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Volume 52 • Number 2

April 2015



The Magic of Constitutivism

by Michael Smith

Constitutivism is the view that we can derive a substantive account of normative reasons for action—perhaps a Kantian account, perhaps a hedonistic account, perhaps a desire-fulfillment account, this is up for grabs—from abstract premises about the nature of action and agency. Constitutivists are thus bound together by their conviction that such a derivation is possible, not by their agreement about which substantive reasons can be derived, and not by agreement about the features of action and agency that permit the derivation.

In the final section of the penultimate chapter of Reasons, a chapter devoted to discussing the merits of constitutivism, Eric Wiland has this to say:

Constitutivism is ambitious. It attempts to extract an account of reasons for action from reflection on the bare ideas of action and agency. So we shouldn’t be surprised if doubts remain. Those who claim to extract reasons out of agency might remind us of those who claim to pull rabbits out of hats. you suspect that there must be a trick (Wiland 2012, p. 141).

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ISSN: 2152-1123