Constitutivism: On Rabbits, Hats, and Holy Grails

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Constitutivism, at a first approximation, is the thought “that we can derive a substantive account of normative reasons for actions … from abstract premises about the nature of action and agency” (Smith, 2015, 187). And it is a natural and attractive thought, because it promises to deliver the normativity of practical reasons - and perhaps of morality with it - in metaphysically and epistemically unproblematic ways. It also, however, faces objections, including my “Shmagency” objection.

In recent years, Michael Smith has been developing a distinctive constitutivist view, one that naturally follows in the footsteps of his previous work and that is, if he’s right, better placed to respond to the objections troubling earlier constitutivist attempts. This chapter is a critical examination of Smith’s constitutivism, engaging both some of its unique features and the ways in which it is, after all, an instance of the more general constitutivist family and so vulnerable to the Shmagency objection. Critically engaging with Smith’s version of constitutivism thus helps us to better understand both the prospects and the problems for constitutivism in general
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Practical Reason
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9780429266768
ISBN (Print)9781138195929
StatePublished - Dec 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Constitutivism: On Rabbits, Hats, and Holy Grails'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this