What's in an Aim?

Oxford Studies in Metaethics 17:138-165 (2022)
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Metaethical constitutivists seek to ground normativity in facts about what is constitutive of agency. One strand of constitutivism locates the foundations of normativity in constitutive aims, which are standardly conceived of in teleological terms. I present three challenges that show that the teleological conception of constitutive aims is inadequate for the constitutivist project. I then sketch an alternative conception of constitutive aims in the form of a commitment-based conception. On the commitment-based conception, actions and attitudes constitutively represent their objects as having certain properties, and their constitutive aims are fixed by the accuracy-conditions of these representations. Because such representations constitutively involve a commitment on the part of the agent to the object’s having the relevant property, they generate authoritative norms for the agent. I conclude that, unlike the teleological conception, the commitment-based conception promises to yield a unified constitutivism that delivers authoritative normative standards for both actions and attitudes.

Author's Profile

Keshav Singh
University of Alabama, Birmingham


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