Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 835–845 | Cite as

Whole-Hearted Motivation and Relevant Alternatives: A Problem for the Contrastivist Account of Moral Reasons



Recently, Walter Sinott-Armstrong and Justin Snedegar have argued for a general contrastivist theory of reasons. According to the contrastivist account of reasons, all reasons claims should be understood as a relation with an additional place for a contrast class. For example, rather than X being a reason for A to P simpliciter, the contrastivist claims that X is a reason for A to P out of {P,Q,R…}. The main goal of this paper is to argue that the contrastivist account of reasons will be ill-fitted for accommodating certain features of moral reasons. In brief, the reason why the contrastivist analysis fails is that it cannot adequately allow for cases of morally correct whole-hearted action—cases where consideration of any alternate course of action would be misguided. But, if all consideration of alternate courses of action is misguided, then it is hard to see how one can set the relevant contrast class that is essential to the contrastivist view—any contrast class will seem out of place. In addition, I address some of the arguments that have been given in favor of the contrastivist account of reasons and argue that there are at least two ways that the non-contrastivist can respond to these arguments.


Moral Reasons Contrastivism Moral Motivation Virtuous Agency Virtue Theory 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Religion and PhilosophyOtterbein UniversityWestervilleUSA

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