On the Invention of Reasons that do Not Motivate - A Wittgensteinian/Sellarsian Take on Humeanism

Matthias Kiesselbach


This essay compares Humeanism to two views which have come to be the targets of
well-known pragmatist attacks: the view of doubting as an inner-doing (argued against
by Wittgenstein), and the view of sense-data as the foundation of all empirical
knowledge (argued against by Sellars). The essay shows that the Humean view of
passion as a necessary ingredient in all motivated action can be countered in much
the same way as its two classical cousins. In all three cases, the classical,
pre-pragmatist, view loses its attraction once proper attention is paid to the
pragmatic role of the relevant attributions – attributions of beliefs and doubts (in
Wittgenstein’s case), of perceptual evidences and seemings (in Sellars’ case) – and
of practical reasons that do or don’t motivate (in the Humean question). In all three
cases, adherence to that pragmatic role yields a reversal of what is seen as the
ordinary background, and what is seen as demanding explanation. With respect to
Humeanism, the point is to recognise the attribution of a practical reason that fails
to motivate as a complex linguistic manoeuvre which logically relies on, and can be
elucidated in terms of, the simpler manoeuvre of attributing an ordinary, motivating,


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; reason; motivation; Humeanism; pragmatism; reason internalism

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