Moral Philosophy Seminar (Monday - Week 8, MT21)

Moral Philosophy Seminar

Exercises of normative powers modify normative properties by ‘fiat’ or ‘stipulation’. This stipulative act has been characterized in three different ways: acting with the aim of (thereby) making a normative change, communicating the aim of (thereby) making a normative change, or willing a normative change.  This paper offers an original argument for a Humean thesis about promising, which straightforwardly generalizes to the broader class of exercises of normative powers on any of the three characterizations: that a rational agent cannot promise in the absence of social or institutional promissory norms that confer deontic significance on act types (e.g., signing on the dotted line) that would not otherwise have such significance. The core argument is action theoretic; the key premise is the Contribution Condition on acting with an aim: that doing X in order to (bring about) Y requires that the agent believe that their having X-ed on the occasion might come to fully or partly account for Y’s coming to pass. The paper concludes that the only normative powers are conventional powers, and that the attempt to generalize from the legal to the nonconventional domain was doomed from the start. 


Those who wish to attend should ask the convenor through email to add them to the mailing list if they are not already on it.

Moral Philosophy Seminar Convenor: Jeremy Fix