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Instrumental Rationality



Does rationality require us to take the means to our ends? Intuitively, it seems clear that it does. And yet it has proven difficult to explain why this should be so: after all, if one is pursuing an end that one has decisive reason not to pursue, the balance of reasons will presumably speak against one's taking the means necessary to bring that end about. In this paper I propose a novel account of the instrumental requirement which addresses this problem. On the view I develop, the instrumental requirement is normative not because agents have reasons to comply with it, but because it is a normative standard intrinsic to intentional action—i.e., it is a standard that partly spells out what it is to exercise one's agency well.