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Unformatted text preview: Wingrave example comes into play. Writes Williams:
“Owen’s family urge on him the necessity and importance of his joining the army,
since all his male ancestors were soldiers, and family pride requires him to do the same. Owen
Wingrave has no motivation to join the army at all, and all his desires lead in another
direction: he hates military life and what it means. His family might have expressed
themselves by saying that there was a reason for Owen to join the army. Knowing that there
was nothing in Owen’s S which would lead, through deliberative reasoning, to his doing this
would not make them withdraw the claim or admit that they made it under a misapprehension.
They mean it in an external sense.” 24
However, Williams asserts, it is unclear what external reason statements so described CEU eTD Collection might actually mean. They cannot serve as an explanation of a person’s (in this case Owen’s)
acting in a certain way, since for that to be the case, they would also have to motivate him in
some way, which they, by definition, cannot do. “[N]o external reason statement could by
itself offer an explanation of anyone’s action. Even if it were true (whatever that might turn
out to mean) that there was a reason for Owen to join the army, that fact by itself would never
explain anything that Owen did, not even his joining the army, For if it was true at all, it was 23 At least she will have no motivation arising from the need. She may have a motivation to take the medicine for
instance, because she would not want to make her relatives worried. But that is a motivation arising from her
worry for her relatives and their feelings and not from her need for the medicine in order to stay alive.
Williams, 106 16 true when Owen was not motivated to join the army. The whole point of external reason
statements is that they can be true independently of the agent’s motivations.” 25
To cut the long story short, Williams comes to a conclusion that, even when we
introduce a psychological link between the truth of the eternal reason claim and the
individual’s action, that is, belief, the case for external reasons does not look any better, and
here is why. If this belief (that one has reason to do what is reasonable) can itself be
considered a motive, then the external reason indeed collapses into an internal one. If this is
not the case however, we are back at the beginning, and we cannot see how the external
reason can be meaningful.
Williams elaborates on this line of argumentation, but I will only skim through its
main points. Namely, he argues that if we understand the external reason statement as a claim
that if the person deliberates on her motives, she will end up accepting the external reason as a
reason for action, then we are actually already presupposing that the person has a motivation
to act in accordance with the external reason, but that she just has not made that clear to
herself. However, that would mean that what we are making is indeed not an external reason
statement at all, but a disguised internal reason statement. On the other hand, if we claim that
having external reasons require new motives, which cannot be inferred from the set of existing CEU eTD Collection ones simply through deliberation, then it is very unclear how the...
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