Organon F

Volume 28, November 2021, Issue 4, Pages 845–866

ISSN 2585-7150 (online) ISSN 1335-0668 (print)

Research Article

Why Did You Really Do It? Human Reasoning and Reasons for Action

José Ángel Gascón


During the last decades several studies in cognitive psychology have shown that many of our actions do not depend on the reasons that we adduce afterwards, when we have to account for them. Our decisions seem to be often influenced by normatively or explanatorily irrelevant features of the environment of which we are not aware, and the reasons we offer for those decisions are a posteriori rationalisations. But exactly what reasons has the psychological research uncovered? In philosophy, a distinction has been commonly made between normative and motivating reasons: normative reasons make an action right, whereas motivating reasons explain our behaviour. Recently, Maria Alvarez has argued that, apart from normative (or justifying) reasons, we should further distinguish between motivating and explanatory reasons. We have, then, three kinds of reasons, and it is not clear which of them have been revealed as the real reasons for our actions by the psychological research. The answer we give to this question will have important implications both for the validity of our classifications of reasons and for our understanding of human action.


Cognitive psychology; explanation; justification; motivation; rationalization; reasons for action.

Author(s) and affiliation(s)


José Ángel Gascón


Universidad Católica del Maule


Department of Philosophy, Universidad Católica del Maule. Avenida San Miguel 3605, Talca, Chile


About this article


26 July 2020


1 November 2020


23 November 2020

Published online

9 March 2021


Institute of Philosophy of the Slovak Academy of Sciences

Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences

Cite as


Ángel Gascón, J. (2021). Why Did You Really Do It? Human Reasoning and Reasons for Action. Organon F28(4), 845–866.


Ángel Gascón, José. 2021. "Why Did You Really Do It? Human Reasoning and Reasons for Action." Organon F 28 (4): 845–866.


Ángel Gascón, J. (2021). Why Did You Really Do It? Human Reasoning and Reasons for Action. Organon F, 28(4), pp. 845–866.

Copyright information

© José Ángel Gascón

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