Agency and Normative Self-Governance

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We are agents: we can deliberate about what to do, and then act on the basis of that deliberation. We are also capable of normative self-governance: we can identify and respond to reasons as reasons. Many theorists believe that these two capacities are intimately connected. On the basis of this connection they conclude that practical reasoning must be carried out under the guise of a justification. This paper explores two strategies for avoiding that conclusion. The first, which just denies the connection between agency and normative self-governance, is rejected as too costly, since it leaves the normative significance of agency unexplained. The second, which suggests that we can respond to a consideration as a reason without representing it as a reason, seems more promising, but it requires a reductive account of reasons for action. The upshot is that metaethics and action theory are entwined in ways that few have recognized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-528
Number of pages12
JournalAustralasian Journal of Philosophy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2017


  • Setiya
  • Velleman
  • agency
  • guise of the good
  • metaethics
  • normative guidance
  • reasons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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