The (ir)relevance of truth to rationality
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It is possible to act for a reason. We do it all the time. You might have brought her medicine for the reason that she is ill. He might go to the store to get milk. Edmund might skate in the middle of the pond because the ice in the middle of the pond is thin. What must be true of us, and of the world, such that we can act for reasons? In normal cases, when someone acts for the reason that (for example) the ice in the middle of the pond is thin, it really is the case that the ice in the middle is thin. This is mostly due to the fact that we are not often wrong about such mundane ways the world is. But what if one takes it that the ice is thin, and in fact it is not thin? Can one still act for the reason that the ice is thin? In my efforts to give a sufficient answer to this question, I have been led to a package of views, the core tenets of which are at least the following five. First, it is possible to act in the light of a falsehood: a consideration that is not the case can be an agent’s reason for acting. Second, it is not possible to act in unbelief: in order for an agent to act for a reason, the agent must at least believe that reason to be the case. Third, the reasons for which agents act can play a role in explaining the actions done for those reasons –– even when agents act in the light of falsehoods. Fourth, there are very few (if any) formal rules or principles constraining the explanatory role of reasons. Any action explanation that specifies the content of the reason for acting has reserved a legitimate explanatory role for the reason. Fifth, all of these claims apply equally to motivating and normative reasons, so-called practical and epistemic reasons, and reasons for action and reasons for belief.