Christian Tarsney
Oxford University
How should you decide what to do when you're uncertain about basic normative principles (e.g., Kantianism vs. utilitarianism)? A natural suggestion is to follow some "second-order" norm: e.g., "comply with the first-order norm you regard as most probable" or "maximize expected choiceworthiness". But what if you're uncertain about second-order norms too -- must you then invoke some third-order norm? If so, it seems that any norm-guided response to normative uncertainty is doomed to a vicious regress. In this paper, I aim to rescue second-order norms from this threat of regress. I first elaborate and defend the suggestion some philosophers have entertained that the regress problem forces us to accept normative externalism, the view that at least one norm is incumbent on agents regardless of their beliefs or evidence concerning that norm. But, I then argue, we need not accept externalism about first-order (e.g., moral) norms, thus closing off any question of what an agent should do in light of her normative beliefs. Rather, it is more plausible to ascribe external force to a single, second-order rational norm: the enkratic principle, correctly formulated. This modest form of externalism, I argue, is both intrinsically well-motivated and sufficient to head off the threat of regress.
Keywords normative uncertainty  moral uncertainty  regress  infinite regress  decision theory  normative externalism  practical rationality  enkratic principle  metanormativism
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
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

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
379 ( #23,727 of 2,455,876 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
36 ( #22,071 of 2,455,876 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes