Can the worst life be the one I have most reasons to desire?
The good life is different from the life X has most reasons to desire.
A general argument.
If Bernard Williams's “internal reasons” claim is right, and if the good life is the life that virtuous people typically desire, then a life can be the life that X has most reason to desire, and yet not be a good life, because X's reasons depend from X's desires, and X desires may be different from the desires of the virtuous. So if the good life is by definition the life that the virtuous desires, then X, having different desires from the virtuous, X has also reasons to desire a different life than the good life.
(I take Williams' claim that all reasons are internal as a claim about what reasons we have. This is perfectly compatible with a Nagelian, Dancyian or Scanlonian view of what reasons are)
Williams' internalism is highly controversial (but I am becoming increasingly convinced that he is right.) So an argument with Williams' internalism as its premise does not provide a stringent argument.
Let us consider examples and intuitions.
Frank's virtue is not that strong. Frank is a decent person, but is not the kind of guy that would be able to resist certain temptations. If Frank becomes an important politician, Frank will be offered bribes so tempting that he would not be able to forgo them. He will take the bribes and regret it afterwards. And Frank does not desire that kind of life.
It is not incoherent to think that a life in which one has important political responsibility is a better life objectively than a life in which one does not, and that the latter, not the former is the life Frank has most reason to choose.
John is sexually incontinent. He is unable to live a loving relation with a stable partner. What John desires most, is to have sex with as many beautiful women as possible. John has also tried his best to live a stable monogamous relation but he could not help feeling depressed and finally cheating his wife. John has most reasons not to form a stable monogamous relation. John has most reasons to have sex with as many beautiful women as he can, and to provide himself with the means that can help him achieve this goal. John has reasons to live a life in which he buys expensive clothes, that make him more successful in his conquers. So John has reasons to work some extra hours to buy more expensive clothes. There is clearly conceptual room to claim that marring and avoiding the extra working hours necessary to buy the expensive playboy outfit is the best life, between the two, and that the life as a single with the extra working hours necessary to buy the expensive playboy outfit is the life John has most reason to live.
DOES this WORK? IT CAN ALWAYS BE CLAIMED THAT, GIVEN THE WAY JOHN IS, THE LIFE THAT THE LIFE JOHN HAS MOST REASON TO LIVE, IS ALSO THE BEST LIFE open to him (GIVEN HIS PECULIAR PSYCHOLOGICAL NATURE,) [John's choice is not as wide as the virtuous's choice of possible lives. His choice is between: (BEING MARRIED AND CHEATING HIS WIFE) and(LIVING AS A SINGLE CONQUERING A LOT OF WOMEN). It may be CLAIMED THAT THE BEST LIFE AMONG THESE TWO IS IN FACT THE LIFE A VIRTUOUS PERSON WOULD CHOOSE TO LIVE IF HIS CHOICE WAS RESTRICTED TO THE TWO OPTIONS.
Addition: that is to say, the life a virtuous person would choose for John to live, assuming the virtuous person puts himself in John's shoes. Ok, what I had discovered was nothing but the difference between the advisor and the example model of idealization. (Used for example by Michael Smith.)
Can I prove the further claim, that someone can have reasons to choose a life, among the ones he can choose to live, that a virtuous person would not choose, even if placed in analogous circumstances? (that it to say, can John have a reason to choose a life that does not correspond to the life he would choose under the ideally virtuous advisor model?)
Benjamin is an amoralist, and he is sadic. Benjamin's view of morality is the one of Trasimachus. He has no conscience, no pang of remorse. Benjamin finds himself in the situation in which he can either stab a colleague in the back and get a promotion, or not do it and let his colleague get a promotion.
I tend to think that Benjamin has most reasons to choose the life in which he stabs a colleague in the back and gets the promotion. This is clearly not the life that the virtuous would choose for him, if he could choose between the two cases. And this is also, I think, what would make Ben's life a better life.
How does Williams defend this claim? He says that a reason must be able in principle to explain action. And since desires are required to explain action, a reason must have some connection with a person's desires. What kind of connection? Something is a person's reason, says Williams, only if that person would arrive at the conclusion that he had that reason by reasoning upon his desires, their entailments, their nature, their fundation.
The crucial point is that it is that person that must do the reasoning.
As McDowell writes, this rules out something like conversion. Something would not count as a reason for Benjamin, if it woud require a conversion for Benjamin to recognize it as such.
The idea of a conversion seems important to me. Not because William's claim about motivation is right, which gives priority to desires, but because we want to say that a person's reasons are his reasons. And if someone would need a conversion in order to recognize something as a reason, and therefore, in order to offer it as an explanation of his action, there is a sense in which we are allowed to aks ourselves: are we still speaking about what would be a reason in that person's perspective? Conversion seems to be a sort of limiting parameter for personal identity.