Reason and Reasons
Whilst re-reading some of Allison's excellent book Kant's Theory of Freedom, I came across a rather strange argument regarding the causal efficacy of reason. According to Allison, it is not intelligible how reasons could be causes. Reasons do not seem to be the right kind of things to possess causal efficacy. Allison claims that “construing free actions as literally caused by reason makes nonsense of Kant’s position.” (Allison: 1990, p. 49) This is because “it is clear that principles do not themselves literally have causal efficacy. ... reasons can be causes in the sense that beliefs or belief states can be used to explain human actions but not in the sense that the content of what is believed (the principle on which an agent acts) is itself a cause.” (Allison: 1990, pp. 49-50) This argument appears to be highly problematic since there seems to be an illicit move from talking about the faculty of reason to reasons considered as abstract rational principles. While Allison is right in saying that it would be strange to attribute causal efficacy to abstract principles, this does not imply that the faculty of reason cannot be causally efficacious.