Reasons and Two Kinds of Fact

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Reasons are facts, i.e., they are constituted by facts. This “reason quo fact” claim is much endorsed in recent literature. This paper addresses some issues that arise when we apply this idea to the distinction between agent-neutral and agent-relative normative reasons. I shall mainly consider two views of the nature of facts. Given a popular view, which conceives of facts as abstract entities, the neutral-relative dichotomy is often regarded as not being particularly problematic.

Thus, on this so called thin approach, it is possible that some reasons qua facts are agent-neutral and some are agent-relative. On a second, less popular approach, the so-called thick approach, reason statements refer to concrete entities; i.e., it is thick entities rather than thin propositional-like features that are constitutive reasons. In the course of the paper, once we examine some of
the apparent advantages of the thin approach, I shall argue that they come out as problematic. But, more importantly, despite some more or less obvious advantages, the thin account is inferior to the thicker account in at least some important aspects. First, the thin approach trivializes the substantial debate on whether there are any agent-neutral or agent-relative reasons. Second, it is argued that the thin account implies that agents face endless reasons; if this implication cannot be resisted the thin view appears aesthetically less
appealing than the thick account. The thick account is not flawless, though. At the end, I will discuss a couple of objections to it.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Philosophy


  • Agent-relative reason, Agent-neutral reason, Practical reasons, Facts, John Broome, Thomas Nagel
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-113
JournalDiscusiones Filosóficas
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

This is a slightly revised version of my paper of the same title, which was published in Frans Svensson and Rysiek Sliwinski (ed.) Neither/Nor - Philosophical Papers Dedicated to Erik Carlson on the Occasion of His Fiftieth Birthday, Uppsala Philosophical Studies, 2011.

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Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen, 2011, Neither/Nor - Philosophical Papers Dedicated to Erik Carlson on the Occasion of His Fiftieth Birthday. Sliwinski, R. & Svensson, F. (eds.). Uppsala Philosophical Studies, Vol. 58. p. 243-257

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Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen


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