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So even if the external reasons are accepted in the

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Unformatted text preview: external reason can provide a person with such a motive. It is important to note that Williams does not deny the possibility that persons can acquire new motives through “inspiration and conversion”, or that the person can be persuaded to accept an external reason claim, he only claims that in this process of persuasion we cannot call upon rationality, or accuse the person of irrationality. So even if the external reasons are accepted in the end as reasons for action, it is not due to their being reasons that they are so accepted. Finally, Williams concludes: 25 Ibidem, 107 17 “[E]xternal reason statements, when definitely isolated as such, are false, or incoherent, or really something else misleadingly expressed. (…) Those who use these words often seem, rather, to be entertaining an optimistic internal reason claim, but sometimes the statement is indeed offered as standing definitely outside the agent’s S and what he might derive from it in rational deliberation, and then there is, I suggest, a great unclarity about what is meant. Sometimes it is a little more than that things would be better if the agents so acted. But the formulation in terms of reasons does have an effect, particularly in its suggestion that the agent is being irrational, and this suggestion, once the basis of an internal reasons claim has been clearly laid aside, is bluff. If this is so, the only real claims about reasons for action will be internal claims.”26 The consequences of such a conclusion for the Owen Wingrave example are obvious, and indeed Williams himself explicitly draws some of them in the text. They may be summed up in the following way: Owen has, at the moment, no motivation to join the army whatsoever. His family’s appeals to family honour and tradition as reasons for him to join the army are either “optimistic internal reason claims”, or simply a bluff – an appeal to reasons where there actually are none. With Owen’s present set of motivations, external reasons offered by his family are for him no reasons at all. His motivations may change in the future, CEU eTD Collection and he may suddenly start to believe that family honour and tradition are valid reasons for him to become a military professional, but in that case we would not be speaking about external reasons anymore, but about internal ones. However, what the Wingraves seem to be claiming, or at least what Williams understands them to be claiming: that although he has no motivation to join the army, there is still in a certain sense a reason for Owen to do so, is simply meaningless. 26 Ibidem, 111 18 I believe that Williams’ account fails to provide explanation of the Owen Wingrave example on at least three important points. First, it does not seem to be the case that Owen’s family claims that there would be reason for any rational agent in Owen’s position to join the army (which is what Williams seems to imply), but only that there is reason for Owen to do so. Second, once that the Wingraves give up on Owe...
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