In Defense of Constitutivism About Epistemic Normativity

Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 103 (2):232-258 (2022)
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Epistemic constitutivism (EC) holds that the nature of believing is such that it gives rise to a standard of correctness and that other epistemic normative notions (e.g., reasons for belief) can be explained in terms of this standard. If defensible, this view promises an attractive and unifying account of epistemic normativity. However, EC faces a forceful objection: that constitutive standards of correctness are never enough for generating normative reasons. This paper aims to defend EC in the face of this objection. I do so in two steps. First, I dispute a crucial assumption underlying the case against EC: that constitutive standards of correctness in general are ‘reason-giving’ only if and because there is also a prior reason to comply with them. Second, I outline a strategy of how EC can meet the challenge of explaining what’s special about the activity of believing such that, unlike other standard-governed activities, it is capable of generating normative reasons.

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David Horst
University of Lisbon


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