Academic year
Josep Lluís Prades
Department of Philosophy
Universitat de Girona
Master courses
Module 7. Issues in Contemporary Theoretical and Practical Philosophy
2011-02-16 - 2011-04-13
Wed. 18-21h
Room 401. Fac de Filosofia UB


Content and Objectives

1. Humean theories of motivation.
2 Having a reason and acting for a reason
3 Motivating and normative reasons
4 The structure of practical reasoning
5 The teleology of intentional action

Non philosophers seem to have no problem accepting that we often act without reasons. This phenomenon –intentionally acting without reasons- is not easily accounted for by philosophical explanations of intentional action and practical reasoning. The purpose of the course will be to dispel the common philosophical illusion that intentional action requires having reasons to act, and that practical reasoning is a way of considering the reasons we have to form certain intentions. 
The course will try to show that this misconception underlies contemporary neo-Humean theories of motivation, standard versions of decision theory, and most common non-Humean accounts of intentional action.  Attention will be paid to the basic linguistic data that show that the role of rationalizing explanations of intentional action is only to determine the purpose with which the agent acts. The successful rationalization of an intentional action does not show that the agent needs to believe that she had reasons of any kind. This teleological approach will be used to show that practical reasoning is the process of accepting a purpose, not necessarily the process of weighting reasons.
The course does not presuppose any previous familiarity with the topic.


There will be 10 sessions of a weekly seminar –about two hours each one. Each week there will be a one-hour lecture-style presentation, and a one-hour seminar in which specific assigned reading will be discussed. 


Participants will be asked to write one critical essay of between 2000 and 4000 words length, on a relevant question to be agreed with the convener, who will also be available for advice on essay plans.  The language of the essay can be Catalan, Spanish or English. 


Anscombe, G. E. M., 1957, Intention, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Brandom, R., 1994, Making it Explicit, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Bratman, M., 1987, Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Broome, J.,  2001, “Normative Practical Reasoning”, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume (71).
Davidson, D. “Actions, Reasons and Causes”, in his Essays on Actions and Events, Oxford: Clarendon.
Hume, D., 1978, A Treatise of Human Nature, second edition, L. A. Selby-Bigge and P. H. Niditch (eds.), Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Moran, R., 2001, Authority and Estrangement, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Nagel, T., 1978, The Possibility of Altruism, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Scanlon, T. M., 1998, What We Owe to Each Other, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Smith, M., 1987, “The Humean Theory of Motivation”, Mind 96: 36-61.
Thompson, M. 2008, Life and Action, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Smith, M., 2004, “Humean Rationality” in Mele and Rawling (edits.), The Oxford Handbook of Rationality, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wiggins, D., 1987, “Deliberation and Practical Reason”, in his Needs, Values, Truth, Oxford: Blackwell.
Williams, B., 1981, “Internal and External Reasons”, in his Moral Luck, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wittgenstein, L., 1958, Philosophical Investigations, Oxford: Basil Blackwell.