Judgment internalism (which holds that a necessary condition on a judgment of the form “x has reason to y”, when stated by x, is that x have some motivation to y) is often used as a crucial plank in arguments for noncognitivism. Very roughly speaking, if there is a necessary connection between normative judgment and motivation, what could normative judgment be if not an expression of these various motivational or conative states? But some have claimed that there is a good argument for existence internalism (which holds–in the version I’m most interested in–that an agent x can have a reason to y only if they have an existing motivation to y) to be found in the truth of judgment internalism. The argument from judgment to existence internalism has always struck me as a little fishy, but I’ve only recently tried to figure out why. My diagnosis is below the fold, but I’d love to hear whether you think I’ve given this argument short shrift.
This argument is hinted at by various writers, but appears most forcefully in Rosati’s “Internalism and the Good for a Person”. (I take it that the switch in domains from welfare to practical reasons shouldn’t make much difference here.) Here she writes:
The truth of judgment internalism might seem to support the claim that a plausible account of the good for a person must satisfy existence internalism, at least in the form of simple internalism. An account of the good for a person must permit judgments about a person’s good to serve their characteristic action-guiding functions. It must be able to explain how it is that, at least normally, judgments about a person’s good motivate, and it must also preserve their characteristic recommending and expressive functions or normative force. An account can succeed in this, without embracing noncognitivism and its antirealist implications, only if it satisfies simple internalism. By limiting a person’s good to some subset of those things that can matter to her, an account insures that it will at least be possible for judgments about a person’s good to perform their characteristic functions, (310-11).
I think this argument is intuitive, at least initially. For how could judgments about a person’s good (or reasons) necessarily motivate under the assumption of cognitivism unless a person’s good were confined to those things that a person cares about?
But I worry. Seems to me that in order for the argument to work, the existence internalist owes us some sort of explanation–why judgment internalism holds–that only appeals to resources that are brought to the table by existence internalism itself (Rosati explicitly asks this of any theory of prudential value). But as far as I can see, there is no such explanation. And the reason is simple: existence internalism only requires that there is a necessary connection between an agent’s judgments and that agent’s motivational states when that judgment is true, rather than false. For all existence internalism says, I could go around all day long claiming that I have reason to y when in fact I have no reason to y because I have no motivation to y. Nothing about existence internalism itself rules this out. If so, we require something else to explain why I will only make a normative judgment when I have a corresponding motivation. But what could this explanation possibly be (compatible with the denial of noncognitivism)? (No, really – what could this be?) It seems to me that the “at least normally” modifier doesn’t do much. Existence internalism still needs an explanation for why, at least normally, I only judge that I have reason to y when I am motivated to y.
One possibility is a psychological connection, of the sort hinted at (and ultimately rejected) by David Lewis (cf. “Desire as Belief II”). It might be that there is a de re form of necessity between normative judgment and desire. Alternatively, one could claim that as a matter of concept, having a corresponding desire or motivation is part of the functional role of normative judgment as a matter of a priori psychological explanation. (Don’t ask me how this would work.)
But if either of these explanations are true, I don’t see how existence internalism draws any support from judgment internalism. Consider a totally externalist theory:
The Keith Emerson Theory of Reasons: x has reason to y if and only if Keith Emerson would have y’ed under similar circumstances.
This is a ridiculous theory, but I don’t see that its ridiculousness stems from its incompatibility with judgment internalism. After all, if JI is true as a matter of psychological principle, all this entails when combined with the Keith Emerson theory is that people are generally pretty irrational (insofar as the coincidence between any given individual’s motivations and Keith Emerson’s motivations are imperfect, at best). It’s perfectly compatible with the Keith Emerson theory that people will be motivated to act on their judgments (or, reversing the order of explanation, why they will only judge in accordance with their motivations). Of course, one could reject that JI can be explained as a matter of a psychological link between normative judgment and desire. But then one would have to offer an explanation for JI that is exclusive of all externalist theories of reasons, and inclusive of existence internalism. But I’ll just register my skepticism that such an explanation could be found.
Anyway, I think that’s what’s bugging me about this argument. Have I left out any possibilities?