal version. Suppose you’re stuck with a belief that isn’t supported by any object-given reasons. And suppose this belief entails another that isn’t supported by any object-given reasons. In there any reason to have the entailed belief? I’m tempted to say: yes, the reasons is that this is required for your beliefs to be closed under entailment.

  40. Hi Campbell,
    So it’s your view that if Smith believes that (1) all professional philosophers are men and that (2) Hilary Clinton is a professional philosopher, then ipso facto Smith has a normative reason to believe that (3) Hilary Clinton is a man. I would say that Smith has no normative reason to believe that Hilary Clinton is a man.
    Suppose you asked Smith, “What reason do you have to believe that Hilary Clinton is a man?” In reply, he cites (1) and (2). Suppose that you then point out to him that he has no reason to believe (1) or (2). Smith then admits that’s right. But he insists that although he has no reason to believe (1) and (2), since he believes (1) and (2) despite the lack of evidence, this provides him with a reason to believe that (3).
    I don’t think that normative reasons can be purchased so cheaply, such that you can generate reasons for you to believe something merely by causing yourself to believe other things that entail that something.

  41. Campbell,
    Would you say the same thing about the practical cases. To use Parfit’s example, suppose that I believe that the building is on fire and that the only way to save myself from death by fire is to jump out of the window. Would you say, then, that I have a reason to jump out the window? Is it just that it is overridden by my other reasons? How do we determine whether that’s the case? How do we determine the strength of a reason that stems from a belief?

  42. Mark,
    I think I agree with that even though admirable does seem to be a bit inherently evaluative. I like the idea that WKR problem proves too much. Surely there must be a fitting attitude account of something. If the WKR problem works for goodness, it must work for them. If the other accounts have a solution, then surely that reply is available for goodness. Sounds great!
    Daniel,
    I know you have left the building but could you please explain how that quote from Scanlon supports the idea that being funny is an evaluative property. Surely the funny can be a valuable thing like the fjords of Norway. The funny and the fjords of Norway as valuable things call for different responses and so understanding their value consists of understanding the responses. Nothing from this follows about funnyness and fjordness of Norwayness being evaluative properties. Rather, they are properties and objects that have value of different variety.

  43. Doug,
    I had in mind a case where the person is stuck with the belief. So imagine Smith can’t help believing that HC is a philosopher and all philosophers are men. He’ll believe that no matter what he does. Then, I think, he might have a reason to believe to that HC is a man. (By the way, I wonder if your story about Smith is getting into “Moore’s paradox” territory. Are we supposed to imagine Smith saying “HC is a philosopher but I have no reason to believe HC is a philosopher”?)
    Regarding the practical case, I’m not sure it’s analogous, but I think I’d say you do have a reason to jump out the window. But I’d like to distinguish subjective and objective reasons. This reason, based on your belief, would be subjective. You might have no objective reason to jump.

  44. Doug,
    On reflection, I want to retract something I said in my previous comment. (Must learn to think before posting.) I no longer think that Smith has a reason to believe HC is a man. I still think he has a state-given reason, but it’s a reason for a whole mental state of which that belief is a part, rather than a reason for the belief itself.
    Consider all the possible total mental states, which for our purposes we may treat as sets of beliefs. Some are consistent, some aren’t. I want to say that for every consistent state, we all have a reason to have, or be in, that state (at least insofar as we can have it). The same goes for states that are closed under entailment, this being another a reason-giving property of total mental states.
    Now, given an “atomistic” view of reasons, this would have absurd conclusions. If every reason for a whole mental state is also a reason for every part of that state (every belief in the set of beliefs), then my view would imply that we have a reason for every belief, because every belief is part of some possible whole mental state closed under entailment. But I reject the atomistic view. I think there can be reasons for the whole that are not reasons for the parts. This seems plausible, since the property that provides the reason, the property of being closed under entailment, is a property of the whole, not the parts (at least not the atomic parts).
    These reasons, I take it, count as state-given. But they’re not the kind you had in mind, because they’re facts about whole mental states, rather than their parts, individual beliefs.

  45. Campbell,
    You write,

    Consider all the possible total mental states, which for our purposes we may treat as sets of beliefs. Some are consistent, some aren’t. I want to say that for every consistent state, we all have a reason to have, or be in, that state (at least insofar as we can have it). The same goes for states that are closed under entailment, this being another a reason-giving property of total mental states.

    If I recall, S* is the consistent state. And I’m not sure what attitude applies to such states as S*, but let’s just say it is the attitude of believing. If not, substitute whatever the appropriate attitude is for ‘believe’ in what follows. Note that it won’t do to just talk about reasons to be in some state. You need to talk about reasons to have some intentional attitude that is responsive to our judgments about reasons. So being in the state S* better not be like being six feet tall, for you can’t have a reason to be six feet tall; you can have a reason only to have some attitude, such as that of desiring to be six feet tall or that of intending to do what will make it more likely that you’ll be six feet tall.
    Now you claim that the fact that S* is internally consistent (or closed under entailment) is a reason to believe S* (or, if not believe, substitute whatever the appropriate attitude is). But isn’t S* the intentional object of that belief (or other attitude), and isn’t the fact that S* is internally consistent a fact about S*? If so, this reason is an object-given reason to believe S*, not a state-given reason, as you claim.

  46. Doug,
    As I’m thinking, belief is a mental state, a state of the mind. So a reason to believe is a reason to be in a certain state, or to be such that one’s mind is in a certain state. What I called S* is a total mental state composed of other mental states. The states it is composed of (or at least some of them) are beliefs. You cannot believe S*. But you (or your mind) can be in S*; this is to have the beliefs of which S* is composed. If you can have a reason to believe, you can have a reason to be in S*. (I think some of my earlier comments were a little unclear on these issues.)
    I don’t know the relevant literature well enough to say whether my way of thinking is orthodox. But it does at least seem common to say that belief is a mental state. (There’s a lot of talk here about “state-given reasons”, for example.)

  47. Campbell,
    I wasn’t denying that beliefs are mental states or that you can have reasons to have some mental state. What I was denying was that, for all states, there can be a reason to be in that state. Do you agree that one cannot have a reason to be six feet tall, strictly speaking? In such cases, what you have a reason for is, say, to want to be six feet tall, not to be six feet tall.
    To have a reason to phi, it must be possible that one could respond to one’s recognition of that reason by phi-ing. What’s phi in your case?
    Do you agree that I can’t respond to a reason by being six feet tall. I can, though, respond to a reason by wanting to be six feet tall or intending to do what will make me six feet tall.
    Now I don’t see how I can respond to the fact that a set of mental states is internally consistent by being in the state of having that consistent set. I can, though, see responding to that fact by, say, believing that P or ceasing to believe that Q. But in that case we’re talking about reasons for and against believing certain proposition, not about reasons for being in state such as S*.
    In any case, you claim “If you can have a reason to believe, you can have a reason to be in S*.” Could you defend this claim. It is not obvious to me.

  48. In any case, you claim “If you can have a reason to believe, you can have a reason to be in S*.” Could you defend this claim. It is not obvious to me.
    Here’s the idea. S* is composed of beliefs. To be in S* is to have the beliefs of which it is composed. So there’s no more to being in S* than having certain beliefs. So if you can respond to reasons by having those beliefs, you can respond to reasons by being in S*.

  49. Campbell,
    I don’t know whether we’re getting anywhere. Perhaps, we need to back up a bit. Now the post starts off with the assumption that “reasons are facts that count in favor of some intentional attitude, such as a belief, a desire, or an intention to act.” When one conceives of reasons in this way, one can draw a distinction between reasons for S to A (the intentional attitude) that are provided by facts about that state of S’s A-ing and reasons that are provided by facts about A’s intentional object. Absent the above conception of reasons, though, I lose sight of what the state-given/object-given distinction is supposed to be. So do you accept this conception of reasons, where reasons are facts that count in favor of intentional attitudes? If so, could you please specify what F, A, and O are in your example for the following schema: F (some fact) counts in favor of S’s A-ing (some intentional attitude) O (some intentional object). If, instead, you reject this conception of reasons, then can you explain how you’re drawing the distinction between state-given reasons and object-given reasons. If we’re not talking about reasons for intentional attitudes with intentional objects, then I’m not clear on what the objects that object-given reasons supposedly refer to are.

  50. Doug,
    I’m skeptical about the restrictions you place on reasons (it’s incompatible with my own view of reasons, after all!) Is it your claim that F can only be a reason for S to A if S can respond to F by A-ing directly? (So, for example, S can’t have a reason to be in Madison, strictly speaking, but only a reason to want to be in Madison, or to intend to be in Madison, or perhaps to go to Madison?)
    That would seem a mistake. For one thing it seems to conflate two different reasons. Perhaps it’s true that having a reason to be in Madison entails having a reason to intend to be in Madison. (If being in Madison is conducive to some important end, then so is intending to be in Madison.) But it’s not true that having a reason to intend to be in Madison entails a reason to be in Madison (enter evil demons). Actually, there may be scenarios in which having a reason to be in Madison does not entail having a reason to intend to be. Suppose the evil demon has made it so that I will be transported to Madison if I don’t intend to go, but that I will not get there if I do so intend.
    You might appeal to the distinction between state-given and object-given reasons here. But this seems inadequate, because it’s not only the source of the reasons that is different, but what they support.
    A more radical doubt: why even restrict the reasons there are to what is within human powers? There are perfectly good pragmatic explanations for why we don’t go telling people they have a reason to grow to 7 feet tall, or live to 200. So what’s the basis for the claim that there can’t be any such reasons? (I presume it’s a covert analysis of reasons as e.g. the considerations that rational people weigh when deciding what to do).
    But consider for example a buck-passing account of value. Is living to 200 a good thing? Possibly. For buck-passers, the goodness of living to 200 would entail there are reasons to live to 200. (Perhaps you’ll say “no, only reasons to try to live to 200, or promote this result”. But again we get evil demon problems).
    I confess I haven’t given much thought to the state/object-given reasons distinction, so perhaps I’m missing something obvious.

  51. Doug — I didn’t see your last post before posting. It shows that we have quite different views of reasons. It also suggests to me that the significance, and perhaps even coherence, of the state/object-given reasons distinction depends upon the thesis (that you hold and I reject) that reasons are always for intentional attitudes.

  52. Steve,
    You ask,

    Is it your claim that F can only be a reason for S to A if S can respond to F by A-ing directly? (So, for example, S can’t have a reason to be in Madison, strictly speaking, but only a reason to want to be in Madison, or to intend to be in Madison, or perhaps to go to Madison?)

    Yes. You then go on to argue that I’m wrong about this, but in the process you assume that there is a reason to be in Madison. But whether there is a reason to be in Madison is what’s at issue, so I don’t think that it’s fair for you to assume it. You also appeal to state-given (evil demon) reasons, which I deny.
    You also say, “Is living to 200 a good thing? Possibly. For buck-passers, the goodness of living to 200 would entail there are reasons to live to 200.” I would say that the goodness of living to 200 entails that there are reason to want to live to 200.

  53. Doug,
    Fair enough. I took it to be obvious that I could have a reason to be in Madison, but I see now that you’ll call this an object-given reason to want to be in Madison.
    I’ll make the following points.
    (1) Your view is more revisionary of ordinary ways of speaking than mine. It is common to talk of having a reason to be somewhere, but only rarely do you hear anyone talking about a reason to want to be somewhere.
    (2) Your view seems unacceptably mentalistic to me. When I deliberate, I don’t think I’m focusing on my mental states, or what mental states to have. I’m focusing on what to do, where to be, etc. (Likewise with theoretical reasoning: I’m not focusing on what beliefs I have, but on how matters stand in the world). I don’t view desires as means to bringing about various ends.
    (3) Suppose we lived in a world in which desires were completely ineffectual in bringing about ends (lots of evil demons at work), and we knew this. Would a ‘reason to be in Madison’ still really be a ‘reason to desire to be in Madison’? Surely we only have (object-given) reasons to desire to A, if we do at all, becausing desiring to A is conducive to A-ing. It seems to me we could still have a reason to be in Madison, though no reason to desire it.
    (4) Shouldn’t we distinguish between the goodness of living to 200, and the goodness of wanting to live to 200? Their value could be quite independent. But if you equate the goodness of living to 200 with having reasons to want to live to 200, then how are you going to differentiate it from the goodness of wanting to live to 200? As having reasons to want to want to live to 200? You could do that, I suppose, but it seems to me that the reasons and values are matching up at the wrong level. (This point doesn’t depend on accepting a buck-passing view, of course. It’s enough that value just entails reasons, which is harder to deny).

  54. Steve,
    Before addressing your four points, let me admit that I don’t have anything close to a fully worked out account of reasons. My view is, I think, just Scanlon’s, which I have found quite plausible. But I haven’t read enough to be in any way confident that this view is superior to its rivals.
    I concede (1) and that, prima facie, (1) counts against my view. I don’t think that (1) is decisive, though.
    I don’t see why my view is incompatible with our deliberating in the ways that you suggest that we deliberate. But I take your point that the way we talk and deliberate isn’t always strictly speaking correct if my view is right. But, again, I concede this.
    In (3), you say, “Surely we only have (object-given) reasons to desire to A, if we do at all, becausing desiring to A is conducive to A-ing.” I’m confused. Does ‘A’ stand for a state of affairs such as the one where I’m in Madison? That’s what the previous sentence suggests. But if so, what is A-ing? In any case, surely it is not the case that we have (object-given) reasons to desire that P only if desiring that P is conducive to ensuring that P is the case. I have a reason to want it be that case that I have an immortal soul even though my having this desire doesn’t help to ensure that I have an immortal soul.
    (4) You ask,

    Shouldn’t we distinguish between the goodness of living to 200, and the goodness of wanting to live to 200? Their value could be quite independent. But if you equate the goodness of living to 200 with having reasons to want to live to 200, then how are you going to differentiate it from the goodness of wanting to live to 200?

    I would say that the goodness of desiring to live to 200 would entail that there are reasons to desire to desire to live to 200, whereas the goodness of living to 200 entails only that there are reasons to desire to live to 200.

  55. Doug,
    You say, “I don’t see why my view is incompatible with our deliberating in the ways that you suggest that we deliberate.”
    The thought goes something like this. If reasons are the things we recognize and respond to in our deliberations, and recognizing a reason involves recognizing that the reason counts in favor of a particular kind of behaviour, and responding to such a recognition involves intentionally performing the behaviour that we recognize the reason counts in favor of because we recognize that it counts in favor of that behaviour, then if your account of reason is right, rational behaviour is focused on our attitudes in an implausible way.
    Regarding my (3): sorry for not being clear. I had in mind an example such as desiring to be in Madison. A = be in Madison, and A-ing = being in Madison. But you can substitute anything for A that is not an attitude (and fits syntactically).
    You say, “I have a reason to want it be that case that I have an immortal soul even though my having this desire doesn’t help to ensure that I have an immortal soul.”
    Here I confess it sounds like you’re speaking for common sense, rather than me. Rather than argument, here’s disclosure. Philosophers say this sort of thing all the time, but in my view it’s erroneous. It’s not far off the truth: we often intend or want (in a loose sense) things for reasons. You might want an immortal soul because you recognize a reason for having an immortal soul. But I deny that you have a reason for WANTING one, strictly speaking. It’s easy to slide from talking about wanting something for a reason, to talk about having a reason to want something.

  56. Doug, to answer your question from a week ago (sorry for the delay):
    I like the idea of understanding epistemic reasons “holistically”, as being, fundamentally, reasons for or against total mental states, and only derivatively reasons for or against the parts of which total mental states are composed, e.g. individual beliefs. So if your conception of reasons is incompatible with such an approach (is it?), I’d be reluctant to accept it.

  57. Campbell,
    I think that’s fine. My point is that I understand what the state-given/object-given reasons distinction is only with respect to reasons for and against intentional attitudes. So until you tell me how to draw the state-given/object-given distinction with respect to reasons for and against total mental states, I cannot assess your claim that you have provided examples where these reasons for total mental states are clearly state-given reasons. I’m just puzzled as to what you mean when you say that such reasons for total states are state-given as opposed to object-given.

  58. Doug, a couple of points:
    1. I take it your worry is that total mental states don’t have objects. Suppose that’s right. Wouldn’t it simply follow that all reasons for total mental states are state-given? Would you say, for example, that the distinction between left-handed and right-handed people doesn’t apply to people with only one hand?
    2. Maybe total mental states do have objects. Suppose you have two beliefs, B1 and B2, whose objects are O1 and O2. Suppose there is a complex mental state, B1+B2, composed of these two beliefs. Does it have an object? Well, a natural thing to say might be that its object is a complex object, O1+O2, composed of the objects of the two beliefs.

  59. Campbell,
    1. I’m not sure about your analogy.
    2. The objects of B1, B2,… are propositions P1, P2,…, right? Isn’t the fact that the set of propositions that is the object of S* does not entail a contradiction and are closed under entailment an object-given reason to S*?
    In any case, let me back off from my original claim that there are no state-given reasons. My claim is that there are no state-given reasons to A, where A is an intentional attitude.

  60. Doug,
    I’ve lost track of what the objects of intentional attitudes are supposed to be. In your last reply you say they are propositions. But your original post gives the impression they are states of affairs. For example, you say:

    First, there are those reasons to A that are provided by facts about the intentional object of A. For instance, the fact that some state of affairs is one in which many people experience pleasure is an object-given reason to desire that that state of affairs obtains.

    Others seem to think they are particular concrete objects. For example, Jamie says:

    You have reason to admire this bomb. The reason is given by the properties of the bomb, which is the intentional object of the admiration.

    Is it your view that all reasons are given by facts about propositions? That seems implausible. The fact that David Lewis was brilliant is (or provides) a reason to admire him. But that’s a fact about David Lewis, and he was a person, not a proposition.

  61. Campbell,
    You ask, “Is it your view that all reasons are given by facts about propositions?”
    No. That’s not my view.
    Now you’ve claimed to have given an example of a reason that is clearly state-given as opposed to object-given. Now if the example is one such the relevant state isn’t one that can take an object, then fine. As I said, my claim is only with respect to those attitudes/states that take an object.
    But you seemed to want to claim that this state S* does have an object (or set of objects) and that the reason in question is constituted by a fact about the state and not by a fact about its object. Okay, then, please tell me what F, A, and O stand for in your proposed example for the following schema: F (some fact) counts in favor of S’s A-ing (some state/attitude) O (that state’s/attitude’s object).
    I really don’t have a grip on what your example is supposed to be.

  62. Let me try to give an example.
    Suppose you believe de re that Hillary Clinton (HC) is a man. That is, you believe of HC that she is a man. So the object of the belief is HC. Suppose you also believe de re that HC is a Republican, and that she is a male Republican. Again, the objects of the beliefs are HC. Now consider the complex mental state M composed of these three beliefs. Does M have an object? I’m not sure. But following my earlier suggestion, let’s say the object of M is the fusion of the objects of S’s component beliefs, in which case the object is again HC. I claim that the fact that S is closed under entailment is (or provides/gives) a reason to be in S. This is a fact about S itself, not the object of S. (HC is not closed under entailment.)
    So we have:
    F = S is closed under entailment
    A = be in S
    O = HC

  63. Campbell,
    It’s just not clear to me that the object of my belief that Hillary Clinton (HC) is a man is HC as opposed to the proposition expressed by ‘HC is a man’. And just because I’m inclined to think that the intentional object of a propositional attitude (such as that of believing) has a propositional object doesn’t commit me to the view that all intentional attitudes (including that of admiring) have propositional objects. And even supposing that the object of my belief is HC and not some proposition, it’s also not clear to me that “be in S [M?]” is an attitude, nor, if it is, that HC is its object. Indeed, as you admit, it’s not clear to you either.

  64. 1. Suppose you’re at a party and you see, not very clearly, a person drawing a lot of attention on the other side of the room. You form the belief that the person is a man. Unbeknownst to you, the person is HC. Do you believe that HC is man? The orthodox answer, I take it, is “yes and no”. In one sense, the de re sense, you do believe this; you believe of HC that she is a man. But in another sense, the de dicto sense, you don’t believe this; you don’t believe the proposition that HC is a man (if anyone asked, “Is HC a man?”, you would answer “Of course she isn’t”). In the de re sense, having the belief is standing in a certain relation to HC herself. So it seems natural to say that HC is the object of the belief.
    2. Do you want to say that all reasons for beliefs are facts about propositions? I think that’s odd. I’d like to say, for example, the fact that Pinky is wagging her tail is a reason to believe she is happy. But that’s a fact about Pinky herself, not any proposition. (The fact might be a proposition, but it’s not about one.)
    3. What do say about desires? Are their objects propositions? Are all reasons for desires facts about propositions?

  65. Campbell,
    I don’t have well-thought-out answers to your questions. But I’m not sure why I need such answers. My claim is that facts about S’s A-ing do not constitute genuine reasons for S to A, where A stands for an intentional attitude. In particular, I would like to claim that the fact that S’s A-ing will have good consequences is not a genuine reason for S to A. (My claim is not that some particular other facts are reasons for S to A.) And it’s not clear to me that you’ve provided a counterexample to my claim for it is not clear that my “be[ing] in S [M?]” is an intentional attitude whose intentional object is HC. Indeed, you admitted that it wasn’t clear to you that this “attitude” has an object at all.

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