I've previously argued that epistemic reasons are a kind of moral reason. But thanks to conversations with a patient colleague, I'm starting to see the plausibility of the standard view that they are different things. The only problem is that this is leading me to the view that epistemic reasons when distinguishable from moral ones are only reasons in an analogical sense.
The following argument moves me:
- Moral reasons always concern something up to the will.
- Epistemic reasons do not always concern something up to the will.
- Therefore, some epistemic reasons are not moral reasons.
What was stopping me previously from paying attention to arguments like this was that I had a very hard time seeing how a reason could fail to be a reason for the will. But consider the following statement:
- That the muscle received an electrical impulse from a nerve was a reason for the muscle to contract.
So, the suggestion is that epistemic reasons insofar as they do not concern something up to the will are simply teleological connections that specify what it is normal to believe or not believe (or take some other attitudes towards) in the given circumstances.
At the same time, teleological connections within the human being also give rise to reasons for the will when that which is concerned in the connections is voluntary. Thus, suppose it is normal for human beings to breathe 12 breaths per minute at rest. You're overexcited, but at rest. If you are capable of controlling your breathing rate, the normalcy fact gives you a reason to breathe at 12 breaths per minute, and this is a reason for the will, not just a reason for the lungs. For it is good to function properly, and we always have a reason to will a willable good. Similarly, sometimes to believe or cease to believe a proposition is under partial or complete voluntary control, and in those cases the teleological connections that constitute epistemic reasons give rise to reasons for the will.
Still, there is something weird about talking about reasons for muscles or lungs. These are "reasons" in an analogical sense. And to the extent that epistemic reasons are exactly the same sort of non-voluntary thing, they too are reasons in an analogical sense.
This has the interesting consequence that because empirical data about how humans function gives evidence for claims about how humans ought to function (e.g., if we find out that the heart usually pumps blood, this gives us evidence for the claim that the heart should pump blood), likewise empirical data about humans think gives evidence for epistemically normative claims. Of course, this evidence is defeasible, in both cases.