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Manifest ActivityThomas Reid's Theory of Action$
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Gideon Yaffe

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199268559

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2004

DOI: 10.1093/019926855X.001.0001

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The Influence of Motives: The Push of Law?

The Influence of Motives: The Push of Law?

(p.114) 6 The Influence of Motives: The Push of Law?
Manifest Activity

Gideon Yaffe (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter is concerned with Reid's arguments against the other, and more plausible way to construe the motive–action relation causally: there are laws linking motives with actions, e.g. the law that says that we always act on the strongest motive. Reid offers a trio of arguments against this view, and all three are examined in this chapter. The first attacks the claim that it is, in fact, a law that we always act on the strongest motive. The argument proceeds by showing that in every way in which we might construe ‘strength of motive’, the putative law is either false, or trivially, analytically, true. The second argument attacks not the claim that some particular putative law governs the motive–action relation, but, instead, the claim that any law could. The argument claims that in cases in which any one of a number of acts will equally serve an end, there is, in fact, no motive for the particular act chosen; but if it is possible to act with no motive at all, then it is not generally true that actions follow from motives in a law‐like way. The third argument exploits an analogy with advice claiming that the motive–action relation is like the relation between advice and action in accordance with it; since the latter relation is not causal, Reid thinks, neither is the former. The chapter aims to reveal the presuppositions of all three of Reid's arguments and reconstruct them in the most plausible way possible.

Keywords:   action, Cause, law, motive, Reid

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