The shmagency question

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Constitutivists hope to locate the foundations of ethics in the nature of action. They hope to find norms that are constitutive of agency. Recently David Enoch has argued that even if there are such norms, they cannot provide the last word when it comes to normativity, since they cannot tell us whether we have reason to be agents rather than shmagents. I argue that the force of the shmagency objection has been considerably overestimated, because philosophers on both sides of the debate have failed to grasp the true source of the authority of agency’s constitutive norm. Some constitutivists believe that this authority is rooted in the inescapability of agency. Yet agency is not, in fact, inescapable. What actually grounds the authority of agency’s constitutive norm is the fact that there is no standpoint outside of agency from which we can intelligibly ask normative questions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1127-1142
Number of pages16
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • Agency
  • Constitutivism
  • Enoch
  • Normativity
  • Shmagency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


Dive into the research topics of 'The shmagency question'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this