Against Strong Cognitivism: An Argument from the Particularity of Love

Hilla Jacobson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


According to the view we may term "strong cognitivism", all reasons for action are rooted in normative features that the motivated subject (explicitly or implicitly) takes objects to have independently of her attitudes towards these objects. The main concern of this paper is to argue against strong cognitivism, that is, to establish the view that conative attitudes do provide subjects with reasons for action. The central argument to this effect is a top-down argument: it proceeds by an analysis of the complex phenomenon of love and derives a conclusion regarding the (motivational and normative) nature of more basic mental phenomena-particular desires. More specifically, its starting point is the crude intuition that the significance conferred by love upon its objects is of a distinctively personal kind-an intuition that is expressed by the apparent non-substitutability of two similar subjects only one of whom is loved with respect to their importance for the lover. I argue that the initial notion of non-substitutability can be refined and modified so as to form a real challenge to all versions of strong cognitivism and to establish the existence of attitude-dependent reasons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)563-596
Number of pages34
JournalPhilosophy and Phenomenological Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2016
Externally publishedYes

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