Why Should I Care? Reasons Internalism and Moral Realism: A Reply to Shafer-Landau
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reasons internalism
reasons externalism
moral realism
ex post validation
rational deliberation internalisme des raisons
externalisme des raisons
réalisme moral
validation ex post
réflexion rationnelle


According to reasons internalism, an agent has a normative reason to act if and only if there is something in the agent’s subjective motivational set (their desires, preferences, interests, etc.), or its rational extension, that will be served by so acting. However, for the reasons externalist, some reasons apply to everyone regardless of their particular commitments. Russ Shafer-Landau (2003/2007) is a proponent of moral realism, the view that some moral judgements are objectively true. Reasons internalism serves as a premise in an argument against moral realism. In an attempt to defend moral realism against this argument, Shafer-Landau offers two anti-internalist arguments. This paper considers and rejects both arguments. His first anti-internalist argument is a counter-example designed to show that the internalist restriction on normative reasons is “illegitimate” (Shafer-Landau 318). I work through several possible avenues for rejecting this argument. My first two arguments show that Shafer-Landau’s example is not a counter-example to internalism, as it can be accommodated under the internalist view. My third argument demonstrates that there cannot be a case like the one Shafer-Landau is attempting to construct. I then briefly address Shafer-Landau’s second anti-internalist argument, which attempts to show that our moral practices regarding blame and punishment seem incompatible with reasons internalism. For each of my arguments, I consider and respond to some possible objections, and conclude that Shafer-Landau’s arguments are not sufficient to warrant rejecting internalism. Thus, his argument in defence of moral realism is weakened.

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