I'm working on a paper about the ontology of reasons and have some questions about motivating reasons that I was hoping some readers here might help me with. It's hard for me to say exactly what motivating reasons are for and so it's hard for me to say what they are (facts? propositions? mental states? none of the above? All of the above!?!). I'd like to say that in describing someone's motivating reasons, we say what it is that they saw/knew that led them to act in the way that they did. I'd like to say, then, that since what someone sees or knows that leads them to act as they did has to be a fact rather than a proposition or a mental state, motivating reasons are the facts we believe we're responding to. The problem with this, I'm told, is that in cases of error I'm forced to say things that are too harsh. If the facts don't fit the beliefs that fit in deliberation, there aren't any facts to serve as our reasons for acting and so we've failed to act for a reason. I want to try to understand these kinder, gentler views about motivating reasons, but part of the difficulty for me is that my semantic intuitions seem to be getting me in trouble. I can get out of this trouble by identifying motivating reasons with mental states, but there are supposed to be problems with this view that it would be a distraction to discuss here.
So, consider claims of the form 'S A'd for the reason that p', such as:
(1) Alice voted for Bill for the reason that Charlie is a crook.
My view is that (1) entails (2) and (3):
(2) Alice voted for Bill because Charlie is a crook.
(3) Charlie is a crook.
One opponent acknowledges that there's an entailment from (2) to (3) and denies that (1) entails (2). [Maybe there's also an opponent that denies that (3) is a consequence of (2).] The opponent I'm interested in here isn't the opponent that says that (1) could be true only if we took it to be elliptical for a longer statement that describes the agent's beliefs about Charlie. My guess is that they are led to that view, in part, because they think that (1) entails (2) and (3) and then argues from the (alleged) fact that our motivating reasons are the same whether our beliefs are true or false to the claim that (1) is never strictly speaking true. So, my guess is that they are led to a kind of psychologized conception of motivating reasons because they have semantic intuitions similar to mine.
I think there's some evidence that (1) commits us to (2) and (3). That's consistent with the claim that there's evidence against this and consistent with the claim that there's stronger evidence against this. If you have some, I'd love to see it. If you think my evidence isn't evidence, I'd love to know why.
Evidence of entailment.
(i) It seems that (1) entails (2) just on the face of it. Conjunctions with negated conjuncts will come in a moment, but I take it that someone who denies that (1) entails (2) but thinks that it seems to some that (1) entails (2) will want to offer an account of the appearance of entailment that doesn't require an entailment. Could it be that (1) pragmatically implies that something like (2) is true? I think not. As Stanley notes, citing Saddock and crediting Bengson, you can reinforce pragmatically imparted information, but not entailments.
So, there's nothing wrong with, "I have a cat. Indeed, I have just one cat". There's something wrong with, "I have just one cat. Indeed, I have a cat". Similarly, while it's true that if you know she's in France you believe that she's in France, it's odd to say, "I know she's in France. Indeed, I believe she's in France." Now, it seems strange to say, "She voted for Bill for the reason that Charlie is a crook. Indeed, she voted for Bill because Charlie is a crook." That (to me) looks/sounds/feels a lot like, "I know that it's raining outside. Indeed, it is raining outside."
(ii) It seems contradictory to assert (~2) and assert (1): She didn't vote for Bill because Charlie is a crook, but she voted for Bill for the reason that Charlie is a crook. (If there were merely a pragmatic link from (1) to (2), wouldn't (~2) cancel the pragmatic implicature that (allegedly) explains the appearance of an entailment from (1) to (2)?)
(iii) It seems defective to say: She voted for Bill for the reason that Charlie is a crook, but I don't believe she voted for Bill because Charlie is a crook. It seems defective to say: She voted for Bill for the reason that Charlie is a crook but I have no good reason to believe she voted for Bill because Charlie is a crook. Obvious explanation is to assimilate these to more familiar kinds of Moorean absurdities such as "He knows that dogs bark but I don't believe it myself". You can only assimilate these to such cases if the speaker's commitment to (1) carries with it a commitment to belief in (3).
(iv) It seems we can rewrite each of (1)-(3) as follows:
(1') She voted for Bill for the reason that it's a fact that Charlie is a crook.
(2') It's a fact that she voted for Bill because it's a fact that Charlie is a crook.
(3') It's a fact that Charlie is a crook.
It seems (1'), (2'), and (3') entail that Charlie is a crook.
Not only that, but I think on everyone's view, (1) entails:
(4) That Charlie is a crook explains why Alice voted for Bill.
(4') The fact that Charlie is a crook explains why Alice voted for Bill.
This looks pretty good to me: 'S's reason for A-ing is that p' entails 'p explains why S A'd', which entails 'The fact that p explains why S A'd', which entails that p is a fact. Which entails p.
If this much is right, it puts pressure on the view that treats motivating reasons as thoughts (i.e., the things that we think, the things that are the contents of our mental states). Those who defend such views tend to eschew the psychologized redescription of (1)-(4) that makes reference to facts about mental states and it denies that motivating reasons are facts. So far as I can tell, the above linguistic evidence causes trouble for the idea that motivating reasons are facts but then insists that correct non-factive explanations can be given and causes trouble for the view that thinks these non-factive explanations don't make sense but then insist that motivating reasons are neither facts nor mental states. Either go more radically towards a kind of externalist, factualist account of motivating reasons or embrace the more pscyhologized version that rewrites (1)-(4) to make reference to mental states because of arguments from error.