Legal Theory


John Gardner a1
a1 University College, Oxford

Article author query
gardner j   [Google Scholar] 


Often, I have a reason to [phi] and derived from it I have a reason to try to [phi]. But not always. A reason for me to try to [phi] derives from a reason for me to [phi] only if my trying to [phi] will contribute to my [phi]ing. In cases of two distinct types my trying to [phi] does not pass this test. In cases of the first type, I lack the ability to [phi] at all, so nothing that I do (including but not limited to my trying to [phi]) will contribute to my [phi]ing. I will never sing like Ella Fitzgerald whatever I do, so there’s nothing to be gained by trying. In cases of the second type, I have the ability to [phi] but lack the ability to [phi]-by-trying-to: trying to [phi] is counterproductive; it would be better, from the point of view of my [phi]ing, if I aimed at something else instead, possibly even at −[phi]ing. Trying to impress people, or trying to be funny, or trying to make oneself popular may all have the opposite effect. The funniest thing, indeed, is sometimes trying to be serious in the face of absurdity. On such an occasion a reason to be funny yields no reason to try to be funny, but it does yield a reason to try not to be funny.