Agency and the Foundations of Ethics: Nietzschean Constitutivism

Paperback | January 2, 2016

byPaul Katsafanas

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Paul Katsafanas explores how we might justify normative claims as diverse as "murder is wrong" and "agents have reason to take the means to their ends." He offers an original account of constitutivism - the view that we can justify certain normative claims by showing that agents becomecommitted to them simply in virtue of acting - and argues that the attractions of this view are considerable: constitutivism promises to resolve longstanding philosophical puzzles about the metaphysics, epistemology, and practical grip of normative claims. The greatest challenge for anyconstitutivist theory is developing a conception of action that is minimal enough to be independently plausible, but substantial enough to yield robust normative results. Katsafanas argues that the current versions of constitutivism fall short on this score. However, we can generate a successfulversion by employing a more nuanced theory of action. Drawing on recent empirical work on human motivation as well as a model of agency indebted to the work of Nietzsche, Agency and the Foundations of Ethics argues that every episode of action aims jointly at agential activity and power. An agent manifests agential activity if she approves of heraction, and further knowledge of the motives figuring in the etiology of her action would not undermine this approval. An agent aims at power if she aims at encountering and overcoming obstacles or resistances in the course of pursuing other, more determinate ends. These structural features ofagency both constitute events as actions and generate standards of assessment for action. Using these results, Katsafanas shows that we can derive substantive and sometimes surprising normative claims from facts about the nature of agency.

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Paul Katsafanas explores how we might justify normative claims as diverse as "murder is wrong" and "agents have reason to take the means to their ends." He offers an original account of constitutivism - the view that we can justify certain normative claims by showing that agents becomecommitted to them simply in virtue of acting - and ...

Paul Katsafanas is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Boston University. He works in ethics, action theory, and nineteenth-century philosophy.

other books by Paul Katsafanas

Format:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.61 inPublished:January 2, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198748140

ISBN - 13:9780198748144

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. Three Challenges for Ethical Theory2. Normativity as Inescapability3. Constitutivism and Self-Knowledge4. Constitutivism and Self-Constitution5. Action's First Constitutive Aim: Agential Activity6. Action's Second Constitutive Aim: Power7. The Structure of Nietzschean Constitutivism8. The Normative Results Generated by Nietzschean Constitutivism9. Activity, Power, and the Foundations of EthicsAppendix: Is Nietzsche Really a Constitutivist?References

Editorial Reviews

"there has been a resurgence of interest among professional philosophers in the meaning of life. No one has done more to contribute to the growing body of literature on the topic than Thaddeus Metz. His new book is an important, deeply engaging, and first-rate contribution to the literature onthe meaning of life." --Stewart Goetz, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews