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

Authors
Michael Bukoski
Florida State University
Abstract
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.
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-016-0804-2
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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.

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