7 - Reason and needs  pp. 112-137

Reason and needs

By David Copp

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There is a conception of rational self-grounded deliberation and choice. It is a conception of self-grounded choice in that, when we have it in play, we view a person as rational if she aims to realize the good from her own standpoint. And we view a person's actions as rational when they contribute to realizing the good from her own standpoint. The conception is morally neutral in the sense that, with it in play, we do not judge the rationality of people or of their actions on the basis of our own moral views. This conception supports, for example, our judgment that it is coherent to ask for reasons to be moral, and that a morally appalling tyrant could conceivably be entirely rational in the choices he makes. Machiavelli's Prince provides a convincing account of rational statecraft even though Machiavelli's ruler does not act on moral reasons. I do not believe there is room to doubt that we have a conception of self-grounded rationality. But there is of course room for disagreement about what to count as the good “from an agent's own standpoint,” especially since this is to some extent a term of art. I shall make a few remarks about this before I state my goals for this essay.

It would be a mistake to equate the good “from an agent's standpoint” with what would be good for the agent.