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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractConstitutivism is a kind of metaethical theory according to which one can explain reasons or normativity in terms of what is constitutive of agency. Any constitutivist theory makes three basic claims: (1) that some feature is constitutive of agency, (2) that one can explain reasons or normativity in its terms, and (3) that doing so has plausible first-order normative implications. I consider the paradigmatic constitutivist theories of Christine Korsgaard and J. David Velleman and the more recent variant developed by Michael Smith, and I argue that each fails adequately to justify at least two of the three basic constitutivist claims. I then argue that a constitutivist strategy can nevertheless be adapted to explain the necessary connection between normative judgment and motivation. More specifically, I argue that practical deliberation has two constitutive features. First, it aims at proceeding in a rational way from premises to conclusions. Second, it has an internal connection with motivation: barring weakness of will, people are motivated to act in accordance with their deliberative conclusions. Because a person's normative beliefs guide the course of her deliberation, and her deliberation motivates her action, a person will be motivated to act in ways that correspond to her normative beliefs, which her sincere normative judgments express. This account provides a cognitivist explanation for a phenomenon often taken to be the most important evidence for non-cognitivism or expressivism.
Degree ProgramGraduate College