Timothy Goering

Actions, Reasons, and Intellectual History


My paper will focus on how actions and reasons should figure into the methodological toolkit of intellectual history. I will turn to writings within analytic philosophy, specifically meta-ethics and action theory, to shed light on these methodological issues. Since the publication of Donald Davidson's seminal essay “Actions, Reasons, Causes” (1963) there has been a wide-ranging debate in analytic philosophy on how to understand the relation between reasons, intentions, desires and actions. Curiously this debate has largely been ignored by intellectual historians. I propose that, by moving beyond a narrow constructivist paradigm intellectual history should concentrate on asking how, why, and in what ways people offer reasons for the actions they perform.