Social Philosophy and Policy

Research Article

Explanation, Internalism, and Reasons for Action*

David Sobel

These days, just about every philosophical debate seems to generate a position labeled internalism. The debate I will be joining in this essay concerns reasons for action and their connection, or lack of connection, to motivation. The internalist position in this debate posits a certain essential connection between reasons and motivation, while the externalist position denies such a connection. This debate about internalism overlaps an older debate between Humeans and Kantians about the exclusive reason-giving power of desires. As we will see, however, while these debates overlap, the new debate is importantly different from the old debate.


* I am grateful to David Copp, Janice Dowell, and Mike Weber for valuable comments on this essay. I am also grateful for helpful comments from the other contributors to this volume, Ellen Frankel Paul, and Carrie-Ann Biondi.