Reasons for action and psychological capacities

R.J. Lowry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Most moral philosophers agree that if a moral agent is incapable of performing some act N" because of a physical incapacity, then they do not have a reason to N". Most also claim that if an agent is incapable of N"-ing due to a psychological incapacity, brought about by, for example, an obsession or phobia, then this does not preclude them from having a reason to N". This is because the 'ought implies can' principle is usually interpreted as a claim about physical, rather than psychological, capacities. In this paper I argue for an opposing view: if we don't have reasons to do things that we are physically incapable of doing, then neither do we have reasons to do things we are psychologically incapable of doing. I also argue that extending the 'ought implies can' principle to psychological capacities makes the principle more attractive
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-531
JournalEthical Theory and Moral Practice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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