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Philosophical Studies

, Volume 174, Issue 11, pp 2667–2686 | Cite as

Self-validation and internalism in Velleman’s constitutivism

  • Michael Bukoski
Article
  • 310 Downloads

Abstract

Metaethical constitutivists explain reasons or normativity in terms of what is (putatively) 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

Constitutivism Velleman Self-validation Internalism Shmagency 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I am grateful to David Enoch, Connie Rosati, Mark Timmons, and an anonymous reviewer for very helpful feedback on this paper. Any mistakes remain my own.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA

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