Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Center for Law and Philosophy


It is more or less common ground that an important aspect of the explanation of normativity relates it to the way Reason (our rational powers), reasons (for beliefs, emotions, actions, etc.) and reasoning, with all its varieties and domains, are inter-connected. The relation of reasoning to reasons is the topic of this this paper. It does not start from a tabula rasa. It presupposes that normativity has to do with the ability to respond rationally to reasons, and with responding to reasons with the use of our rational powers. The question is where does reasoning fit in?

I will compare two sketchy accounts of reasoning, judging their success in elucidating the concept and its role in the explanation of normativity. First I outline the view that reasoning is an activity of searching for a justified answer or for a justification of the answer to a question. Some critical reflection on that view leads to what I call the simple account, which takes reasoning to consist (broadly speaking) in responsiveness to perceived reasons. I will illustrate ways in which the simple account is at odds with the concept of reasoning. Its merits depend on the thought that intentions, attempts or actions can be conclusions of reasoning. Those who affirm that possibility often regard reasoning that has such conclusions as practical reasoning. Hence much of the paper will be about practical reasoning. That would lead to a tentative endorsement of reasoning as a search for a justified answer, suggesting a different view of the place of reasoning in explaining normativity.?