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Constitutivism and practical authority

Allison, Euan Russell; (2020) Constitutivism and practical authority. Masters thesis (M.Phil.Stud), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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I offer a restatement of ‘Kantian constitutivism’ – the position articulated by Korsgaard in her Sources (1996) – and argue that it can be defended against recent challenges (e.g. Enoch 2006). Chapter One provides some motivations for pursuing this account by rejecting major competitors. I claim that ‘realist’ interpretations of practical reasons cannot explain why, insofar as we are rational, conclusive reasons will motivate us. But it is difficult, once we accept an alternative ‘desire-based’ account, to accommodate the existence of unconditional reasons (I focus particularly on moral reasons, a subset of such reasons). Chapter Two begins to develop the constitutivist view, which explains both how there are unconditional reasons and how conclusive reasons will motivate rational agents. This is a desire-based view, but one which denies that the content of our desires is entirely contingent. If we care about some things insofar as we are agents, these will ground reasons which apply, necessarily, to all. To vindicate this, I explain why the authority of considerations bearing on constitutive features of agency need not depend upon whether we want to be agents. Chapter Three demonstrates that commitment to certain attitudes is constitutive of agency. This issue is pursued via another question which confronts desire-based theories: since desiring something does not by itself make it good, what determines that we should treat certain desires as reasons? Following Korsgaard, I show that agents are committed to valuing the capacity for practical reason itself, and do not need further reasons for doing so. This provides the criterion by which other evaluative attitudes can be selected as reasons, with distinctively moral implications. Finally, I explore an apparent tension between this conclusion and my strategy in Chapter Two, where I suggested we can disvalue our agency yet this does not undermine the authority of its constitutive standards.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Qualification: M.Phil.Stud
Title: Constitutivism and practical authority
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2020. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10092046
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