If we take an action as something I voluntarily do, does it ever make sense to say that reason causes me to act? Reason can tell me that smoking is bad for my health, so if I quit was reason the cause of my quitting? Without a desire to quit it seems that all the reasons in the world won't cause me to do anything. So, it really is that simple? Reasons are never causes?

This is a fascinating nest of issues!! It has been claimed that reasons are fundamentally different from causes, but it has also been claimed that reasons are causes--maybe a different kind of cause from the cause that makes it the case that putting a weight on a balance moves its arm downwards, but maybe not. (Even if reason is a indeed a cause of one's choice, it may not be the case that acting for reasons is therefore involuntary.) Regardless of whether reasons are or aren't causes, however, the question of whether reason alone can motivate action (or choice or decision), is a distinct, albeit related, matter.

If reasons were causes, then it would seem that the mere recognition of a reason would be sufficient to move an agent to action. But of course it is often the case that one recognizes reasons and nevertheless does not act on them. Even knowing that smoking is bad for one's health, one may nevertheless continue to smoke. So, one might conclude, reasons aren't causes. However, perhaps the mere recognition or acknowledgment of a consideration does not yet constitute acceptance of that consideration, or constitute taking that reason as a reason for one. So an agent who knows that smoking is bad for one's health may nevertheless not take that as a reason, because s/he has other reasons--such as not wishing to forego the pleasure of smoking--that lead the agent to discount the fact that smoking is bad.

I don't, therefore, think that such examples tells decisively in favor of or against the view that reasons are causes. Rather, it raises some further questions, such as: What is the nature of motivation? Is the mind motivated only by reason, or is desire necessary for motivation? What is the nature of the mind, anyways?

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