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Deliberation and Acting for Reasons

Nomy Arpaly
Brown University

Timothy Schroeder
Ohio State University

Theoretical and practical deliberation are voluntary activities, and like all
voluntary activities, they are performed for reasons and can be carried out
wisely or unwisely, reasonably or unreasonably, rationally or irrationally.
As a consequence, there must be processes that are nondeliberative and
nonvoluntary but that nonetheless allow us to think and act for reasons,
and these processes generate the voluntary activities making up ordinary
deliberation. These nondeliberative, nonvoluntary processes by means of
which we are able to deliberate for reasons must be fundamental, on pain
of regress. As a result, the usefulness of deliberation to rational belief and
action is intermittent, contingent, and modest.1

We would like to thank a number of people for helpful discussion of the ideas presented
here, including Nicolas Bommarito, John Broome, Sarah Buss, Ben Caplan, David Christiensen, Justin D’Arms, James Dreier, David Estlund, Nico Kolodny, Philip Pettit, Peter
Railton, Richard Samuels, Valerie Tiberius, and our anonymous referees. This article also
benefited from versions of it being presented to the philosophers of Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the Moral Psychology Research Group; Ohio State University; the
Ohio Philosophical Association; the Society for the Theory of Ethics and Politics; State
University of New York, Albany; University of California, Davis; and the Workshop on
Moral Expertise.
1. The general topic of interest to us has been treated by a number of philosophers
(including one of the authors of the present work). See, for example, Arpaly 2000, in
which rationality without deliberation is discussed; Arpaly 2003, chapter 2, in which deliberation itself is given as an instance of acting for reason without deliberation and a basic
regress argument is made briefly; Dreier 2001, which deals in depth with a related

Philosophical Review, Vol. 121, No. 2, 2012
DOI 10.1215/00318108-1539089
q 2012 by Cornell University



1. The Nature of Deliberation
Allan sees that the tea shop has no pastries today, and he wonders—
deliberates—about where to go instead. He considers various options
and settles on the cafe´ up the street. Mira is asked whether she really
believes in animal rights or only the moral importance of animal welfare,
and she starts pondering—deliberating about—the differences between
the two, ending up with the conclusion that she does believe in animal
rights. The frequency of deliberation in our lives could be exaggerated,
but it is entirely common and entirely familiar. In this first section, we
sketch out what deliberation is with sufficient precision to go on.
Deliberation is commonly divided into theoretical and practical
deliberation. Theoretical deliberation is primarily concerned with what
to believe, while practical deliberation is primarily concerned with what
to do. The product of theoretical deliberation is perhaps a new belief (or
entrenchment of an existing belief ), or a new credence in a possible state
of affairs, or a sincere thought about the truth of a proposition, or something similar. The product of practical deliberation is perhaps a new
intention (or entrenchment of an existing intention), or an action, or
something similar—or the product of practical reasoning is a new belief
that now taking a certain course of action would be best overall, or a belief
that it would be fitting, or something similar.2 For our purposes, it is not
important what, exactly, the product of either sort of deliberation is, so
long as the above proposals are not all radically misguided.
Both sorts of deliberation are kinds of actions. (See also Hookway
1999 on epistemic deliberation and Railton 2009 on practical deliberation.)3 They are mental actions, or perhaps mental actions conducted

issue; and Railton 2004, 2009, in which the first steps of the present argument are taken
(in the jargon we deploy later in this article, Railton makes the regress argument against a
combined version of Present Deliberation and Present Recognition). We see the present
article as a particularly noteworthy addition to this growing literature in (1) having a welldeveloped theory of deliberation; (2) considering the full range of published arguments
for the thesis that deliberation has a privileged role in our thinking and acting for reasons;
(3) deploying a wide variety of counterarguments to the aforementioned arguments; and
(4) providing a distinctive account of what role deliberation actually plays in making us
responsive to our reasons.
2. This latter possibility would, of course, render practical reasoning a subtype of
theoretical reasoning.
3. We are committed to no specific theory of action and hope to be as uncommitted
as possible in the course of this work. But if deliberation is an action, then it does seem to
us that there will be instances of deliberation that are actions of a less-than-paradigmatic


Deliberation and Acting for Reasons

with supplementary nonmental aids (notepaper, calculators, interlocutors, the sound of one’s own voice speaking one’s thoughts aloud, and so
forth). We will, however, focus on the mental aspect of deliberation, as
mixed cases do not alter the plausibility of the conclusions for which we
will press.4 Purely mental deliberation, then, is a purely mental activity,
carried out by means of performing various mental actions aimed at some
suitable end. Both the actions and the end are important to deliberation.
For a mental activity to be deliberation, it must be aimed at determining what to think or do.5 As we said a moment ago, we maintain an
ecumenical stance on just what this amounts to, but there are limits to
ecumenism. A mental activity aimed only at amusing the subject is not
deliberation. A mental activity aimed only at facilitating sleep is not deliberation. Determining what to think or what to do is thus a constitutive
end of deliberation, in the same way that persuasion is a constitutive end
of arguing, or getting coffee is a constitutive end of going for coffee.
Deliberation can fail to achieve its end, but it is an activity that aims to
achieve that end (perhaps among others).
For a mental activity to be deliberation, it must also be carried out
by means of particular mental acts: bringing to mind—to consciousness—various ideas (general or particular, abstract or concrete) or images (visual, auditory, gustatory, and so forth). There are other ways to
determine what to do or what to believe, but these are not deliberation. As
a person with the aim of determining what to do, Maria might be aware
that she will come to be resolved on what to do if she can just enter a state
of meditative tranquility in which she does not do any conscious thinking

sort: instances of deliberation from which one is alienated (“I could hardly believe I was
contemplating covering up my misbehavior”), deliberation conducted for an end that is
not transparent to one (“I found myself thinking again about the facts of the case, uncertain as to why my mind was drawn to them”), and deliberation conducted absentmindedly
(“I suddenly realized that, in my mental wanderings, I had started going over all the
reasons I had given myself for ending my past romances, weighing up each one”), to
choose just three examples. If the reader wonders about such cases, we hold that these
examples of apparent deliberation are actions just in case the counterpart cases involving
overt bodily movement are actions—and if they are not true actions, then they are not
true instances of deliberation either, for deliberating is something we do .
4. Note the existence of arguments that there is no principled difference between
“purely” mental actions and “mixed cases.” See, for example, Clark and Chalmers 1998.
5. Perhaps there is also deliberation about what to feel, or what to intend, that is
distinct from deliberation about what to think or to do. But we are skeptical—and in any
case, the existence of such deliberation would not substantially change the arguments
that follow.


but might not even involve that so much as an effortful attentiveness in Harold’s present context. and so we need to make room for them as well. Mental acts are not guaranteed to be acts of deliberation even if they bring ideas or images to mind with the goal of determining what to do through filling one’s consciousness with them. Harold engages in a mental action known colloquially as “searching his memory” for potentially conflicting promises. requires bringing to mind ideas or images meant to have some rational relation to the topic being considered. rather than being identical to them.6 Even this is probably not a sufficient condition. Perhaps Randa finds that what to believe about a difficult matter comes quickly to her if she visualizes her fourth-grade teacher sternly asking. but the full complexities can be set aside for our purposes. in saying this we assume that there is a way of making intelligible the idea that there is a rational relationship between a visual mental image and a proposition. Randa?” This would not make her use of such an image into an act of deliberation. a process that itself might involve the mental act of holding in mind the idea of Tuesday. he visualizes a warped rubber sheet with a ball rolling along it. who is deliberating about whether to promise to meet his son in Calgary on Tuesday. This mental act will produce as a product a notable nothing in consciousness or some idea or image tied to a competing promise. aiming through it to determine what to do. 212 . Of course. Deliberation. with the aim of reaching a conclusion. 6. “What is the answer. Or perhaps propositions can express or represent the conclusions of one’s deliberation.NOMY A RPAL Y AND TI MOT HY SCHROEDER but simply empties her mind. though plans can be the conclusion of practical deliberations (thanks to an anonymous referee for this point). Talk of mental acts that bring ideas and images to mind might be unhelpfully unspecific. Deliberation requires that one bring to mind ideas or images that are meant to have some rational relation to the propositions that would be the conclusion of one’s deliberation. at the least. in the service of reaching a conclusion about what to think or do. And perhaps propositions cannot express plans. and this image is relevant—in the context of his thinking—to the truth of the claim that a straight line in a curved space-time is one that could loop back on itself. Or consider Albert: when he deliberates about the implications of curved space-time for time travel. But Maria would not be deliberating if she were to proceed in this way. Consider Harold. And it might well be true that entering this state is a mental act that Maria can perform. Experiences of deliberation suggest a variety of perhaps helpful concrete examples.

If one is interested in deliberation as an active. “Oh. If imagery has content. Now.Deliberation and Acting for Reasons One line of evidence in favor of this thought is found in the rich literature on the content of sensory perception and imagery: see.) In thinking about deliberation. an act in which something with apparent (theoretical or practical) relevance is brought into consciousness as part of a larger plan to reach a theoretical or practical conclusion. (But we do not wish to commit to any particular claim about how imagery could be rationally related to beliefs. it is important to see that it is made up of agential units. When Harold searches his memory for possible conflicting commitments—a voluntary mental act—it might result in his consciously remembering that he has committed to going to a meeting of the planning council. agential process. in each case. in turn. Thinking of these basic agential units highlights the fact that extended deliberative actions are made up not just of these basic exercises of agency over thought but also of the occurrence in consciousness of thoughts and feelings that serve as input to deliberation but that are not brought to consciousness through exercises of agency. “ Yes. prompts (as it might be) another action. Y. Peacocke 1983 and Tye 1995. we are reminded that deliberation is often a far cruder process than the step-by-step valid deductions that philosophers enjoy describing. nonetheless. such as Harold’s saying to himself. I mustn’t forget the planning council meeting. might lead to other nonvoluntary spontaneous thoughts or feelings. it is important to focus on the most basic voluntary acts that make up an episode of deliberation. and these units are. reached on the basis of the fragment. until Harold settles what to do or gives 213 . and having happened. Seen on this fine-grained scale. then perhaps that content can stand in rational relations to the content of beliefs. when does that get out?” This act. The remembering happens in Harold. and Z and concluded that P. While it can be perfectly correct to say that in deliberating one considered X. the planning council!”—rather than a complete set of ideas entailing the conclusion—I can’t go to Calgary on Tuesday—that is. This conscious remembering itself is something that might well happen in Harold as a result of something he does directly without it being something he does directly ( just as sinking a free throw is something that happens as a result of something done directly—shooting the ball—without itself being done directly). for example. It is common for the process of deliberation to throw up a fragment—for example. it would be a mistake to think of this whole process as an indivisible unit. or it might lead to another voluntary mental act—and so it will go. Harold might suddenly say to himself.

The rational thing for Rebecca to do is surely to drive first and deliberate later. rational or irrational. or irrational. Rebecca deliberates on whether she should really be getting off the Interstate at exit 33. The word ‘rational’ in the expression ‘rational deliberation’ is thus not a redundant one: irrational deliberation is possible. First consider cases in which it is irrational to deliberate. deliberating is smart.NOMY A RPAL Y AND TI MOT HY SCHROEDER up (for the moment. We take a rational person to be a person who acts as he or she does for very good reasons and thinks as he or she does for very good reasons. 68). Newton was rational in holding his theory of universal gravitation.9 Furthermore. Thus. Deliberation is performed by performing a sequence of mental actions. we also take it that facts about being smart or stupid. ignoring the fact that she and her car are already on the off ramp for exit 33 and situated in swift-moving traffic —though she has no wish to get into an accident and knows that distraction in swift-moving traffic promotes accidents.7 In this way (as in so many others). the specific mental acts making up the process of deliberation will be reasonable or foolish. reasonable or unreasonable. consider some cases. perhaps once she has reached a calm surface street. like any action. Deliberating about the wisdom of taking exit 33 at just that moment is irrational. or anything similar. and sometimes it is stupid. Suppose that Katie 7. Thanks to Peter Railton for pointing out to us the importance of the back-andforth in deliberation between basic mental acts and the spontaneous thoughts and feelings such acts often engender. in spite of that theory’s falsity. To see the possibility of both sorts of irrational deliberation. or rational. in part. but in which the particular deliberative acts taken by the agent are irrational. in addition to their product being such. in our way of thinking about these things. 8. reasonable. even when it is rational to deliberate in general. We do not rely here on the idea that rationality is tied to what is ideal from the perspective of an omniscient outside observer. we would expect deliberation to be more or less reasonable or unreasonable on any given occasion. who expresses the view that “reason is inherently normative” (Raz 1999. extended deliberative acts are like extended overt bodily acts: they are made up of more elementary acts selected. 214 .8 Sometimes. at least) on settling what to do. and yet one deliberates. unreasonable. The second sort of case to be illustrated is the case in which the agent is rational to deliberate in general. Compare our arguments on this over the next few paragraphs to Joseph Raz. because of the ongoing consequences of working through the extended action. That is. a person can deliberate in a specific way that is rational or in a way that is downright foolish. 9. are relevant to claims about rationality and irrationality.

But suppose that Katie begins to consider ways to express ongoing enjoyment of something without using the phrase ‘I’m loving’. antagonistic thinking. and her emotions about it are influencing her effort to determine what to believe about grammar. she has taken a wrong turn. It does not mean to deliberate in a cool hour. then. because incorrect deliberation can be the product of a cool hour (this sometimes seems to happen. and this is worthwhile evidence to consider when determining what to think about a phrase’s grammaticality: in conservative circles the verb ‘to love’ is not used in the progressive. and others. If she proceeds in this way. There is a lot in the philosophical literature about rational deliberation. a phrase can be grammatical even though it is also optional as a means of expressing some idea. There is talk of people who deliberate correctly or who deliberate incorrectly.Deliberation and Acting for Reasons begins to consider the grammaticality of the phrase ‘I’m loving’. Is there. If she searches her memory for different uses of the phrase. As Katie knows. and the like (see Lazar 1999). or of people who deliberate under good conditions (“a cool hour”) or under bad conditions (in emotionally fraught times). wishful thinking).” Perhaps she finds the phrase “I’m loving” distasteful.’ ‘I relish’. while irrational deliberation is rarely mentioned. for example. Calling to mind a pop song. but there might be a linguistic change in progress. and sentences uttered by different people will bring to consciousness evidence that the phrase has widespread use. And Katie’s unreasonable deliberation exemplifies just one way in which deliberation can be improperly influenced: in addition to deliberation that is excessively oriented toward what we wish for (that is. there is also fearful thinking. she is probably proceeding reasonably. After all. but there is little mention of deliberating irrationally or unreasonably. Given that her goal is to determine what to think about the grammaticality of the phrase ‘I’m loving’. the existence of another way to say much the same thing as ‘I’m loving’ is no evidence one way or the other regarding the grammaticality of ‘I’m loving’ itself. she is acting unreasonably in her deliberation. it seems that Katie’s deliberation is now proceeding unreasonably— there is a sort of wishful thinking at work in her. “no one needs to say he’s loving something. an advertising campaign. She calls to mind the phrases ‘I’ve been enjoying. failures of which are best called ‘incorrectness in deliberation’ rather than ‘irrationality in deliberation’? Consider what it means to deliberate correctly. some independent standard for deliberation. or declares to herself the inessentiality of the expression ‘I’m loving’. when major economic policies are designed) and at least some correct deliberation is 215 . She says to herself. Each time she calls to mind another alternative expression.

If this had been the truth of the matter. It thus appears that incorrect deliberation is simply deliberation in violation of those requirements. and it was the habit he was acting on rather than his good reasons.NOMY A RPAL Y AND TI MOT HY SCHROEDER the product of “hot” hours (for example. It might be rational for Kiyoshi to turn on his television because there is a program he enjoys that has just started. He could also have turned on the television because of the good reasons to turn it on. Katie could also call the advertising campaign to mind because her friend insistently urges her to consider the advertising campaign. But she could call it to mind not because of whatever it is that makes it reasonable to do so (that is. In other words. Likewise. Acts of deliberation can be not only closer to or further from what the reasonable or rational person would have done but also actions performed for good or bad reasons. consider Kiyoshi. not for the right reasons) but because she has been thinking about the advertising campaign off and on for a week. again. and this is a good moment for a pleasant diversion. when righteous indignation sharpens thoughts on the subject of human rights). and then there is the further step of acting for one’s reasons. A crucial claim for our article is that what is true of turning on the television is also true of deliberation. But Kiyoshi could have done what is reasonable entirely by accident: he has a bad habit of turning on his television when he walks in the door. and so would have called to mind the campaign regardless of its relevance—“just out of stupid habit. for a course on marketing. Perhaps the friend is inarticulate about why the advertising campaign is relevant evidence (or even says something false about why it is worth considering). correct deliberation is in conformity to the requirements of rationality. It could be reasonable for Katie to call to mind the advertising campaign based on the phrase ‘I’m loving it’ when deliberating about whether the phrase is grammatical. Under this condition. Thus. When one acts for a reason one does not simply act or believe in accordance with the reason: one’s accordance with the reason is a result of the fact that one is acting for the reason. as well as without such things as selfdeception or wishful thinking—in a way suited to determining what to think or do. and yet the friend will not relent until Katie accedes and deliberates about what relevance the advertising campaign might have as evidence regarding the grammaticality of using ‘love’ in the progressive. There is acting in accordance with one’s reasons. then Katie would have done a reasonable or rational thing but not have done it for the reasons there are to do so.” as she might have said. Deliberating well or correctly—the thing that cool hours make more likely—is deliberating without fallacies and logical errors. Katie calls to mind a relevant idea in 216 .

Only a language-using creature can reason and deliberate. . but again she does not do so for the reasons she has to do so. . 2. conceptualize the features to which she is responding as reason-giving. practical reasoning. only in the most tenuous sense can we say that they have reasons for acting as they do. however. and so forth) is crucial to thinking and acting for reasons is widespread in philosophy. . (Barry 2007. the reason must enter into a process of practical reasoning. For rational action to be possible. rational action seems to embody a distinctly rational form of motivation in which the agent guides herself by the thought that an action is recommended by reason. (Chan 1995. Nothing so far should be very controversial. are strong evidence that there is such a thing as acting for the right reasons (and for better or worse reasons) even when the action is deliberation itself. weigh the conflict- 217 . Though most philosophers interested in deliberation have not provided us with theories of deliberation or particularly naturalistic examples (Seidman 2008 provides one noteworthy exception). And yet it seems to us that following the consequences of this account of deliberation leads to some very controversial theses indeed. 10) There are reasons why animals act as they do. most of them have said nothing incompatible with the foregoing—which in any case we take to be largely familiar and conservative. This guiding thought need not always be explicitly articulated. and some of these steps can become programmed into his brain and be carried out automatically. an agent undertakes to act in light of her belief about what she has reason to do. I do not insist that every stage of the agent’s reasoning be consciously carried out. the agent must. In this sense. Consider the following claims: When acting rationally. Cases like these. .Deliberation and Acting for Reasons deliberating about what to believe. She chooses her action because it is supported by reasons. . Deliberation and Responding to Reasons The idea that deliberation (sometimes also known as reflection. but . reasoning. The agent may have developed short-cuts in reasoning. theoretical reasoning. 140 and n. 232) To make a reason for doing something the agent’s reason for doing it. at some level of awareness. displaying a contrast between deliberating about something for the right reason and deliberating about something for no good reason or for no reason that bears on what to think or do.

Once the space of reflective awareness—reflective distance. 31 – 32) An agent [must] take herself to have good reasons for the option she chooses. then we take that consideration for a reason. . one we can endorse or reject. had we still been operating under the control of instinctive or learned responses. (Korsgaard 1997. . And when we can endorse the operation of a ground of belief or action on us as a ground. and who believes that going to the dentist will cure the toothache] to act rationally. 222) Once we are aware that we are inclined to believe or to act in a certain way on the ground of a certain representation. and absolutely require. Regress Objections It might be suggested that an act of deliberation can be an action taken for reasons because it is an action with an appropriate relationship to a previous occasion of deliberation. reasons to believe and act as we do. and so must be able to endorse the operation of that ground. focusing on the special case of the act of deliberation itself. before we can act or believe. we find ourselves faced with a decision. as I like to call it— opens up between the potential ground of a belief or action and the belief or action itself. . goals and values. whether we should do that—whether we should believe or act in the way that the representation calls for or not. 239) For the person [who wants not to have a toothache. 343) This selection of quotations strikes us as representative of a substantial portion of the literature on thinking and acting for reasons (if the reader finds some of them unclear as expressions of ideas about deliberation. now becomes something experienced as a consideration in favor of a certain belief or action instead. we must step across that distance. [And her taking herself to have these good reasons] must not change under appropriate reflection. There is. [W]e now both can have. . What would have been the cause of our belief or action. and come to a decision to make a choice in the light of reasons. . thus. (Hacker 2007. namely. some reason to explore the weaknesses inherent in the idea that deliberation—somehow—makes thinking and acting for reasons possible. (Tiberius 2002. she must be motivated by her own recognition of the appropriate conceptual connection between the belief and the desire. the significance of particular paragraphs will be made clearer in the next section). . To this we now turn. (Korsgaard 2009.NOMY A RPAL Y AND TI MOT HY SCHROEDER ing claims of the facts it knows in the light of its desires. 3. Call this approach “Previous 218 .

done for a reason (or reasons. his present acting (that is. that every action is. as quoted above. he not only does what he has reason to do but does it for a reason. Railton (2009) also emphasizes the role of habit. And that is why. So perhaps there is a theory of action within which it is possible to say that irrational actions are performed for reasons that do not justify taking the action rather than some alternatives. we will stick to saying “a reason”). instead of holding that every action is taken for a reason. his present searching of his memory) for reasons is constituted by his acting out of a habit. but still for that reason. perhaps.Deliberation and Acting for Reasons Deliberation. What about actions. choosing the left-hand bale of hay is not something one does for a reason (because one has no reason to prefer it over the right-hand bale). for example. 219 . but Railton is very clear that he rejects anything like Previous Deliberation. policy. and one does have a reason for this coinciding action (perhaps. by necessity. Or. The role of habit in making deliberation responsive to reasons appears to be invoked by Chan 1995. that appear to be taken for no reason? An anonymous referee helpfully suggests that. and perhaps the same theory will allow that one bale of hay can be chosen for a reason that nonetheless does not justify choosing that bale rather than the alternative bale. The action need not be completely justified. however—perhaps as a result of having a slightly different framing of the issues from the one that concerns us. His present deliberating for reasons is constituted by his acting in accordance with the conclusion of previous deliberation about how to deliberate in such cases. Harold engaged in some deliberation.11 Since deliberation is an action.10 We assume. Hookway (1999) and Herman (1993). when he searches his memory for such promises. to feed a hungry donkey). but it needs to be at least somewhat rationalized: done for a very bad. It is emphasized by. we can accept this suggestion: it does not change our arguments. and not for no reason at all. performed for (inadequate) reasons. or virtue that was engendered by his previous deliberative conclusion about how to deliberate. On this suggestion. Hookway does not clearly endorse Previous Deliberation. Yet irrational actions still seem to be actions. there is no rationalizing explanation of why he or she does what is irrational rather than what is rational.” In the past. perhaps. deliberation cannot be deliberation without 10. in a slightly more sophisticated vein. If this is the best way to sort out these actiontheoretic issues. But notice that when a person acts irrationally. at the end of which he embraced the principle that he should not make a promise without considering (that is. we might hold the weaker thesis that every action coincides in the actual world with an action performed for a reason. It need not be done from overwhelming reasons or even good reasons. 11. deliberating upon) possible conflicting prior promises. but it is an action that coincides with choosing either of the bales. foolish reason. along with Anscombe (2000) and philosophers as different as Davidson (1980) and Korsgaard (1996). like choosing one of two equally appealing bales of hay.

a second act of deliberation in which the first act is deliberated upon and found reasonable—and on this basis. simultaneous act of deliberation. Consider the act of deliberation (assume for simplicity that there is only one) that results in the conclusion. But infinitely many distinct mental actions cannot be performed at the same time by finite agents. What. and would not have the power to rationalize the present act of deliberation.NOMY A RPAL Y AND TI MOT HY SCHROEDER something else rationalizing it. That previous deliberative conclusion was reached through one or more acts of deliberation. and so on. To be an act of deliberation it has to be done for a reason. for no matter how far back in a deliberating agent’s life we go.13 12. To be a deliberative act. And so we are set off on a regress. suggested in conversation by Gil Harman. then.” A defender of Present Deliberation might hold that. That is. Hacker (2007) and Korsgaard (2009). as Previous Deliberation requires. Previous Deliberation thus fails. quoted above. the regress is a vicious one. we also embrace the process by which we reach these conclusions. to deliberate at all. 13. avoids the regress by means of self-reference. The viciousness of this regress lies in its requirement that. with each act having a distinct goal. and so it requires a third deliberative act. and so not an act of deliberation. as we reach deliberative conclusions. both appear to endorse Present Deliberation. also begins a vicious regress. the fact that the first act is performed for a reason is established. as it were. it would have to be some prior act of deliberation. Suppose that one act of deliberation is made to be an action done for a reason by a previous deliberative conclusion. Call this approach “Present Deliberation. without being done for some reason or other. It might be suggested that an act of deliberation is an action taken for a reason because it is an action with an appropriate relationship to another. Further. like Previous Deliberation. perhaps. be stored in a finite agent. makes it true of the prior deliberative act that it is an action done for a reason? What rationalizes it? According to Previous Deliberation. If it were not done for any reason —if it were not rationalized by something—it would not be an action. the second deliberative act required by Present Deliberation requires that something make it the case that it is an act done for a reason. The suggestion is that acts of deliberation 220 . we must always find a prior act of deliberation in order to satisfy the theory.12 Present Deliberation. an agent engage in infinitely many distinct acts of deliberation simultaneously. A variant of Present Deliberation. each deliberative act contains. Infinitely many implicit beliefs can.

” Perhaps it is true that. it would have to be true that had he deliberated about whether he had reason to reach the theoretical conclusion that it would have been reasonable to call to mind possible conflicts. but the need for counterfactuals about how he would reason about reasoning about reasoning about . Suppose it is true that had Harold deliberated about the reasonableness of calling to mind promises that might conflict with meeting his son in Calgary. Harold’s ability to support these counterfactuals about reasoning about reasoning . found in the next section. Possible Deliberation appears to be defended by Tiberius (2002). . 294.Deliberation and Acting for Reasons It might be suggested. Now. were Harold to deliberate about it. and so (by Possible Deliberation). because his intellectual abilities in this regard are (like all of ours) modestly finite. will give out. . in the light of the foregoing. he would have reached the (theoretical) conclusion that it would be reasonable of him to do so. And perhaps it is this fact about what conclusion he would have reached that makes it true that Harold’s act of trying to call these promises to mind is indeed a reasonable (or unreasonable) act. And from here it just gets worse. . he would have reached the theoretical conclusion that. . 221 . that an act of deliberation is performed for reasons because it is an action with an appropriate relationship to a merely possible act of deliberation. 14. about his reasoning about his calling to mind possible promises that would conflict with meeting his son in Calgary. there is no problem with there are undertaken for reasons just in case the act of deliberation judges itself to be reasonable. . on the assumption that believing for a (better or worse) reason is what makes one responsible for one’s beliefs. faces a serious regress problem. if Harold had deliberated. is infinite. in addition to judging whatever else it judges. At a certain point. That is.14 Possible Deliberation. The content of Katie’s deliberation (for example) might then be as follows: there is an advertising campaign using the phrase ‘I’m loving’ and this is a reasonable thing to be considering. Call this approach “Possible Deliberation. . yes. It would also seem to be defended in McGeer and Pettit 2002. But Harman’s proposal does not solve other problems for Present Deliberation. as Harold must support infinitely many ever-more baroque counterfactuals about what he would have reasoned about his reasoning about his reasoning about his reasoning . Harold would conclude that he is being reasonable (or unreasonable) in trying to call to mind promises that might conflict with meeting his son in Calgary. like its counterparts. quoted above. it would have been reasonable to reach the theoretical conclusion that it would be reasonable to call to mind possible conflicts. he would have done so for a reason.

222 . because how he would ideally reason is via deliberative acts that would themselves be acts performed for reasons—acts that would themselves be reasonable—and so no appeal to ideal reasoning can be made in explicating what it is to deliberate for a reason on pain of ontological circularity. she must now deliberate in the manner that she would. And with it we exhaust our imaginations.NOMY A RPAL Y AND TI MOT HY SCHROEDER being infinitely many possible Harolds. foolishly.15 We have no objection to the idea that thinking and acting for reasons relies on some mechanism—one that could be validated by an ideal observer who deliberated about the operations of the mechanism. But it is hard to see how this view makes progress over Possible Deliberation. It will not help to appeal to how Harold would ideally reason. There are surely other ways to defend the claim that a deliberative act is performed for a reason just in case it bears the right relation to some other deliberative act. (and so on for another fifty iterations) . views that do not ordinarily come up when she deliberates about this or that but do come up when she deliberates about how to deliberate about this or that. Presumably the combined view holds that Harold deliberates as he does for reasons if his deliberation stems from an actual mechanism that ensures he deliberates as he would have done had he deliberated on how to deliberate. This sets off the regress problem again. but there is a serious problem with it being the case that Harold could have had an opinion about what it would be reasonable for him to believe about his reasoning about his reasoning about . The combined view is also subject to the problems raised in the next section: if Katie has foolish views about how she ought to deliberate. Possible Deliberation is no more tenable than Previous or Present Deliberation. about his reasoning about calling to mind possible promises. then this combined view must hold that to deliberate for good reasons in the present. This is the viciousness of the regress. . because this is just too complex a thing for Harold to have a genuine opinion about. . . A view that combines elements of Present Deliberation and Possible Deliberation is the view that Harold deliberates as he does for reasons if his deliberation stems from an actual mechanism that ensures that he does whatever he would have done had he deliberated. validate upon considering her deliberative process. which again would have had to be for a reason. But there is a related idea that is unsupportable and that we reject: the idea that what makes the mechanism one suited to ensure that we think and act for reasons is reducible to facts about counterfactual reasoning about the mechanism. More on this below. . But we have covered the main options that seem worth covering and 15. notice.

nonetheless. It seems that acts of deliberation are performed for reasons (good or bad) in virtue of something other than their relation to deliberation. People who manage to constrain their deliberations in these ways seem less reasonable. have embraced foolish principles constraining deliberation: to believe nothing in the future without seeing a proof. More problems appear when we turn the discussion from acting for reasons per se to acting for good reasons. perhaps as a result of adolescent philosophical discussions. and Possible Deliberation. For Past Deliberation. consider people who.Deliberation and Acting for Reasons have found no defense that succeeds. Present Deliberation requires an act of deliberation that is not phenomenologically familiar yet that should be as easy to experience as ordinary deliberation itself. common sense reasserting itself unnoticed). there are various other problems for Previous. 4. At the very moment at which Harold consciously tries to call to mind competing promises that would prevent him from promising to meet his son in Calgary. Present. to do nothing without first asking how it will benefit me. in virtue of their conformity to their chosen principles. Must we believe that they have. Problems for these views arise from the possibility of people deliberating about how to deliberate but reaching foolish conclusions. Yet Present Deliberation requires that there be such an act. or acting rationally or reasonably. or possible act of deliberation. present. Consider the view that acting for good reasons depends on a previous. Other Objections Apart from regresses. managed at some time or other to have deliberated about how to deliberate in sufficiently broad terms that now their acts of deliberation are all capable of being taken for good (or bad) reasons? This seems required by Previous Deliberation but unlikely to be true. So the second deliberative act required by Previous Deliberation would seem not to be a conscious act at all—which makes it an act not of deliberation but of some other kind. And then. they deliberate in ways that are more 223 . not more. Quite salient is the fact that the experience of deliberating as to how to deliberate is rare and the experience of deliberating about how to deliberate about how to deliberate almost nonexistent. Many people seem to get by in life with a bare minimum of reflection upon their own thought processes. If they neglect their principles (as they often do. he is not (if he is anything like us) consciously evaluating the reasonableness of this conscious search of his memory.

17 As before. 520) seems to endorse something like Present Recognition in writing that for a mental transition to happen for a reason. The obvious objection to Present Recognition is the same that was just made to Present Deliberation: that foolish approving attitudes would seem unable to make otherwise foolish deliberative acts into ones performed for good reasons. But in a footnote. similarly. or otherwise taken (cognitively) to be appropriately licensed. Niko Kolodny (2005. Present Recognition appears to be endorsed by Barry (2007) and Korsgaard (1997). (One of us has discussed such cases at length in Arpaly 2000 and Arpaly 2003.”16 Strictly speaking. 675) raises similar objections to a similar move. But Present Recognition is worth addressing. 2. 17. and a judgment is an action). and no contemporaneous endorsement of her thinking can change this fact. it would seem. it also falls prey to the sort of objections being raised in this section to Past. we find this a bit puzzling but suspect that the problems do not go away by burying the putative awareness in the unconscious. thought to be justified by the reasons before the agent. consciously believed reasonable. while in violation of their most recent settled policies for deliberation. it would seem that if Katie is getting caught up with thinking of alternatives to the phrase ‘I’m loving’ 16. her subjective contentment with the course of her deliberation does not make it reasonable. Present. Wedgwood (2006.NOMY A RPAL Y AND TI MOT HY SCHROEDER reasonable. She is failing to act on the reasons she has to think about other things if her goal is to determine the grammaticality of the phrase ‘I’m loving’. Thus the view makes it quite unclear how an act of deliberation could be unreasonable so long as an agent is. Present Recognition might fall outside our purview. Call this variant “Present Recognition. Since there is no such thing (in our understanding) as unconscious awareness. and Possible Deliberation. at the moment of deliberation. Yet. quoted above. subjectively content with the act. A variant on Present Deliberation holds that an act of deliberation is one performed for good reasons just in case it is an act that is believed reasonable. 224 . such unreasonable acts of deliberation seem common enough: if Katie is deliberating about the grammaticality of ‘I’m loving’ and her deliberation has gone down an unreasonable path in which she is asking herself about all the alternatives that exist to that phrase. that an utterly unreasonable deliberation about how to deliberate has the power to make the deliberated-upon deliberation itself reasonable. it must result from awareness of the justification for the transition. chap. as we have seen.) Present Deliberation entails. Kolodny wants to allow that unconscious. because the recognition it requires is not an action (unless it is a judgment. automatic awareness is possible.

Her conscious belief is simply mistaken. and normally she does not revise her beliefs in accordance with it (though occasionally she does. then it seems not to be the sort of thing that could render an act one that is performed for good reasons. “Lots of people seem to say ‘I’m loving’ without scare-quoting it or anything. acting for good reasons when she says to herself. when this belief spontaneously occurs to her while she is reasoning). But suppose Katie has some unreasonable beliefs about good reasoning. In particular. we end by recognizing a process outside of deliberation and voluntary action such that beliefs can be formed for good reasons via that process. and she has said it to herself for the reason that it is relevant information. And thus we find that if we start by holding Present Recognition.” She is trying to determine the grammaticality of the phrase. This belief of hers is unreasonable.Deliberation and Acting for Reasons while deliberating about its grammaticality. Present Recognition fares no better than Present Deliberation. Why would mere faith in one’s reasonableness. So it must be something else. Possible Deliberation faces these same problems stemming from the possibility of foolish views about deliberation. How does this lucky coincidence justify the claim that the act was not merely in accordance with rationality but in fact performed for good reasons?) But if the belief in one’s own reasonableness is believed for good reasons. A related objection asks: is an agent’s conscious belief that he or she is proceeding reasonably (or whatever other variant of Present Recognition is preferred) itself believed for good reasons? If it is not. But in contexts in which she theorizes about how her reasoning should be 225 . Katie is. suppose Katie believes that no piece of evidence is worth considering if it is not conclusive. on pain of circularity or regress. held for no good reason. and saying this to herself is rehearsing relevant information. It cannot be because the belief was the product of appropriate deliberation about what to believe. of course. then Katie is deliberating irrationally—even if she consciously believes that she is proceeding very reasonably. or otherwise has a positive cognitive attitude toward her responsiveness to reasons. then one is merely lucky that one’s act is as rationally acceptable as one guessed it to be. be something that could actually render one’s acts reasonable? (If the action happens to be in conformity to the requirements of rationality. then we can look back to when the belief was formed and ask how it was that the belief was formed for good reasons. Finally. So long as this process is equally capable of generating actions for good reasons (and at this point there is no reason to deny it). suppose. the conclusion is exactly that toward which we are pressing. As a result.

And if so. because the fact that Katie would reject her own deliberative act as unreasonable makes it true. Why should beliefs about the nature of deliberation be so much more powerful? So we take it that Katie can deliberate for reasons even though her deliberation does not conform to her belief about how such deliberation should proceed.NOMY A RPAL Y AND TI MOT HY SCHROEDER conducted. that her own deliberative act actually was unreasonable. and also it seems that believing the contrary requires attributing too much power to single metatheoretical beliefs. according to Possible Deliberation. plus their belief that they have a mysterious pain. But Tiberius does not consider the question of whether these agents would be acting irrationally if they had never deliberated (and so never concluded that they ought to start by consulting an astrologer) but had simply acted on their belief that doctors know what to do for people with mysterious pains. which is that Katie can be reasonable in actuality while being counterfactually disposed to reject her own reasonableness. We think this is false. The fact—if it is one—that agents could undermine their justification for taking this action via reasoning on the basis of a foolish deliberative principle does not change what the agents can do for good reasons in the absence of such misguided deliberation. plus (if needed) their desire not to be in pain. The mere possession of a foolish belief about what counts as evidence worthy of consideration in deliberation deprives Katie of the capacity to deliberate for good reasons. Agents who believe that they should consult an astrologer as part of ideal deliberation and who. as a result. this belief comes to the fore all the time. It goes against what seems the most natural interpretation of the case. do not get proper medical treatment for something act rationally in not getting the medical treatment (if doing so follows from the astrological advice). It seems to us that this scenario is possible. according to Tiberius. We do not think that believing (in the grips of bad psychology) that every act is selfish can make every act by that agent selfish. Possible Deliberation must say it is impossible. Tiberius (2002) defends her form of Possible Deliberation against this objection. there is something wrong with Possible Deliberation. It seems to us that these agents would be acting for a good reason if they were to just spontaneously visit a walk-in clinic as they were walking past one. 226 . And yet. Her defense focuses on making it plausible that agents who force themselves to conform to foolish practical principles act rationally in so doing.

called ‘thinking and acting for reasons par excellence’. one that does rely upon deliberation? That is. Let there be one sense of what it is to think or act for a reason. intelligent (or irrational. Is There an Ambiguity? We have shown that there must be a way of thinking and acting for reasons independent of deliberation and that this way of thinking and acting for reasons must be what makes acts of deliberation more or less reasonable as actions. a weaker sense in which deliberation is not necessary and a stronger sense in which deliberation is necessary after all?18 There is rarely anything wrong with making distinctions in philosophy. unintelligent)? Are these thoughts and actions ones that are certain to be more rational than they would have been otherwise? Our answer to all of these questions is ‘no’. it is worth asking what the status is of beliefs formed and actions performed for reasons par excellence. are there perhaps two senses of ‘thinking for reasons’ and ‘acting for reasons’. and validated. reasonable. that is instantiated only when the thought or act in question has been considered. not very reasonable.Deliberation and Acting for Reasons 5. and let there be another. Are these actions the only ones that are properly said to be actions as opposed to mere activities? (Are these beliefs the only ones that are properly said to be beliefs as opposed to mere cognitions?) Are these thoughts and actions the only ones that are properly said to be rational. we see no special role for this sense of ‘acting for reasons’ in the philosophical literatures with which we are most familiar. There are philosophers who distinguish the “mere activity” of some animals from the full-blooded 18. the sense under discussion in this work so far. Begin with the question of whether “thinking” and “acting” for reasons in a sense wholly independent of deliberation (not “par excellence”) really counts as thinking or acting. We thank an anonymous referee for urging us to consider this possibility. however. for reasons found in what has come before. by the thinker or actor’s own deliberative processes. 227 . then while we are happy to grant the existence of thinking and acting for reasons par excellence. and we see nothing to object to in the present proposal. sensible. It is the sense of thinking and acting for reasons that is not “par excellence”—plain thinking and acting for reasons—that has all of the properties we are most interested in when we are interested in thinking and acting for reasons. foolish. With this distinction made. And if the answer to all of these questions is ‘no’. But it is worth asking: is there another way—a different way—of thinking and acting for reasons.

For instance. becomes open to question. See. then what typically happens when one opens the fridge and sees everything that one expects but butter is that one comes to believe that there is no more butter. many of the essays in Velleman 2000. that being moved by reasons par excellence is a necessary condition for being a belief or action.20 19. and true actions. and this counts as a belief even in the absence of deliberation on butter’s availability. 228 . if we have any grasp of belief. there are all of the apparent actions people perform and the apparent beliefs they form wholly independently of deliberation. Moving beyond deliberation.) Deliberation is also subject to the common disorders of voluntary action. the reasons for the dwindling memberships of unions in the United States. in the case of salt passing) about whether to pass the salt. So consider the case of the apparent act of deliberating. to lose any grasp one might have had on what actions and beliefs are. Someone wishing to nonetheless diminish the status of these putative actions and beliefs by denying them these names could always reserve the words ‘action’ and ‘belief’ for things upon which there has been deliberation—but then the philosophical interest of true beliefs. but deliberation is a paradigmatic mental action. To deny these theses in the cases of ordinary adult language-using human beings (at least) is. is one that might move one for good reasons in the absence of deliberation upon those reasons. and is so whether or not one deliberates (as rarely happens. for example. say. as opposed to shmactions.19 Perhaps the philosopher interested in thinking and acting for reasons par excellence would want to hold. Deliberation itself is very rarely something on which one has deliberated.NOMY A RPAL Y AND TI MOT HY SCHROEDER actions that only people can perform. an action one can perform—like any action—voluntarily. from which all genuine action must stem on Velleman’s account. We note that although Velleman’s views have a strongly Kantian cast. then passing the salt when asked to “please pass the salt” is an action. should the reader wish to do so. Likewise. in a similar vein. (The reader can experience the voluntary aspect of deliberation by now electing to take a minute to deliberate on. which is further evidence that it is an ordinary voluntary action in general (regardless of whether one has just deliberated about how to deliberate). one can decide that it is best to cease to deliberate about how best to flirt with someone unsuitable only to then be akratic and unable to stop thinking about it. as opposed to schmeliefs (things just like beliefs except for not having been deliberated upon). it seems to us. he need not fall prey to any of the arguments in this article. The desire to make sense to oneself. 20. If we have any grasp of action.

without any presumption that deliberation was involved. whether a better or a worse one. Oscar Wilde. 2) gives witty conversation as an example of possibly rational action without deliberation. So if we have shown that there can exist actions that are not performed for reasons par excellence. But this too seems wrong.21 Similar thoughts apply in the epistemic domain.” he quickly answered. As we held earlier in the article. A more intelligent person would be shown to be more intelligent—would have his or her rational faculties on full display—in drawing the same conclusion without engaging in any deliberation at all. And the same reasoning. It would have been less witty and a lesser display of intelligence had Wilde deliberated before his quip.” A conversation like this can happen much too fast for any deliberation to take place and surprise even the pun-maker. smart. it might still be held that thinking and acting that does not happen for reasons par excellence must always be somewhat deficient in its rationality. It is likewise not required for these actions or beliefs to be more or less rational. Presented with the challenge “the queen. “the queen is no subject. this is a big part of what makes a great conversationalist. Arpaly (2003. intelligence. and a paradigmatically witty. intelligent action as well. There are cases in which human beings cannot draw the correct epistemic conclusions for good reasons without relying on deliberation (for example. for example.Deliberation and Acting for Reasons So thinking and acting for reasons par excellence is not required for performing actions or forming beliefs. 229 . see below)—but that such cases exist does not show that every case is one 21. this strongly suggests that Wilde’s quip strikes us as performed for excellent practical and aesthetic reasons. and so without any presumption that it was performed for reasons par excellence. about complex philosophical matters. chap. nothing can be an action without being performed for some reason or other. well-chosen. Yet Wilde’s answering is a paradigmatic action. Imagine. should hold for belief as well as action. who according to one story bragged that he could make a pun on any subject. or reasonableness. It is a true dullard who concludes that he or she is out of butter only after deliberating upon the fact that no butter is in evidence in the refrigerator and after concluding that the absence of visual evidence is a reason to believe in the absence of butter. even if this much is agreed to. performed for better or worse reasons. then we have shown that there are actions that are performed for better or worse reasons without being performed for reasons par excellence. it seems. Now. in a way that warrants this kind of praise.

contingent. the value of deliberation is not normally questioned. We take it that. while there is room for the idea that there is such a thing as responding to reasons par excellence. nonvoluntary processes. there is no particularly interesting property that attaches to all and only instances of responding to reasons in this way. So we conclude that it is possible to act for reasons in virtue of things— processes—that are themselves nondeliberative and nonvoluntary. In short. There is an important role for deliberation to play in our thinking and acting for reasons. People whose deliberations about whether or not there is any butter do not rest until a proof is at hand are people whose deliberations are likely to harm their epistemic status. than the theoretical and practical conclusions that would have been reached in the absence of deliberation. not help it. What is the value of deliberation? Within the theory of rationality. no other acts are required: acts of deliberation were the only promising candidates from the realm of actions. had they only not deliberated (and so not drawn upon their thesis that all beliefs need proofs for their justification). in the light of deliberation about one’s reasons.NOMY A RPAL Y AND TI MOT HY SCHROEDER in which the only way to believe something for a good reason is to have first thought it over. Similarly for their practical counterparts. 230 . we think it natural to generalize: it is possible to believe for reasons and to act for reasons in all sorts of domains via nondeliberative. We now face an unusual question. as we will now turn to demonstrating. And while we have only argued that this is true in the realm of deliberation. People with a foolish theory of how to deliberate can make themselves less reasonable than they would otherwise be by deliberating. there is the evidence (drawn on in the previous section) that theoretical and practical conclusions reached on the basis of deliberation can be less reasonable. then the question of deliberation’s value naturally arises. But this role is one that is intermittent. less rational. and modest. if acts of deliberation are not required. 6. The Role of Deliberation We concluded that acts of deliberation are in no way required for other acts of deliberation to be performed for reasons. but if people are endowed with the capacity to think and act for reasons without deliberation. they would likely have believed what was reasonable on the grounds that made it reasonable. Finally.

just tell me whatever you think. Harold’s thinking will tend to be 231 . and more. as a result. Other causal processes are at work within our minds in addition to those that mediate our ND abilities to think and act for reasons. Another barrier to the optimal use of our ND abilities to think and act for reasons is generated when beliefs (and perhaps also plans. and gaze at the ceiling in preference to the attractive person. if one hopes to find something witty to say. (They can even make it difficult to act on the reasons one has to use a verb conjugated for the third person singular or to move the fork in one’s hand to one’s mouth. What room is there for deliberation to contribute to thinking and acting for reasons? Consider first some more carefully selected ways in which we can enhance our ND abilities to think and act for good reasons. To enhance their ND reason-responding. Wit without a set of topics to organize it is challenging. Caffeine and a good night’s sleep and a bite to eat all enhance our ND abilities to think and act for reasons. These abilities can be diminished by distraction: a television in the background. or encourage a conversational partner to “never mind how other people think about the problem. or do other things displaying ND reason-responding at its best. Quick wit and even ordinary grammaticality can suffer from low blood sugar. people will take advantage of available sources of inspiration: glance about for topics to comment on or listen to the very particular cadences of a conversational partner’s speech. generate philosophical insight. from sitting in view of a distracting television display. from background emotional distress. But it is also evident that there are obstacles to thinking and acting for the very best reasons using only our ND capacities. the presence of a very attractive person—all can make it hard to maintain witty banter.Deliberation and Acting for Reasons Thinking and acting for reasons via nondeliberative. nonvoluntary (‘ND’) processes has an impressive role in our lives. noisy children running around.” when seeking to jump-start philosophical insight. room for various interventions to enhance our ND abilities to think and act for reasons.) One thing people do to enhance their ND abilities to think and act for reasons is to dismiss the distractions: turn off the television. but these are purely nonrational interventions. There is. and so forth) are not at the foreground of our awareness. and new philosophical insights are often promoted by being asked new questions. send the children to play outside. If Harold’s son asks him to meet in Calgary on Tuesday. Another familiar obstacle to our ND abilities to think and act for good reasons is lack of inspiration. desires.

but it is also clearly not implemented in human beings with optimal efficiency. taking the place of an overt action that would improve ND reason-responding. all else being equal. and Tuesday falls on the twentieth. desired. this is much less likely to come to his mind than a regular Tuesday meeting of the city planning council. Calgary. Harold had agreed five weeks ago to lunch with someone on the twentieth. These sorts of voluntary overt actions have corresponding partners in deliberation. When these actions involve contents that are relevant to theoretical or practical conclusions one is pursuing. Automatic retrieval is clearly possible (we spontaneously recall relevant facts all the time). Of course. even when relevant. it might be that mentally refocusing one’s attention is going to be more effective in reaching a theoretical conclusion than giving oneself a slap to the face and muttering “Get a grip!” 232 . In this way. something about causation” and otherwise use mental behavior to block the effects of potentially distracting stimuli. Things one believes (plans. and Tuesday. Consider first dealing with distraction. one can use verbal imagery to say to oneself “I need to say something about causation. Harold’s thinking will also tend to reflect ideas that he has dwelt on recently.NOMY A RPAL Y AND TI MOT HY SCHROEDER most responsive to the contents of his mind that were just under discussion and to those that are most linked (by association?) to the ideas of meeting. But sometimes acts of deliberation are more effective than most overt acts available: if emotional distress is getting in the way of philosophical contemplation. and so forth) but that are not being thought about at the moment seem less efficacious in influencing one’s thoughts. sometimes acts of deliberation are a poor substitute for more vigorous action: if the kids are making a ruckus. deliberation can be a covert action that improves ND reason-responding. and so forth) but currently or recently thought about. there are a number of overt acts one can take to combat the problem: Harold can keep a day planner and consult it. than things equally believed (planned. one can take mental actions to deal with distraction: one can refocus one’s attention onto one’s question or the evidence already called to mind. If. and going to Calgary requires departing well before lunch. desires. saying “Is causation always lawful?” repeatedly to oneself is probably a less effective way of dealing with distraction than sending them out to the yard. for instance. these actions are acts of deliberation. In deliberation. But Harold is in some danger of not taking into account facts he knows but that he has not much thought about recently in any guise. especially ones he has dwelt on repeatedly. for instance. Fortunately.

performed through ND mechanisms that make the deliberative acts themselves more or less reasonable acts: reasonable at promoting the end of enhancing our ability to think about other things and act in other ways. Next. in the hope of stumbling across a topic of humor that particularly suits the people involved or the ceremonial occasion. There are acts of deliberation that can cope with a dearth of inspiration in the external world and. (If we are skilled deliberators. while on another occasion her best bet would be to turn inward and rely on deliberative acts to gain insights into how to improve her speech.Deliberation and Acting for Reasons Note that the deliberative acts just described would themselves be actions performed for reasons as the result of ND mechanisms.” or approaching them from a different organizational principle or perspective. One other circumstance in which deliberation helps (the last we will mention. such as browsing through a photo album with pictures of the bride. Acts of deliberation by their nature bring ideas and images into consciousness and so are excellent vehicles for the promotion of neglected facts—so long as something (some ND process that guides deliberative acts) causes the act of deliberation to focus on the buried information in the first place. Rather. for good reasons. deliberation is brought to bear as its own sort of action. we tend to use techniques such as putting the same ideas into different “words. just as overt action might.and groom-to-be. If Heather is planning to make a funny speech at a wedding and finds herself lacking inspiration.) Sometimes we need to check an encyclopedia and so forth for such purposes. enhance ND reason-responding. But she might also engage in deliberative acts. in this way. it does not do so as an alien intrusion into an ND process. And it might be that on a given occasion Heather would be better off turning to the world outside her head for inspiration. but often deliberation takes us far enough. consider dealing with the problems generated by information that has not recently come to conscious attention. Consider now dealing with lack of inspiration. she could take overt actions that might help. “looking” (as we say) for potential problems. we use a number of techniques in deliberation: going over a conclusion or an argument again. though we make no claim to being exhaustive) is when we 233 . such as calling to mind things that comedians often talk about. When deliberation is brought to bear to enhance the efficacy of ND mechanisms for thinking and acting for reasons. in order to enhance the probability that we will call to mind buried information. To make it more likely that we will recall such buried information.

It also depends on the circumstances: deliberation can suddenly be required for a task not normally requiring it if one is overwhelmed by fear or another strong emotion. each one of which can be performed without deliberation. then learn the value of talking to ourselves aloud. and so does shopping for groceries. and foundational. can be reached without the aid of deliberation). itself. and finally learn the value of voluntarily generating auditory images of our voices. Consider complex sums: faced with the task of adding 3. for some reason or another. then we can perform a sequence of mental actions with the final result being that we can draw the correct conclusion about the sum of 3.NOMY A RPAL Y AND TI MOT HY SCHROEDER are faced with puzzles that are. and so on. we first learn the value of talking to our parents. Whether or not a particular task calls for this treatment depends on the individual’s capacity for ND reason-responding: young children require deliberation even for simple arithmetic. is to act to remove barriers to the ND processes through which we normally think and act for reasons. as a means of thinking more reasonable thoughts about what to believe and do. Yet. even with these tasks. Deliberation can be used to sequence together a set of steps. as children. or write a structurally complex short story without it. devise a reasonable scientific experiment. but some complex tasks seem not to helpfully decompose (perhaps generating major new philosophical insights falls into this category). too “big” for us. But even if this is not true of ontogeny. But if we focus our attention first on the sum of five and nine. . and keep in mind that the result ends in four (a conclusion that. abilities to think and act for reasons: our ND reason-responding. most adults require it only for more complex calculations.545 to 869 we find ourselves unable to see the result directly. Deliberation is not the foundation of our ability to think and act for reasons but a tactic we have for enhancing our preexisting. and six . in such a way that the sequence results in solving the “big” problem with which we began. four. The moral that is lurking in these examples is that what deliberation does. . and then sum one. deliberation often seems helpful: it is hard to imagine how a human being could develop a good philosophical theory. when it enhances responding to reasons. Perhaps it is true that. And presumably it depends on the nature of the task itself: arithmetic lends itself to algorithms requiring only small steps (relative to our ND reason-responding capacities). and a few arithmetical wizards immediately see—for the right reason—sums and products that the rest of us must work through with painstaking effort.545 and 869. 234 . it is a suitable myth for the sort of view we are defending. for instance.

in the way it would be a waste of time on our parts to deliberate on trivial. There are animals incapable of seeing at a glance that a reaching device must be used in order to secure a certain banana. the value of deliberation is intermittent. we see no reason to deny that these savants grasp what they do for excellent reasons. obvious topics (what is five plus nine? should I brush my teeth at exactly thirteen minutes to the hour. It is only a contingent fact that the Earth is populated by neither sort of creature: neither creatures who are rationally perfect without deliberation nor creatures who are grossly impaired by it. These creatures would be ones who. (There are also reports of savants capable of seeing at a glance that certain seven-digit numbers are prime. There could exist creatures whose ND abilities to think and act for good reasons are flawless. and at other times we are better able to enhance our abilities to think and act for good reasons through turning off the noise in the background than through deliberation. It is intermittent because sometimes we think and act for reasons without recourse to deliberation. For such superhuman creatures. ambient noise. once started on the question of whether or not to have a precise time for brushing their teeth. so far as we can see. They would be like obsessive-compulsives who would be prone to developing topics of obsession and compulsion from dwelling on them in thought. These creatures are possible. The value of deliberation is contingent because. there is no reason in principle that we have to be designed such that blood sugar. There could also be creatures who have all of our difficulties with ND reason-responding but who also have trouble controlling their behavior if they start thinking about a question. or what to think about the correspondence theory of truth? It seems to us that these creatures are possible. There are human beings among us who are capable of seeing at a glance that 39 goes into 351 nine times. We have great 235 . lack of recent conscious attention. unaided by deliberation. and—in some ways—modest.Deliberation and Acting for Reasons Because this is the role of deliberation. though they would be very unlike us indeed. contingent. all deliberation would be a waste of time. while others of us are not capable of this feat.) Why then should there not be possible creatures who can see at a glance what to do to bring the world to a just global peace. or close to it. every hour?). Though the power is mysterious. if less well adapted to a world like ours than we ourselves are. would have trouble doing anything other than brushing their teeth for the rest of the afternoon. or even computational tractability are factors that are able to disrupt our ability to think and act for good reasons. but we are capable of this feat.

no doubt benefit greatly from deliberation as well). and defended at length by one of us in Arpaly 2006. Now. can take us to the wrong step in an attempt to solve a problem sequentially. This sort of transition is obviously not one that happens for reasons. 7. A suitable theory of ND reason-responding considers transitions between mental states: from some beliefs to others (when believing for reasons). elaborated. deliberation is by and large a boon. the role of deliberation is modest in that deliberation can fail to respond correctly to reasons just as much as other actions can. We do not propose to offer a theory here because such a theory has been proposed. and perhaps other transitions as well. But to make things clearer. It can focus our attention on certain facts that support one conclusion while diverting our attention from other facts that support another (better supported) conclusion. Finally. But things need not have been this way. but given the kinds of creatures we are. what deliberation does for us is not expressive of its nature so much as it is expressive of our nature: for others deliberation would be otiose or systematically harmful. Deliberation is a valuable but imperfect tool for improving our more valuable but even more imperfect abilities to think and act for reasons without it. nonvoluntary processes of reason-responding. some such transitions happen as a matter of blind material causation: Katie’s belief that grammar depends on social practices might physically rest on a blood vessel that. Other transitions happen because of causal relations that are sensitive to the contents of the 236 . can fail to shut out the distractions that are making it so hard to draw any conclusions at all. causing an end to the neurons making up her belief that ‘Object’ is an amusing name for a cat. Deliberation can fail to call to mind the neglected but vital fact.NOMY A RPAL Y AND TI MOT HY SCHROEDER need of our powers of deliberation and no doubt owe to them much of the technological and social complexity that we have and that huntergatherers lack (and they. and is defended in Wedgwood 2006. ruptures. from beliefs (and perhaps desires and plans) to an intention or willed action (when acting for reasons). in turn. Thinking and Acting for Reasons without Deliberation All of this could lead one to the conclusion that a new theory of thinking and acting for reasons is needed to explain nondeliberative. we will say a few words about what we take a suitable theory of ND reason-responding to look like. because of the activity of the neurons making up the belief. can look in worthless places for inspiration.

author of Intentions. Plans. and Practical Reasoning . We assume that the metaphysical problem has a solution. The transition from the beliefs that all owls are strigine and the belief that Bubo is an owl to the belief that Bubo is strigine is one that could be caused not just by free association but by a process that is sensitive to the fact that the first content entails the second. even once told. the causal relation is in some way sensitive to content as well: it is no accident that planning reminds Harold of Bratman and not. 237 . some transitions seem to happen because the contents in question have certain logical relations to one another. of mice. Harold might think of the planning council. this explanatory relevance of content) is debated by philosophers of mind. Free associative links are not reasons (or do not represent reasons) to shift from one thought to another. say. Though physical connections certainly mediate this causal relation.22 Just how a brain might be organized to make this true we leave to scientists. is very tall. this is not yet a story of mental transitions in virtue of reasons. but it seems reasonable enough to us that some true story exists to be told. The claim that a belief that Bubo is an owl gave birth to the belief that Bubo is a strigine by virtue of the logical connection between it and the belief that all owls are strigines is no more mysterious than the claim that the rock broke the window by virtue of its mass and rigidity and the fragility of the glass. All that is required is that the thought brought to mind be one that is meant by the agent to bear some logical relation to what to think or what to do—which might amount to simply being a consideration that is hoped to be one that inductively undermines one of several considerations counting in favor of taking a certain action or thinking a given thought. Finally. 22. or causal relevance. might permit this sort of claimed causal relation to be validated? It seems to us that it is a special case of the general problem of how to understand causal relations in virtue of properties (or how to understand causal relevance in terms of properties). Still. It is not a problem specific to action theory or the theory of reasons. Just how to understand this sort of causation-in-virtue-of-content (or. for example. And just what theory of causation.Deliberation and Acting for Reasons mental states involved but not because these contents have any rational relation to one another. It is perhaps worth reminding the reader that we do not require thoughts brought to mind to actually have a logical relation of some sort to anything of note in order to be part of one’s deliberation. perhaps better. and this might—because he associates the idea of planning with Michael Bratman —cause him to think that Michael Bratman. much less a logical relation as strong as entailment. and so the problem is one to be left to philosophers working on causation and causal relevance.

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