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Keywords:

  • action;
  • explanatory reason;
  • motivating reason;
  • normative reason;
  • objectivism;
  • psychologism;
  • reasons-explanation;
  • reason for action;
  • salience;
  • shape;
  • situation

Abstract

What kind of thing is a reason for action? Are reasons for action subjective states of the agent, such as desires and/or beliefs? Or are they, rather, objective features of situations that favor certain actions? The suggestion offered in this article is that neither strategy satisfies. What is needed is a third category for classifying reasons which makes them out to be neither purely subjective nor purely objective. In brief: a reason for action is a feature of the situation that matters to the agent. On this proposal, subjective states of the agent are indeed indispensable in characterizing reasons for action. Precisely which set of situational features matter to an agent—precisely what shape the agent experiences the situation as having—depends on the agent's psychological makeup. Those features themselves are not psychological states, however, and it is precisely those features that constitute the agent's reasons for action.