Action, Norms, and Practical Reasoning Author(s): Robert Brandom Reviewed work(s): Source: Noûs, Vol.

32, Supplement: Philosophical Perspectives, 12, Language, Mind, and Ontology (1998), pp. 127-139 Published by: Wiley-Blackwell Stable URL: . Accessed: 29/10/2012 18:02
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For we are in the privileged position of being downstreamfrom the fundamentalconceptual sea-change effected by the replacementof concern with Cartesiancertaintyby concern with Kantiannecessity-that is. * To introducea non-Humeanway of thinking aboutpracticalreasoning. AND PR&CTICAL REASONING Robert Brandom University of Pittsburgh In this paperI aim to do threethings. Kant's big idea is that what distinguishes judgment and action from the responses of merely natural creaturesis neithertheirrelationto some special stuff nor theirpeculiartransparency. The idea is to do that by exploiting the structuralanalogies between discursive exit transitionsin action and discursive entry transitionsin perception to show how the rationalwill can be understoodas no more philosophically mysterious than our capacity to notice red things.The beginning of wisdom in thinking about these matters (as for so many others) is to look to Kant: the great. tlca. of concern with our grip on concepts (is it clear? is it distinct?)by concern with theirgrip on us (is this rule binding on us? is it applicableto this case?). Doing this is saying what 'ought' means. But one might wonder:why action and norms? Let me start with some background. reasonlng. Practicalreasoningoften leads to action. * To offer a broadlyKantianaccount of the will as a rationalfaculty of prac. grey motherof us all. . to say what it is the job of such vocabularyto make explicit. They express commitments of ours: commitmentsthat we are answerablefor in . NORMS. so it is clear thatthereis an intimate connection between these two elements of my title. correspondingto the threepieces of my title: * To explain the expressive role that distinguishes specifically normative vocabulary. .Philosophical Perspectives 12 LangzzageMind and Ontology 1998 ACTION.That is. but ratherthat they are what we are in a distinctive way responsible for.

namely endorse an inference. The expressive role of the conditionalis to make explicit.1 To begin with. I think of discursive practice as deontic scorekeeping:the significance of a speech act is how it changeswhatcommitmentsandentitlementsone attributes and acknowledges. of practicesof making and defending claimsorjudgments. in the form of a claim. On the side of the consequences of acquisition of practical deontic statuses.divided into the singular and the general. who looks at the smallest expressionswhose utterancemakes a move in the languagegame. what othercommitmentsthey are incompatiblewith in the sense of precluding entitlement the form of a claim. Thatis. proceeded to a doctrineofjudgment (understood in terms of the predicationof a general termof a singular one). Before introducingthis locution. After introducingthe conditional. features of the game of giving and asking for reasons in virtue of which bits of nonlogical vocabulary play the roles that they do. what else they commit us to. I see the characteristic role that distinguishes specifically logical vocabularyas being making explicit. Giving and asking for reasons for actionsis possible only in the context of practicesof giving and asking for reasonsgenerally thatis. The paradigmis the conditional. That is. practicalreasoningrequiresthe availability of beliefs (doxastic commitments)as premises.128 / Robert Brandom the sense thatour entitlement to them is always potentiallyat issue. For giving a reason is always expressing a judgment:making a claim. Kant starts with judgment because that is the smallest unit for which we can be responsible. Specifically. I am going to discuss the topics of my title action. and thence to a doctrine of consequences or inferences. reasons. it appears in the essential role that . I will work within the context of what I call there a normative pragmatics. what before was implicit in our practice of distinguishing some inferences as good.The overall idea is thatthe rationalitythat qualifies us as sapients(and not merely sentients) can be identified with being a player in the social. I work also within the context of an inferential semantics.) It is underthis rubricthatjudgment is assimilated to action. doxastic ones) are distinguished by their specifically inferential articulation:what counts as evidence for them. Another big idea of Kant's-seeing the judgment as the smallest unit of experience is a consequence of the first one. discursive commitments(to begin with. He does thatby understanding concepts as the rulesthat determinewhat knowers and agents are responsiblefor what they have committed themselves to. producingand consuming. and Wittgenstein. who begins with the units to which pragmaticforce can attach. commitments thatare rational in the sense that vindicating the correspondingentitlementsis a matterof offering reasonsfor them. Making ItExplicit. I furtherendorse an expressive view of logic.(This thought is taken over by Frege. one can do something. norms. The logic he inheritedstartedwith a doctrine of terms. and practical reasoning in the idiom I develop in my book. A third Kantianidea is then to understandbothjudgmentand action as the applicationof concepts. This is a reading of what it is for the normsin questionto be specifically conceptual norms.That is. one can now say thatthe inference is a good one. implicitly normativegame of offering and assessing.

The thought is that there are two species of discursive commitment: the cognitive (or doxastic).understoodin termsof beliefsand My first idea is to startinstead with normativestatuses and attitudescorrespondI'll try to explain desires. The first edgments of the second sort of commitment correspondto intentions. pro-attitudes (paradigmatically. assertible. a) Observation(a discursive entrytransition)depends on reliable dispositions to respond differentiallyto states of affairs of various kinds by ac- . as I will say. vocabulary.3Suchperformances specificationsunderwhich they arenotintentional. contents play in specifying conditions of success: that is.andto what we do. The second basic idea motivatingthe present account is thatthe noninferential relations between acknowledgmentsof practicalcommitmentsand states of affairs broughtabout by intentionalactioncan be understoodby analogy to the noninferentialrelationsbetween acknowledgmentsof doxastic commitmentsand the states of affairs they are brought about by through conceptually contentful perception.Practical commitments are like doxastic commitments in being essentially inferentially articulated. what would count as fulfilling a commitment to act. Next is a (by now familiar) lesson we have been taughtby Anscombe and Davidson. First. are takings-true. and Practical Reasoning / 129 propositional. Forming an a commitment)to put a ball througha hoop requiresknowintention(undertaking ing what it is to put a ball througha hoop-what must be truefor thatintentionto I claim that one can exsucceed.Action. withoutneeding to appeal to practicalreasoning.They stand in inferentialrelationsboth among themselves (both means-end and incompatibility) and to doxastic commitments. sons.beliefs make a differenceboth to what we say.The latterare commitmentsto act.that is.(This is a point about explanatoryautonomy: plain the role of beliefs in theoreticalreasoning (leading from claims to claims) first. the ing to beliefsand intentions. in favor of primaryreaDavidson's original idea was to eliminate intentions desires).and more generally.A third.) II of actionI am sketchingis motivatedby a threetruisms.andtwo The treatment moreinterestingideas. and the practical. terms of those beliefs and pro-attitudesexpressed by normative intentions.the second makings-true.while I do not believe one can do things in the opposite order.2Actions are performancesthat are intentional under some specificacan genuinelybe thingsdoneeven thoughtheyhavemany tion. We license others to infer our beliefs (or.companionidea is that at least one way a specification of a performancecan be privileged as one under which it is intentionalis by figuring as the conclusion of a piece of practicalreasoning that exhibits the agent's reasons for producingthatperformance. acknowlAcknowledgmentsof the first sort of commitmentcorrespondto beliefs. our doxastic commitments)both from our explicit claims and from our overt intentional actions.

that is. so crucial to Davidson. Put in terms of the deontic scorekeeping model of discursive practice. between actingfor a reason. by bringing about various kinds of states of affairs. and merely acting witha reason. y) Repeating the gossip would harm someone. b) Action (a discursive exit transition)depends on reliable dispositions to respond differentially to the acknowledging of certain sorts of commitments."Forjust as one can undertakedoxastic or theoreticalcommitments to which one is not entitled by reasons. and the pro-attitudesexpressed by normativevocabularymore generally.It is this latteridea thatmakes sense of the distinction. (Though thatit couldbe so elicited is essential to its being the acknowledgmentof a practicalcommitment. so I shall wear a necktie.8) I am a bank employee going to work.) III The strategyof trying to understanddesires.That acknowledgmentneed not itself have been producedas a response to the acknowledgmentof othercommitmentsinferentiallyrelatedto it as entitlement-conferring terms of their relationto beliefs and intentions instead of the more orthodox Humean and Davidsonian strategyof starting with beliefs and desires requires thinking about practical reasoning somewhat differently. Davidson would be wrong to say that"someonewho acts with a certainintentionacts for a reason. It follows thaton this model. to no purpose.Consider the following three bits of practicalreasoning: cr) Only opening my umbrellawill keep me dry.) . or is produced by the exercise of a reliable differentialdisposition to respondto. What makes a performancean actionis that it is. so one can undertakepracticalcommitments to which one is not entitled by reasons. the idea is that intentions are to reasonsas commitments are to entitlements. so I shall open my umbrella. discursive exits on discursive entries) involves examining the sense in which practicalreasons are causes. 'Shall' is used here to express the significance of the conclusion as the acknowledging of a practicalcommitment.('Will' would be used correspondinglyto express a doxastic commitmentto a prediction. . the acknowledgmentof a practical commitment. Elaboratingthe first idea (modeling intention on belief as correspondingto inferentially articulatedcommitments) involves examining the sense in which practical reasons are reasons.130 / RobertBrandom knowledging certain sorts of commitments.elaboratingthe second idea (modeling action on perception. so I shall not repeatthe gossip. by adopting deontic attitudesand so changing the score. the adoptionof deontic attitudesand consequentchange of score.

Once thatis done. For given a subset of vocabulary that is privileged or distinguished somehow. which assert the proprietyof the materialinferences involved. According to this way of thinking. and transform the move into something that isformally valid.while thereis no converse route. One reasonto do so is thatthe notion offormally validinferencesis definable in a naturalway from the notion of materially correct inferences."to "Philadelphiais to the East of Pittsburgh.But if one were instead to pick out theological (or aesthetic) vocabulary as privileged.we can treatinferences such as thatfrom "Pittsburghis to the West of Philadelphia.Action. b) Bank employees are obliged (required)to wear neckties. This view. this substitutional notion of formally good inferences need have nothing special to do with logic.just in case it is a materially good inference and it cannot be turned into a materially bad one by substituting non-privileged for non-privileged vocabulary. and Practical Reasoning / 131 The Davidsonianapproachtreatsthese as enthymemes. then one must antecedently be able to distinguishsome vocabularyas peculiarlylogical. there is no such thing as materialinference. According to this way of setting things out.) This enthymematic thesis is parallel on the side of practical reasoning to the insistence that theoretical reasoning be ScompletedS by the addition of conditionals.If it is specifically logical form that is of interest. This account contrastswith the standardorder of explanation. c) It is wrong (one ought not) to harmanyone to no purpose." as materially good inferences that is inferencesthatare good because of the contentof theirnonlogical vocabulary. which understands"good inference" to mean "formally valid . the formal goodness of inferences derives from and is explained in terms of the material goodness of inferences. even when (b) and (c) are supplied. We need not treat all correct inferences as correct in virtue of their form." or from "It is raining. (Orthodoxcontemporaryhumeanswould insist that something is missing in the second two cases. Sellars teaches us that that move is optional. with the contentsof the claims they involve matteringonly for the truthof the (implicit) premises. then looking at which substitutions of nontheological (or non-aesthetic) vocabulary for non-theological (non-aesthetic) vocabularypreservematerialgoodness of inference will pick out inferencesgood in virtue of their theological (or aesthetic) form.More on thatthoughtlater. Instead. which treats all inferences as good or bad solely in virtue of theirform.4 I proposeto adoptthis nonformaliststrategyin thinkingaboutpracticalinferences. and so ought not to be appealed to in explaining it. in its premises and conclusions.whose missing premises might be filled in by something like: a) I want (desire. prefer) to stay dry. with respect to that vocabulary."to "The streets will be wet. Norms. an inference can be treatedas good in virtue of its form. it can be treated as the vocabulary that is privileged in the sense that motivates us to look for proprietiesof inference that are invariantunder substitutionsfor all but that logical vocabulary. supplying implicit or suppressedpremises involving logical vocabulary as needed.

might be called aformalist approachto inference.But I think thatwhat we really know is ratherthat the inference desire: say. we can do something.I shall open my umbrella.) But materialinference is not in general monotonic even on the theoretical side. IV I want to treat It is raining . Indeed. because the inference would not go throughif I did not want to stay dry. There would be a case for that conclusion only if the reasoning involved were monotonic that is.e. if the fact that the inference from p to q is a good one meantthatthe inference fromp&rto q must be a good one.132 / Robert Brandom inference". such as "If Pittsburghis to the West of PhiladelThe claim is that although phia. But the fact that conjoining a premise incompatiblewith the desire to stay dry would infirm the inference (turnit into a bad one) does not show that the desire was all along already functioning as an implicit premise. the Gene Kelly desire to sing would not go throughif I had a contrary and dance in the rain. It tradesprimitivegoodnesses of inference for the truthof decide to talk this way. It can be in special cases. thenPhiladelphiais to the East of Pittsburgh"? in order to license the premises as explicit be added such conditionals need not inference from their antecedentsto their consequents. The expressivist line about logic sees conditionals as makingimplicitmaterialinferentialcommitmentsexplicit.postulating implicit premises as needed.what should one say about the role of conditional claims.I am not claiming that one cannot is just that one neednot. namely treat certain materialinferences as correct. one is an enthymeme. The point conditionals. in the formof claimsbut as not requiredto make the inferences they explicitate good inferences. A) like B) It is raining . say in mathematicsand fundamentalphysics. and so to get wet.e. we come to be able to say that they are good. But . If one rejects the formalist orderof explanation. and say that neither The Davidsonian will respond that we can see that the reason offered in the first case is incomplete. playing such an explicitatingexpressive role is precisely what distinguishes some vocabularyas distinctively logical. The streets will be wet. Once we have the expressive power of those logical locutions. (So thatthe fact that the latteris not a good argumentsettled it that the former isn't either. Before we have conditionals on board. on this view. they nonetheless serve to make explicit-in the form of a claim the otherwise merely implicit endorsement of a materialproprietyof inference.

I do not want to claim that invoking such clauses ("all other things being equal")is incoherent or silly. and Practical Reasoning / 133 it never is in ordinaryreasoning. . For they cannot(I want to say. (iv). If we try to solve this problemby a generalcharacterization. there is anotherway to will light.So the fact thatif I add "Iwant to get wet.) Consider the argumentsthat are codified in the following conditionals: i) If I strike this dry. I would contend that ceteris paribusclauses should be understoodas explicitly markingthe nonmonotonicityof an inference. That would be the case only if materialpracticalinferences were monotonic.ratherthanas a deusexmachina that magically removes its nonmonotonicity.that materialinference mustbe like formal inference in being monotonic.material proprieties of practicalreasoning are nonmonotonic.Action. as we will see. In any case.q follows fromp" means that "qfollows fromp unless there is some infirming or interfering condition. and so on. (iii). But we must be careful how we understandthe expressive role they play. [p&ro q] iii) Ifp andr andthe matchis in a Faraday cage. The reasoningwe actually engage in always permits the constructionof inferential hierarchieswith oscillating conclusions like this. They are not shorthandfor somethingwe couldsay if we took the time or the trouble."But this is just to say that q follows fromp except in the cases where for some reason it doesn't. even so. then ceterisparibus. But if one wants explicitly to acknowledge that. theircontent cannot be made explicit in the form of a series of additionalpremises. for instance. [poq] ii) If p and the match is in a very strong electromagneticfield. A certain kind of formalist aboutlogic will want to insist. then it will notlight. It is that the membershipof such a list would be indefinite:we don't know how to specify in advancewhat belongs on the list. Norms. is resolutely nonmonotonic. Like their theoretical brethren. thenit will light. (Reasoning in clinical medicine. well-made match. well-made match. [p&r&s&to q] . then it will not light. We could think of the expressive role of avowals of desire . then one can do so by reformulatingit as: i' ) If I strike this dry." as a second premise to inference (A) above the resultinginferenceno longer goes throughdoes notshow that the denialof thatpremise was alreadyimplicit. it can form the base of an oscillating hierarchyof inferences of the form of (ii). . And at this point in the dialectic.The problemis notjust thatwe would need an infinite list of the conditionsbeing ruled out though that is true.The materialinference (i) above is just fine as it stands. then it will light. we get something equivalent to: "ceteris paribus. and almost never in the special sciences. in principle)be cashed out. such a monotonous formalistwill invoke ceterisparibusclauses. [p&r&soq] iv) If p andr ands andthe room is evacuatedof oxygen. for reasons of high theory.

so I shall not wear a clown costume. Acknowledging the nonmonotonicity of practicalreasoning./3" ) I am a bank employee going to work.) The norm. . The idea is that the broadly normativeor evaluative vocabularyused in (a). Instead. an attributorwho takes (cr) to be entitlement preserving will also take cg' ) Only standingunderthe awning will keep me dry.(cg' ). (. so I shall comb my hair. on the theoretical side: as functioningnot as apremise.( cr"). but as makingexplicit the inferential commitmentthat permits the transition. or requirementthat bank employees wear neckties is what makes going to work into a reason for wearing a necktie. First. they provide only prima facie reasons for acting. so I shall stand underthe awning. and 'ought') which Davidson understandsas expressing the pro attitudes needed to turn the incomplete reasons offered as premises in (cr). and (c) ('prefer'. on the practical side. so I shall remainin the car. alreadyprovidesfor the featuresof reasoning that are normally dealt with by introducingsuch a notion. 'obliged'. . to that of the conditional. for bank employees. and a host of similar inferences to have that status. propositionalform the endorsementof a patternof materialpractical inferences./3' ) I am a bank employee going to work. there need not be for each interlocutorfor whom (. Normative vocabularyplays the same expressive role on the practicalside that conditionals do on the theoretical side. (b). V With this background.(Notice thatbecause desires can compete. Different patternsof inference should be understoodas corresponding to different sorts of norms or pro attitudes. Takingit that there is such a norm or requirementalso just is endorsinga pattern of practicalreasoning:taking (X3) to be a good inferencefor anyone who is a bank employee. Doing so is implicitly attributing a preferencefor staying dry. rule. there will be related inferences such as: . cr" ) Only remainingin the car will keep me dry. and (y) into complete reasons-is used to make explicit in assertible.I can state my fundamentalthesis: normative vocabulary (including expressions of preference) makes explicit the endorsement (attributed or acknowledged) of materialproprieties of practicalreasoning.8) is taken to be a good inference a set of other inferences correspondingto (cr).134 / RobertBrandom as being analogous.however.8). For instance. This inferentialpatternis differentfrom that exhibited by (cr) in two ways.

Second. To exhibit a piece of good practical reasoning whose conclusion is a certain intention is to as reasonexhibit thatintention.where what mattersis the scorekeeper's undertakingof a commitment to A's occupying the status. Thereis no a priorireasonto assimilateall such 'ought's to any one form-for instance the prudential(Humean totalitaritheorists (such as Gauthier)do. and Practical Reasoning / 135 But these are not licensed by the norm made explicit in (b). Norms. These prudential (made explicit by corresponding'ought's) are meant only as threerepresentative varieties. For a scorekeeperwho takes (y) to be entitlement-preserving regardlessof desires or preferences.8). and so not aware of one's entitlement. we need not take the agent's endorsedby the attributor. reasons to be goodreasons. Fromthe point of view of this botanizationof patternsof practicalreasoning (which I do not pretendis complete) the humean and the kantianeach have too . [Comparethe sense in which one' s reliabilityas a reportercan entitle one to a claim (in the eyes of a scorekeeper). the scorekeeperwill take (. Recall also anism). thatA is preparingto go to work can be a good reason for A to wear a necktie.and the action (if any) thatit elicits.Action. able in the light of the commitments exhibited in the premises. Whether one has a good reason to wear a necktie just depends on whether or not one has occupies the status in question.] Endorsementof practicalreasoningof the sort of which (y) is representative.8) to be a good inference for any interdoxastic commitmentto the claim locutorA such thatthe scorekeeperundertakes a desire or acknowledgment opposed to attributing thatAis a bankemployee as of a commitment. correspondsto an inferential commitment exhibiting a patterndifferent from those involved in either (cr) or for A takes it (. Thus all of the 'ought's thatmake explicit species of practicalreasoningtakenas examples here. even if one is not aware that one is reliable. codified in the form of a normativeprincipleby (c). ratherthanA's acknowledgmentof that comsense of 'good reasonfor action' (according mitment. But they show how different sorts of norms correspondto differentpatternsof practicalreasoning.In this sense. the institutional 'ought'. as rationality-as-maximizing that the entitlementprovided by prudentialor institutionalreasons need not be as Davidson points out. To endorse a practicalinference as entitlementpreservingis to take the doxastic premises as providing reasons for the practical conclusion.Here the norm implicitly underwritingthe inference is associated with having a certain status. but only by others associated with the same social institutionalstatus (being a bank employee).correspondsto an objective to the scorekeeper). This pattern.The idea is thatnormative vocabularyis a kind of logicalvocabulary. and the unconditional 'ought'. norms and unconditional (or instrumental). to be entitlement-preserving regardlessof social status.and for anyone. ratherthan with exhibiting a certain desire or preference. aredifferentkinds of rational'ought'.in my expressive sense: its expressive function is to make explicit commitmentsto inferences.institutional. as employee of a bank. even thoughA is not in a position to appreciateit as such. as rational. not as an exhaustive list. the prudential'ought'.

essentially without penalty. the practical commitmentsthatcorrespondto intentionsare like doxastic commitments. And the kantian denies that a mere desire (sinnlich Neigung) could provide a reason for action.Having this status is being intelligible to oneself and to others.and one can change one' s mind anytime. via means-endreasoningand considerationof practicalincompatibilities.) * The kantianassimilates all reasons for action to the third pattern. Each pursues a Procrusteanorder of explanation: * The humeanassimilates all reasonsfor action to the first pattern. In both these respects. unless accompaniedby the acknowledgmentof some correspondingobligation or commitment. It is importantto rememberto begin with that acknowledging a practical commitment is not understoodon the model of promising.andfor doxastic commitments(and hence entitlementto doxastic commitments). This status can be vindicatedby offering a suitable samplepiece of practicalreasoning(which need not actually have preceded the acknowledgment or performancein question). This means thatin particularcases. and * the modeling of actions as discursive exit transitions on perceptions as discursive entry transitions. Acting with reasons is being entitled to one's practicalcommitments.(Thus the humeanwill see the inferences like (. * the picture of practicalreasoning as relating beliefs as premises to intentions as conclusions. one can act intentionallybut without reasons. That piece of practicalreasoning explains why one did as one did: what reasons one had.Scorekeepersare licensed to infer ourbeliefs from our intentionalactions (in context of course).5 In particular. But while a commitmentis in force. as well as from our speech acts. unless accompaniedby some desire to fulfill it.136 / RobertBrandom restricted a notion of reasons for action. even with the addition of premises (b) and (c). it has consequences:for otherpracticalcommitments(and hence entitlementsto practicalcommitments). VI A picture of the rationalwill emerges if we combine these three ideas: * the belief model of intending the idea of modeling practical commitments on doxastic ones.the commitmentis not to anyone in particular.rather than like promises. But the capacity to acknowledge propositionally contentful practical .8) and (y) as incomplete. The humean denies that a mere obligation or commitment could provide a reason for action. but of claiming.

But perceptionis strictly analogous. The use of normatlve vocabulary such as 'should' expresses the attributionto an agent of commitmentto a patternof practicalreasoning.6I am suggesting that we can replace "conceptionof a law. Having a rationalwill.(These are Sellars' 'volitions'"priorintentionswhose time has come"7. then. by accontent. on the input side.while the use of 'shall' expresses acknowledgmentby the agent of the sort of practicalcommitmentthatcan appear as the conclusion of such practicalreasoning. can be understoodas having the capacity to respondreliably to one's acknowledgment of a commitment (of a norm as binding on one) by differentiallyproducingperformancescorrespondingto the content of the commitmentacknowledged. The modeling of action on perceptionregistersthe crucialfact thatacknowledgmentsof commitmentscan cause andbe caused. "I shall jump now.According to this picture. Kantdefines the rationalwill as the capacity to derive performancesfrom conceptions of laws.g." in this formulationby "acknowledgment of a commitment.just as. This relationshipprovides a way to make sense of . and PracticalReasoning / 137 commitments will be attributedonly to those whose performancesare largely intelligible."). tents conditionally mature One nice feature of this story is that what is expressed by the normative 'should' is related to what is expressed by the intentional 'shall' as third-person usage to first-person usage that is.The one capacityshould with a corresponding knowledginga commitment in principle appearas no more mysterious than the other.It is those acknowledgmentsthatin competentagents arekeyed to the productionof the correspondingperformances under favorable conditions.8) as minimal knowings One is a reliable agent (compare:reliable perceiver) with respect to a range of circumstancesand a range of contents of practicalcommitmentswhen one is so disposed that under those circumstancesone's prior intentions with those coninto correspondingintentions-in-action. say. Priorintentionsareacknowledgmentsof practicalcommitmentsthatare distinct from and antecedentto the responsive performancesthey are reliably differentially disposed to elicit. as attributingpractical commitments (to others) is relatedto acknowledgingpracticalcommitments(oneself ).Intentions-in-actionare acknowledgmentsof practical commitmentsconsisting of performancesthat are intentionalunder demonstrative specifications (e. a category rescued from the mistake of as minitnal actionsthat are safe in that they preclude the conceiving 'tryings' are conceived possibility offailure. One's conception of a law is what one takes oneself to be obliged to do. red things. and for the same reasons. Norms. 'seemings' that are safe in that they preclude the possibility of error." 'Law' is Kant's term for a binding rule a norm. we are rationalcreaturesexactly insofar as our acknowledgmentof discursive commitments(both doxastic andpractical)makes a differenceto what we go on to do. In other cases (intentions-in-action)the production of the performancemay be the acknowledgment of the practical commitment. Prior intentions involve practical commitments to produce performancesmeeting generaldescriptions. It is a capacity to respond differentially to the presence of.Action.

or what ought to be done"... Notice thatDavidson startedoff only with intentions-in-action the case. or by producing. this is objectionablycircular. HarvardUniversity Press 1994.. Finally.a correspondingperformance. when acknowledgmentof practical commitment is elicited by properreasoning. on the presentaccount.That is. VII I said at the outset that in this paperI aimed to do three things: vo* Explain the expressive role that distinguishes specifically normative cabulary. to say what it is the job of such vocabulary to make .good.which is acknowledginga practicalcommitment. . b) acting with reasons. . notice that this account distinguishes: a) acting intentionally.. expllclt.He laterintroducesintendings. Since he does not tell us what these normativeterms mean. .138 / Robert Brandom Forthatphenomenonariseswhen self-attributions weaknessof the will (akrasia). (which would be made explicit by statements of the of practical commitments of do not have the causal significance of acknowledgments form "I should.its goal has been to fulfill that discursive practicalcommitment. where the performanceis the acknowledgmentof a practical commitment. reasonlng. By startingelsewhere.promises). The ideas presentedhere are discussed there in more detail in the second half of Chapter4.").either in.In this form. analogiesbetween discursiveexit transitionsin action by exploiting the structural and discursive entrytransitionin perceptionto show how the rationalwill can be understoodas no more philosophicallymysteriousthanour capacityto notice red things. . we have seen how to make independentsense of the expressive role of normativevocabulary. Notes 1.") practicalcommitments(which would be made explicit by statementsof the form "I shall. which is being entitled to such a commitment.but he construesthem as judgments that some performanceis "desirable. the possibility of incompatible intentions is no more mysterious than that of incompatibleclaims (or for that matter. which is the case where reasons are causes. * To introducea non-Humeanway of thinking aboutpracticalreasoning. tlca. * To offer a broadlyKantianaccountof the will as a rationalfaculty of prac.Although the accountI have offered has of necessity been telegraphic. c) acting for reasons.

1966).reprintedin J. 3. 8. G. 1980). I discuss the parallel with 'try' in Making 295.For. 110 in Keith Lehrer(ed. at least if that category is conceived narrowly.) PurePragmatics Sellars(Ridgeview Publishing. Sicha (ed. is elaboratedin ChapterThree of Making 6. andPractical Reasoning/ 139 2. "Inferenceand Meaning". "Thoughtand Action". originally in "Actions. and Causes". it is importantthat the specifications in question can include demonstrative and indexical elements. .Reasons. 294section 16. 1997). in the commentaryto It Explicit. pp. Not necessarily a description. In particular. (RanandDeterminism 7. 1959). Critique of Practical Judgment. the notion of the sort of commitmentundertakingby making a claim that It Explicit. as will emerge below (in section V).) Freedom dom House. Wilfrid Sellars. reprintedin ActionsandEvents(Oxford University Press. includedin WilfridSellars'Empiricism and thePhilosophy of Mind(tIarvardUniversity Press. 4.E. 5. Anscombe.139-144. pp.M. ReandPossibleWorlds: TheEarlyEssaysof Wilfrid seda CA. and Donald Davidson. Intention (Blackwell.Action. I discuss Sellars on 'seems' in my Study Guide. 1984). section 7. p.Norms.

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