Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Chris Heathwood

Second Advisor

Graham Oddie

Third Advisor

Benjamin Hale

Fourth Advisor

Michael Huemer

Fifth Advisor

Alastair Norcross


This dissertation is about the nature and variety of practical reasons. A practical reason is a fact that counts in favor of an agent performing some action, having some emotion, or having some other non-cognitive attitude. I provide a classification of different kinds of reasons and offer an account of how they determine different kinds of oughts. Many philosophers recognize that there is something distinctive about moral reasons and the moral point of view, but just what distinguishes the moral from other normative standpoints is not well understood. On my view, what makes a reason a moral reason is that it is essentially other-regarding: it is a reason to treat other individuals in certain ways, for their own sakes. My account of the nature of the moral competes with some of the most prominent normative theories currently on offer, i.e., utilitarianism, Kantian deontology, and virtue ethics. Moral reasons can be further divided into two distinct kinds: general other-regarding reasons and relational reasons. The former are reasons regarding one’s treatment of all moral patients. The latter are reasons regarding one’s treatment of only certain individuals, namely, those with whom one stands in a special relation, particularly those with whom one has a personal relationship. Non-moral reasons, by contrast, are essentially self-regarding: they are reasons to treat oneself in certain ways, for one’s own sake. Both relational reasons and self-regarding reasons are often stronger than general other-regarding reasons, therefore, my view is partial in the sense that an agent is often justified in prioritizing the interests of both herself, and those who are near and dear to her. That there are genuinely normative non-moral reasons may be seen as a threat to the authority many take morality to enjoy. In the final chapter, I explain how and in what sense morality is still authoritative on my view. I do this, in part, by offering a novel account of a moral requirement.