In 'Why Disallowing State-Given Reasons for Belief Might Be the End of the World', Andrew Reisner argues that "theorists who deny that there are any state-given reasons at all are forced to bite a large and very counter-intuitive bullet: in some circumstances, the only way for an agent to act and be in accord with reason will lead to the otherwise avertable end of the world."
Here's the situation: a demon provides you with credible evidence that p is false, and then tells you that he'll blow up the world unless you believe that p. On the fittingness view, this provides no reason to believe that p; at most it provides you with reason to desire this belief, or to act so as to bring it about. But now we suppose that the demon adds a further clause: he'll also destroy the world if you perform any such action. So you no longer have any reason to so act. Is the fitting-reasons theorist forced to conclude that there's nothing to be said in favour of believing p, then, even though that's the only way to save the world?
Well, no. It's still desirable (fitting to desire) that you [irrationally] believe p. Even if the demon additionally threatens to blow up the world if you desire anything but to believe the truth, that just makes fitting the higher-order desire that you [irrationally] desire nothing but to believe the truth. Granted, this higher-order desire is self-defeating: by forming it, you guarantee that it is thwarted -- you now desire something other than to believe the truth. This is a curious phenomenon, but it isn't clear that it makes the desire unfitting: intuitively, it is desirable that you form no such desires in this situation. That'd be the best outcome, and hence the rationally fitting one to want or hope for. It's just that there's no rational way to achieve this end: being fully rational suffices to place this outcome beyond your grasp. You can only achieve it if you are irrational in the first place.
This is a weird scenario, for sure, but isn't this the right way to describe the normative situation? I don't see anything "counterintuitive" here. To be clear: it would be a problem for the fittingness theorist if we were forced to conclude that there's nothing to be said for saving the world. But we aren't. Saving the world is (as always) desirable. So that objection fails. We're left with Reisner's original worry that by being rational ("in accord with reason"), an agent would cause "the otherwise avertable end of the world." But how is that a problem for our theory? An evil demon could punish rationality, and in such cases it would be better to be irrational. This is clearly true. Where's the bullet?
I suspect that objections like this trade on the ambiguity of 'reasons' talk. Here are two claims I take to be uncontroversially true of the described scenario:
(1) To save the world, one must be irrational in various respects. In particular, one must irrationally believe p, and irrationally fail to desire to save the world. (In the most extreme case, we could stipulate that the demon will destroy the world if any of your responses to his threat are rationally fitting. Then the only way to save the world is to be unintentionally insane. This is surely a possible set-up.)
(2) Forming the necessary beliefs and desires to save the world is more important than being rational.
Here's a controversial claim:
(*) The beliefs and desires necessary to save the world are unsupported by reasons. There is insufficient reason to believe p, and also insufficient reason to desire only that you believe the truth (the world be damned), though these attitudes are necessary to avoid global destruction.
I take it that Reisner thinks (*) is "counterintuitive". But we should take care to distinguish semantic vs. substantive intuitions. (*) might seem counterintuitive only because one is presupposing that (*) means that having the necessary beliefs and desires "isn't important", and what one substantively intuits is that (2) is true. I share this latter intuition: (2) is indeed true. I simply think that, for the reasons given here, we should define 'reasons' primarily in terms of fittingness rather than fortunateness, in which case (*) is basically equivalent to (1), and perfectly compatible with (2).
Now, if you agree that (1) is unobjectionable, and allow that what I mean when I affirm (*) is something roughly equivalent to (1), then perhaps you should also find my affirmations of (*) to be unobjectionable.
One might deny this if one had very strong semantic intuitions about the meaning of the word 'reasons', such that so-called "state-given reasons" must be included alongside fittingness reasons. But that seems odd. I, at least, have no such intuitions either way. (Do you? Comments welcome!) It seems to me that 'reasons' (as used in these debates) is a largely technical term, so that the question of how best to use the term is best answered on the kinds of theoretical grounds I appealed to in my previous post. We could even explicitly disambiguate "reasons_1" and "reasons_2", and say only the latter includes 'state-based reasons'. If my linked argument is correct, then reasons_1 is the more philosophically useful concept; indeed, I don't see any need for talking about reasons_2 at all. But I trust that (*) would no longer seem controversial when we replaced all mention of 'reasons' with the less ambiguous 'reasons_1'. So that's at least suggestive that any remaining dispute here is merely terminological.
(My charge here would be misguided if it turns out that, rather than being a technical term, there was in fact a single determinate pre-theoretic conceptual role for which reasons_1 and reasons_2 are competing candidates. One could then have substantive intuitions about which of these candidates best correspond to the pre-theoretical idea. But again, it seems clear to me that we have two pre-theoretical notions in this vicinity: fittingness and fortunateness. The real work is done here when we argue that the latter notion can be reduced to a special case of the former -- namely, fittingness to desire.)