Philosophical Studies 174 (11):2667-2686 (2017)

Michael Bukoski
Florida State University
Metaethical constitutivists explain reasons or normativity in terms of what is constitutive of agency. In Velleman’s paradigmatic constitutivist theory, that is the aim of self-understanding. The best-known objection to constitutivism is Enoch’s shmagency objection: constitutivism cannot explain normativity because a constitutive aim of agency lacks normative significance unless one has reason to be an agent rather than a “shmagent”. In response, Velleman argues that the constitutive aim is self-validating. I argue that this claim is false. If the constitutive aim of self-understanding structures an agent’s practical deliberation as Velleman describes, then some correctly deliberating agents will regard that aim as normatively arbitrary or unjustified. Moreover, I argue that the self-invalidation of the constitutive aim undermines or significantly qualifies Velleman’s claim that his constitutivism reconciles internalism with a kind of objectivity about reasons. Internalists typically hold that motives from which an agent is alienated do not generate reasons, but in cases of self-invalidation, agents are alienated from the aim of self-understanding in just this way. Thus, the larger cost of the constitutive aim’s possible self-invalidation is that Velleman’s constitutivism does not satisfy a plausible and widely accepted constraint on an internalist account of reasons.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11098-016-0804-2
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 53,666
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
The Reasons of Love.Harry G. Frankfurt - 2004 - Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Dispositional Theories of Value.Michael Smith, David Lewis & Mark Johnston - 1989 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 63 (1):89-174.
The Possibility of Practical Reason.J. David Velleman - 2004 - Philosophical Studies 121 (3):263-275.

View all 29 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Shmagency Revisited.David Enoch - 2011 - In Michael Brady (ed.), New Waves in Metaethics. Palgrave-Macmillan.
Teleology and Normativity.Matthew Silverstein - 2016 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 11:214-240.
Constitutivism and the Inescapability of Agency.Luca Ferrero - 2009 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 4:303-333.
Why Be an Agent?Evan Tiffany - 2012 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (2):223 - 233.
Constitutivism and Normativity: A Qualified Defence.Stefano Bertea - 2013 - Philosophical Explorations 16 (1):81-95.
Constitutivism About Practical Reasons.Paul Katsafanas - 2018 - In Daniel Star (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 367-394.
The Shmagency Question.Matthew Silverstein - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (5):1127-1142.
Inescapability Revisited.Luca Ferrero - 2018 - Manuscrito: Revista Internacional de Filosofía 41 (4):113-158.
Velleman's Autonomism.Philip Clark - 2001 - Ethics 111 (3):580–593.
Why Care About Being an Agent?Caroline T. Arruda - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (3):488-504.
Review: Discussion: "The Guise of a Reason". [REVIEW]Nadeem J. Z. Hussain - 2004 - Philosophical Studies 121 (3):263 - 275.
Bare Personhood? Velleman on Selfhood.Catriona Mackenzie - 2007 - Philosophical Explorations 10 (3):263 – 282.


Added to PP index

Total views
54 ( #176,665 of 2,349,172 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #239,088 of 2,349,172 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes