Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jesse Prinz

Committee Members

Iakovos Vasiliou

John Greenwood

S. Matthew Liao

Jennifer Morton

Subject Categories

Ethics and Political Philosophy


Metaethics, Reasons, Philosophy of Action


The central question of my dissertation is: what makes it the case that certain considerations are reasons for acting? This is a question about the truth-makers of claims about reasons, that is, what makes it the case that one has a reason to Φ rather than Ψ. There are two leading camps in the philosophical debate devoted to answering this question: subjectivism and objectivism. Subjectivist theories hold that one has a reason to do something when one has a non-truth evaluable favoring attitude towards that thing, e.g. desiring it. Objectivist theories insist that one’s desires are irrelevant to establishing the existence of reasons; that some action or desire is morally good or valuable is equally and universally reason-providing, whatever else individual agents happen to desire. I argue that all reasons for action are subjective; that, conversely, there are no objective reasons. After rejecting objectivism and providing a general defense of subjectivist views, I defend a more nuanced subjectivist-internalist position called Expressive Reasons. Subjectivist-internalism is the view that reasons are not only rooted in agent’s desires, but also that it must be possible for a reason to serve as the basis for an individual’s action if it is to be a reason in the first place. Expressive Reasons is the particular view that R is a reason for A to ϕ when ϕ-ing is an expression of soundly deliberating A’s self; and A, under ordinary conditions, would act on the basis of R. I argue that Expressive Reasons has unique philosophical advantages over competing views of reasons, and that it has compelling practical advantages in how it directs us to respond to different others.