Philosophy Colloquium: "Reasons as Evidence and Explanations"

Fri, Nov 15, 2019, 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

ABSTRACT:  There has been vigorous debate over whether normative reasons are best understood as evidence of normative status (as argued particularly by Daniel Star and Stephen Kearns), or as explanations of normative status (as argued by John Broome and others).
Other philosophers, like Ralph Wedgwood, have argued for a disjunctive analysis: we have two distinct concepts of normative reasons. I argue for a unifying reconciliation: every normative reason is both evidence for and an explanation of normative status, of subtly different kinds. By analyzing normative status or goodness in information-relative terms we find that every case of evidence of normative status relative to a richer body of information is an explanation of normative status relative to a poorer body of information. It follows that there are no extensional grounds for preferring one kind of approach over the other, although I suggest that linguistic clues favor an analytic reduction of reasons to explanations rather than evidence.

Finlay: A “Good” Explanation of Five Puzzles about Reasons (draft) (.pdf)