Moral Psychology Lab Meeting
Title: Pragmatic encroachment and the nature of reasons
Abstract: Defenders of pragmatic encroachment in epistemology hold that positive epistemic statuses (usually knowledge or justification) are sensitive to pragmatic considerations: to what a person has reason to do. But there are metaethical positions on which defenders of pragmatic encroachment have not taken a stance, e.g., what sort of thing is a normative reason? What is the basis of the normativity of practical reasons? It may be thought that the answers to these metaethical questions do not make a difference to the truth or falsity of the defender of pragmatic encroachment’s main thesis: just as one can, for the most part, ‘plug in’ one’s own account of epistemic justification, so, it may be thought, can one ‘plug in’ different views about the nature and basis of reasons. And, indeed, the examples that defenders of pragmatic encroachment choose to motivate or illustrate their theses, such as Fantl and McGrath’s Train Cases and Stanley’s Bank Cases, are not ones to which people’s commitments to metaethical questions about the nature of practical reasons will likely make a difference. But at least some metaethical positions on the nature and basis of normative reasons do matter for the defender of pragmatic encroachment’s main thesis, in the sense that her view will generate different verdicts about certain kinds of cases depending on the metaethical position she holds. In this paper I will draw attention to one such metaethical position: whether one is an internalist or an externalist about reasons. I will explain these two positions, and how which of these views a PE theorist holds makes a difference to the verdicts one’s pragmatic encroachment account generates. Finally, I will draw attention to the advantages, to the defender of pragmatic encroachment, of accepting externalism about reasons.