Shmagency Revisited

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In my "Agency, Shmagency: Why Normativity Will Not Come from What Is Constitutive of Action" (Philosophical Review, 2006), I argued against a wide range of constitutivist views of practical normativity – namely, views that attempt to ground practical reasons in norms that are constitutive of action and rationality. I argued that such constitutive norms – even if they exist – are still potentially just as arbitrary as other features (such as desires) we find ourselves with, and so are ill-suited to ground normativity. They can, of course, be normatively significant, if we have an independent reason to be agents (just like the rules of a game can be normatively relevant, if we have an independent reason to play the relevant game), but if such reason to play the agency game is independent of the constitutivist story, then constitutivism cannot be the whole story of normativity. Some constitutivists have replied to this challenge (including, most prominently, David Velleman, in his recent How We Get Along). In this paper, I revisit the challenge and the responses to it, critically evaluating them. In doing so, I address in more detail than in "Agency, Shmagency" the analogy with some skeptical challenges and some replies to skepticism in epistemology, and the extent to which my challenge to constitutivism (and the plausibility of the constitutivist's reply) depend on the details of the specific constitutivist view.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationNew Waves in Metaethics
EditorsBrady Michael
PublisherLondon : Palgrave Macmillan UK
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-230-29489-9
ISBN (Print)978-0-230-25162-5
StatePublished - 2010


  • Metaethics
  • Constitutivism
  • Velleman
  • Agency
  • Korsgaard


Dive into the research topics of 'Shmagency Revisited'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this