Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Grounding constitutivism
by Lindeman, Kathryn M., Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2014, 131; 3582728
Abstract (Summary)

The world is full of things that are better and worse, and we evaluate these things according to norms. However, the nature of norms and how they are related to the those better and worse things is not at all clear. Constitutive accounts of norms attempt to locate norms from as a constituent of the nature of the very individuals they evaluate. I first argue against current constitutivist accounts because of their endorsement of what I call the Threshold Commitment, which holds that a necessary condition of being a member of an evaluative kind ? a kind whose members can be evaluated qua their kind ? is satisfying some minimum number or degree of the norms of that kind. I then develop a better account of the constitutive relationship between evaluative kinds and the norms that evaluate them. By understanding evaluative kinds as constituted by functions, constitutivists can easily explain norms as those standards whose satisfaction makes individual kind-members better at performing their function. I argue that understanding constitutive functions according to an etiological account of proper function avoids endorsing the Threshold Commitment and so makes one immune to the problems with current constitutivist accounts. Thus begins a kind of proof by cases for the position that the norms governing evaluative kinds can be grounded in the functional nature of those kinds. The last chapters answer worries raised by the use of etiological function in the constitutivist account. I consider a priori and empirical worries. The a priori objections are based on our intuitions about when and how we can evaluate individuals according to norms and fears that the etiological account does violence to these intuitions. The empirical objections focus on worries that etiological functions can be found to support norms contrary to our intuitive theoretical norms.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Setiya, Kieran
Commitee: Brandom, Robert, Ferrero, Luca, Schafer, Karl
School: University of Pittsburgh
Department: Philosophy
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 76/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy
Keywords: Constitutivism, Etiological functions, Metaethics, Norms, Threshold Commitment
Publication Number: 3582728
ISBN: 9781321210545
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