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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThere is something mysterious, and perhaps even dubious, about 'ought' claims. They seem to exert an authoritative power, a "binding force," over us. The norms of morality are most often said to exhibit such an authoritative force. The "queerness" of this alleged property has led many to moral skepticism. But, normative authority is no less mysterious in the case of the 'oughts' of epistemics, logic or prudence. The questions "Why should I believe the truth? accept deductive inferences? act prudently?" are puzzling in the same way as the more familiar worry "Why should I be moral?" Moral philosophers who have tried to explain the nature of normative authority have most frequently focused their efforts on developing theories of the nature of moral facts, our epistemic access to such facts, or our motivational responses to them. It seems to me that each of these approaches is inadequate to the task of capturing normative force. One may know that it is a fact that stealing is immoral but still wonder whether one should steal. One may feel a strong motivation to be honest without being convinced that there is good reason to be so motivated. We will not clear up the mystery of normative authority by clearing up the metaphysics, epistemology, or motivational efficacy of norms. I contend that normative authority is a matter of justification. A norm is authoritative for an agent if and only if it is justified in a thorough-going sense, which I refer to as "justification simpliciter." I analyze the nature of justification simpliciter by means of an extended analogy with epistemic justification. There is a regress problem with justification simpliciter, and there are foundationalist, coherentist and externalist approaches to solving that problem. I conclude that foundationalist and externalist models of justification simpliciter fail. I then develop a coherentist theory of the nature of normativity, called Reflective Endorsement Coherentism. According to this theory, an agent is justified in accepting norm N as a guide to her action if and only if she can both endorse N upon reflection and reflectively endorse her own practices of endorsement.
Degree ProgramGraduate College