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Practical Shape

A Theory of Practical Reasoning

Jonathan Dancy

Publication Date - August 2020

ISBN: 9780198865827

224 pages
8.5 x 5.4 inches


It is widely accepted that we can reason to a new belief from beliefs that we already have. Aristotle thought that we could also reason from beliefs to action. Many philosophers have disregarded Aristotle's claim, but Jonathan Dancy aims to establish the possibility of reasoning to action, by showing how similar such reasoning is to reasoning to belief. He offers a general theory of reasoning which is Aristotelian in spirit, and which smoothly admits the differences there may be between reasoning to action and reasoning to belief, while also considering the possibility of reasoning to hope, to fear, to doubt, and to intention.


  • An original account of practical reasoning by one of the leading figures in the field
  • Concisely and simply written to ensure accessibility
  • Includes suggestions for further enquiry

About the Author(s)

Jonathan Dancy has worked at the University of Texas at Austin since 2005. He previously taught at the University of Keele for 25 years and then at the University of Reading before retiring in the UK in 2011. His books include Practical Reality (2000) and Ethics Without Principles (2004).


"...Practical Shape is as stimulating a book of philosophy as one could hope for. It will be an invaluable resource to those interested in the nature of reasoning, both practical and theoretical, for years to come." -- Laura Tomlinson , Journal of Moral Philosophy

"Recommended." -- CHOICE

Table of Contents

    1. What Is the (Supposed) Problem about Practical Reasoning?
    2. How Practical Reasoning is Possible
    3. The Material Theory of Practical Reasoning
    4. From the Practical to the Theoretical
    5. Moral Reasoning
    6. Taking Stock
    7. Instrumental Reasoning
    8. Reasoning to Normative Belief
    9. Reasoning to Intention
    10. Loose Ends