chapter  12
13 Pages

How should one live?

Williams on practical deliberation and reasons for acting
WithRoger Teichmann

Two crucial and interrelated features of Bernard Williams’ conception of a practical reason are: first, his idea of practical deliberation as radically first-personal, and second, the role he assigns to the agent’s desires. In practice, Williams takes the elements of a motivational set to be desires, and his model is in fact a version of that well-known beast, the belief-desire model of intentional action, according to which an action counts as intentional if and only if it is caused by a suitable belief together with a suitable desire. But it may be significant that he wants to be quite liberal as to what sorts of items can appear in a motivational set, S, writing that ‘S can contain such things as dispositions of evaluation, patterns of emotional reaction, personal loyalties, and various projects, as they may be abstractly called, embodying commitments of the agent’.