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Olof Leffler

Abstract

Constitutivism explains norms in terms of their being constitutive of agency, actions, or certain propositional attitudes. However, the shmagency objection says that if we can be shmagents – like agents, minus the norm-explaining features of agency – we can avoid the norms, so the explanation fails. This paper extends this objection, arguing that constitutivists about practical norms suffer from it despite their recent attempts to solve it. The standard response to the objection is that it is self-defeating for agents to become shmagents. I agree, but the response ignores the possibility of shmagents who consider whether to be agents while already standing outside agency. Another response says that we ought to be agents because agency is, in some sense, normatively valuable, and if so, we can explain norms in terms of this valuable form of agency. But then the norms that our constitutions are supposed to explain are underdetermined because it is unclear how much we ought to care about this value. I conclude that the shmagency objection has yet to be answered.

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