APPRAISING MEANS-ENDS REASONING
By: Gerald Lang (Leeds, UK)
If you have an end which is vicious or stupid, do you have any reason to take the
means to that end? There is a dilemma. On the one hand, we surely don't want to
say that, by having a reason to take the means to your end, your pursuit of the
worthless end can acquire reason-giving force from nowhere: we don't want to
admit the possibility of 'bootstrapping' our reasons into existence. On the
other end, there does seem to be something wrong or deficient about you if you
don't take the means to your ends.
I will explore and criticize some existing solutions to this problem in the
recent literature, and will tentatively advance an error theory, thus taking on
the second horn of the dilemma. I will suggest that we can find ways of
reconciling the claim that well-adjusted agents will be disposed to take the
means to the ends they have without having to concede that such agents have
reasons to take the means to ends that are not, in themselves, reason-giving.