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to motives whose reason-giving force is not vitiated by dint of their resting
on false beliefs about the facts.7 Then we can put Williams™ view, that all
reasons are internal reasons, in a nicely succinct way:

(I) There is reason for A to • if and only if •-ing would serve a motive in
A™s S.

This is the formulation we shall be considering. But complications arise.
For Williams often puts his view in a rather different way, which appeals to
whether there is a “sound deliberative route” by which A could reach the
conclusion to •:

The internalist view of reasons for action is that . . . A has a reason to • only
if he could reach the conclusion to • by a sound deliberative route from
the motivations he already has. The externalist view is that this is not a
necessary condition . . .

4 Williams (1981), p. 102.
5 Williams (1995), p. 35. Cf Williams (2001). However, he does sometimes argue from the
suf¬ciency as well as from the necessity of the condition.
6 Williams (1981), p. 102.
7 This is a slight modi¬cation of what Williams says: he includes such motives in S but says
they give no reasons. Williams (1981), p. 103.
76 John Skorupski

The central idea is that if B can truly say of A that A has reason to •, then
(leaving aside the quali¬cations needed because it may not be his strongest
reason) there must be a sound deliberative route to •-ing, which starts from
A™s existing motivations.8

A large part of the obscurity about internal and external reasons has arisen
from this alternative way of putting the distinction. But I think Williams
intends it to agree with (I); and the obscurities to which it gives rise can be
clari¬ed by referring back to (I).9 Here are some examples of that.
(1) What is a sound deliberative route? It is too broad to say that a delibera-
tive route is sound so long as every step in it is a priori truth-preserving. For
in that case, if the principles of morality or prudence are a priori truths they
can enter into a sound deliberative route, whether or not they are in A™s S “
in other words, whether or not A accepts and is motivated by them. There
will be a sound deliberative route to them whatever is in A™s S, as they them-
selves will make up part of the route. In contrast, Williams emphasizes that
prudential and moral considerations, as against matters of fact and sound
epistemic principles of reasoning, do not enter into what he means by a
sound deliberative route. They give A reason to act, he thinks, only if they
are in A™s S. Notably, moreover, his reasons for excluding prudential and
moral considerations, unless they are already in the agent™s S, do not turn
at all on whether these considerations are or are not a priori. They turn on
a different, and interesting, point:
The grounds for making this general point about fact and reasoning, as
distinct from prudential and moral considerations, are quite simple: any
rational deliberative agent has in his S a general interest in being factually
and rationally correctly informed . . . on the internalist view there is already
a reason for writing, in general, the requirements of correct information and
reasoning into the notion of a sound deliberative route, but not a similar
reason to write in the requirements of prudence and morality.10

At ¬rst, this looks unpersuasive. Surely there can be lazy-minded peo-
ple whose S includes no general motivation to be factually and rationally

8 Williams (1995), p. 35 and Williams (1981), p. 186.
9 It should be noted, however, that Williams in his last comment on this argument preferred
the “sound deliberative route” formulation. See Williams (2001), p. 91.
10 Williams (1995), p. 37.
Internal Reasons and the Scope of Blame

informed, or even to be relevantly informed about what actions serve the
motives in their S. They still have various reasons to do various things “ it™s
just that a general reason to get informed is not one of them. However the
point is clear if we derive it from (I). It will follow from (I) that any agent,
anyone who has motives at all, has reason to get the information and do the
reasoning that will serve the motives in their S, whatever these may be. But
it does not follow from (I) that anyone at all, whatever their S, has reason
to ascertain or to observe the principles of prudence and morality.

(2) Does it matter whether A “ that person “ could reach the conclusion
by a sound deliberative route, or are we asking only whether there is a
sound deliberative route? The question is important in ways which we will
come to only in Section 4. For the moment, note that there may be a
sound deliberative route which requires very complex reasoning that is well
beyond A™s powers. Suppose, for example, that A™s goal is to sink an enemy
battleship, and that a sound deliberative route starting from information
he already has shows that this goal would be served by sending the ¬‚eet
to a particular area of the ocean. However the route in question involves
cracking an enemy code that would take A™s best computers a long time
to unravel and is certainly well beyond A. Or again, suppose the sound
deliberative route calls on facts that A could not know. For example, Mount
Etna is about to erupt and that fact generates a sound deliberative route
from A™s S to the conclusion that he has reason not to climb it today.

Is there reason for A to send the ¬‚eet to that spot, or not to climb Mount
Etna? I™m not sure how Williams would reply “ but (I) entails that there
is.11 And that seems to me to be the correct answer. If the stuff in the glass
is poison, not gin, but A can™t tell that, there is still reason for him not to
drink it. Similarly, someone might call me out of the blue and inform me
that there was reason for me to attend their of¬ce the next morning, while
refusing to tell me what the reason was. What they said might be true (for
example if I could become a billionaire by signing a document there before
noon) even if I had and could have no reason to believe them.
True, there is a lot of ¬‚exibility in the way we talk about reasons, with
context doing a lot of disambiguating work. Take the locutions “A has
reason to •,” and “There is reason for A to •.” Depending on context,

11 He says that A may not know a true reason statement about himself (and may believe a false
one), but he also thinks that there are cases in which one “merely says that A would have
reason to • if he knew the fact,” Williams (1981), p. 103.
78 John Skorupski

either of these can refer to (i) what there is reason for A to do, given the
facts (e.g. not to drink this, because it™s poison) or (ii) what A is justi¬ed (in
various senses of this word) in believing there is reason for A to do, given
what he is justi¬ed in believing to be the facts (to drink this, because he
justi¬ably thinks it™s gin). We may even mean “ at least in the case of “A has
reason to •” “ (iii) what A takes himself to have reason to do. Of these, it™s
only (iii) that can explain what A does. There is something to be said for
stipulating that “There is reason for A to •” is to refer to (i), and that “A
has reason to •” is to refer to (ii). We could then say that A has no reason
to avoid drinking this stuff, even though there is reason for A not to drink
it. Similarly, we could say that A had no reason not to climb Mount Etna,
even though the fact that it would erupt was a reason not to climb it, and
so on. In §5, we shall ¬nd this distinction between the two locutions useful,
but it is not needed just for the moment.12
(3) What should we say about the following possibility: if A were to delib-
erate about how to realize some goal that is in his S, that very process of
deliberation would remove the goal from his S?13 Williams emphasizes that
deliberation can change the agent™s S:
We should not . . . think of S as statically given. The processes of deliberation
can have all sorts of effects on S, and this is a fact which a theory of internal
reasons should be very happy to accommodate.14

However, how should it accommodate it? Should we say that the reasons A
has at a time are relative to his S at that time, or to the S he would have if he
deliberated? Since deliberating may have various effects on his S, depending
on how good he is at deliberating and what particular deliberations he
goes in for, should we somehow idealize A™s abilities and the amount of
deliberating he can do at a time, so that his reasons are relative to the
conclusions he™d come to as an ideal deliberator? Many pitfalls attend this
line of thought.
Again, however, the issue is clari¬ed if we refer back to (I) and bear in
mind Williams™ frequent insistence that A™s reasons depend on A™s existing
motivations, motivations A already has. The reasons A has are the rea-
sons (I) says he has given his existing S, not the reasons he would have

12 Williams sometimes distinguishes “A has reason to •” and “there is reason for A to •” “
for example, Williams (1985), p. 192 “ but seems not to do so systematically.
13 For example, A wants to ¬nd someone to complain to but if he were to deliberate about
how to do that he would calm down and stop wanting to complain.
14 Williams (1981), p. 105.
Internal Reasons and the Scope of Blame

if he deliberated in ways that modi¬ed his existing S. That still allows
Williams to be quite liberal in what “motivations” he allows into A™s S, as we
shall see.
So I shall take it that (I) states Williams™ internalist view of reasons. A
question that can now be raised about (I) is whether Williams intends it as
a conceptual or a substantive normative truth. T. M. Scanlon suggests the
latter reading in an interesting and lucid discussion of Williams™ view, but I
think Williams intends the former.15 For a person who puts forward (I) as
a substantive normative thesis is not thereby proposing an analysis of the
concept of a reason. They could hold, for example, that that concept is the
primitive normative concept, and not itself further analysable. (This is in
fact Scanlon™s view, and I think he is right about that.) In contrast, Williams
rests his case for internalism on an analysis of what it is for something to
be a reason, and as we have seen, he questions the intelligibility of external
reason statements. In “Internal reasons and the scope of blame,” he asks
“What are the truth-conditions for statements of the form ˜A has a reason to
•™?” and advances internalism (in the “sound deliberative route” version)
as the right answer.16 The point will become clearer when we examine
Williams™ arguments for internalism. But before we come to these, it will
be useful to consider how Williams differs from Hume. The question has
often puzzled his readers, and it raises the further question of how inclusive
one is supposed to be, on Williams view, about the “motivations” in a
person™s S.


In “Internal and External Reasons,” Williams starts from what he calls
the “sub-Humean model” of reasons, intending, he says, “by addition and

15 Scanlon (1998), p. 365. Par¬t (1997), p. 10 suggests that Williams rejects “Analytical Inter-
nalism” in Williams (1995b) “ Par¬t cites in support of this interpretation page 188. What
Williams denies here is only that if someone concludes, by deliberating, that he has reason
to •, he has thereby concluded that if he deliberated correctly he would be motivated to •.
(Williams is discussing the “sound deliberative route” version of his view.) It may be that
even a strictly “Analytical Internalist” could deny that (in virtue of the paradox of analysis);
more importantly, Williams™ view need not be read as a strict de¬nition of the meaning
of statements about reasons. It is best understood as offering a “deeper-down” account of
their conceptual content (and thus not a substantive, normative, thesis).
16 Williams (1995), p. 35. Cf p. 40, “I think the sense of a statement of the form ˜A has reason
to •™ is given by the internalist model.” He also suggests that external reasons statements
are “false, incoherent, or really something else misleadingly expressed,” Williams (1981),
p. 111.
80 John Skorupski

revision, to work it up into something more adequate.” The model is very
like (I); it says that:

(II) There is reason for A to f if A has some desire the satisfaction of which
will be served by •-ing.17

Williams calls this “sub-Humean” because he thinks that Hume™s views
were in fact more complex. They were indeed more complex; in fact it is
hard to be certain what they were, and that makes a comparison between
Hume and Williams dif¬cult. Observe, for example, that Williams is inter-
ested in the concept of a reason understood normatively, in the context
of justi¬cation, and that he accepts that such a normative concept is per-
fectly legitimate, whereas quite a lot of what Hume says seems to imply a
wholly sceptical view about the existence of normative reasons, rather than
an internalist theory of them. Then another large part of what Hume says
is concerned with the psychological question of what gives rise to action;
here he famously argues that beliefs alone cannot do so but must always
combine appropriately with passions. This is Hume™s “desire/belief theory
of motivation.”
However, it still seems fair to see (II) as also being a part of what Hume
says. Plausibly, his view taken as a whole has two levels: considering the
matter in strictly epistemological terms, Hume thinks, we™re never justi¬ed
in saying anything is a reason (epistemic or practical) for anything; however,
he also thinks that insofar as we in fact, in everyday discussion, talk about
reasons for a person to act we should do so in a way that conforms to (II). On
this reading, Hume is at one level an internal-reasons theorist even though
at another level he is a sceptic about reasons as such. If we ¬x attention on
the former level, then, the “sub-Humean model” is the Humean model. So
although Williams is not at all a sceptic about reasons, we can still ask how
similar his internalism is to Hume™s in this respect.
Williams tightens (II) by eliminating desires based on false beliefs “ as
Hume does. He also allows for a variety of forms of deliberation, not just
means-end reasoning; this also, Hume, understood as an internal-reasons
theorist, could surely have allowed. So if there is a difference between
Williams and Hume it will lie either in the difference between desire and
motive “ the possible play that is allowed by the difference between (I)

17 This is close to Williams (1981), p. 101. He uses the phrase “A has reason to •,” and he
adds, “Alternatively, we might say . . . some desire the satisfaction of which A believes will
be served by his •-ing” “ but in fact he makes nothing more of this alternative.
Internal Reasons and the Scope of Blame

and (II) “ or alternatively, it will lie in the different meanings that can be
attached to the term “desire.”
Now Williams says that he wants to be “more liberal than some theorists
have been about the possible elements in S”: he is willing, he says, to use the
term “desire” “formally,” for all these elements, noting however, that desire
must then be understood to include “dispositions of evaluation, patterns
of emotional reaction, personal loyalties, and various projects embodying
commitments of the agent.”18 How liberal is this? To put the question in
another way: is the concept of desire meant so “formally,” or thinly, as to
cover every possible motive?
Let us say that a motive is whatever can be adduced, in our everyday
explanations of intentional action, as explaining (in combination with a
person™s factual beliefs) why the person did an action. A can have various
motives, to do various things; the operative motive is the one that explains
why he did what he actually did. Now suppose A has the following beliefs.
He believes that he™s just trodden on your toe and he believes that that™s
a reason to apologize. Because he believes these things, he apologizes, for
example, by saying “Sorry!” So it™s the belief that treading on a person™s
toe gives one reason to apologize that was his operative motive for saying
“sorry”: it is what explains his action, in combination with his factual beliefs.
It™s irrelevant whether he actually felt sorry. What motivated him was the


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