Phil 290: Reasons and Rationality

Mondays, 2–4, in 234 Moses Hall


Niko Kolodny,

Office hours: Wednesdays, 2–4 in 144 Moses Hall, or by appointment.



You seem to be subject to two different kinds of “ought”: two different kinds of normative demand.  On the one hand, you are subject to demands that the world makes on you.  Some fact of your situation, we might say, is a reason for you to believe or do something.  Because the hunter was caught red handed, you have reason to believe that he was poaching.  Because Moses Hall is on fire, you have reason to leave.  On the other hand, you are subject to demands that your attitudes make on one another, however the world may be.  Some attitude that you have, we might say, makes it irrational of you to have or fail to have some other attitude, whether or not you have reason for or against any of those attitudes.  Because you believe that Berkeley is west of San Francisco, it would be irrational of you to believe that Berkeley is east of San Francisco.  Because you intend to vote for Nader, it would be irrational of you to fail to intend to go to the polling station.  The topic of this seminar is the relation between these two kinds normative demand.



  1. Presentation: 25%
  2. Outline of term paper, five pages: 25%
  3. Term paper, 15–20 pages: 50%


August 28



*** No class September 4 ***


September 11: Presenter: Titelbaum

Broome, “Normative Requirements”

Broome, “Reasons”


September 18: Presenter: Hunter

Bratman, Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason, Ch. 2, 3, 8


September 25: Presenter: Schmall

Smith, The Moral Problem, Ch. 5 (Part1, Part 2)


October 2: Presenter: Beeghly

Korsgaard, “The Normativity of Instrumental Reason”


October 9: Presenter: Wallace

Wallace, “Normativity, Commitment, and Instrumental Reason” --- Please "browse" to the article (2001). The direct link takes you to a distorted PDF.

Searle, Rationality in Action, pp. 263–266


October 16: Presenter: Kolodny

Kolodny, “Why Be Rational?”


October 23: Presenter: Kohl

Raz, “The Myth of Instrumental Reason”


October 30: Presenter: Kolodny

Broome, “Is Rationality Normative?”

Kolodny, “Why Be Disposed to Be Coherent?”


November 6: Presenter: Kolodny

*** Outlines of term papers due ***

Broome, “Is Rationality Normative?”

Kolodny, “Why Be Disposed to Be Coherent?”


November 13: Presenter: Kolodny

Kolodny, “Do Intentions Change Our Reasons?”


November 20: Presenter: MacFarlane

MacFarlane, “How is Logic Normative for Thought?”


November 27: Presenter: Ginsborg

Ginsborg, “Reasons for Belief”


December 4: Presenter: Kolodny

*** Term papers due ***

Kolodny, “Why Have Consistent and Closed Beliefs, or, for that Matter, Probabilistically Coherent Credences?”