What is the relation between power and authority? This question drives much work in political philosophy. But it is also just beneath the surface of many philosophical accounts of reasons for action. We will begin by examining worries about the legitimacy of authority that arise in normative theorizing — worries, e.g., about the authority of laws and lawmakers, and about our moral authority to demand certain things of one another. We will next turn to attempts to ground reasons for action in the power of desire and/or the power to choose.
And we will then consider how the nonrational powers of our mind can determine what we have reason to do if no such powers are intrinsically authoritative. We will explore the suggestion that if reason lacks both the power and the authority to set its own practical ends (if it is "a slave of the passions") and if the nonrational powers of our mind are not themselves intrinsically authoritative, then the only way that we as rational beings can exercise authority over our desires and choices is by authorizing their influence on our behavior so that we can understand this behavior as our own.
According to this suggestion, in order to reconcile 1) the assumption that we really do have reasons to do some things and not others and 2) the assumption that our reasons for action are all grounded in nonrational motivating forces, we must reconceive practical reasoning as theoretical reasoning about how to make sense of our own behavior.
We will carefully examine this suggestion and its implications.
Should we endorse it? What are the alternatives? What general conclusions can we draw about the relation between power and authority?