Alida Mühlbauer

Practical and Theoretical Normativity in Constitutivism

After a detour through law and historical science I studied philosophy at the University of Konstanz. Both my BA- and my MA-thesis are about Arthur Schopenhauer’s works. My MA-graduation was rewarded with the VEUK price of the University of Konstanz. For my dissertation, I changed the subject completely, as the theory of constitutivism began to fascinate me. It is a philosophical view that aims at justifying normativity in general or moral judgments in particular by ways of making plausible that agents have to conform to certain normative standards in order to be agents at all. Although separating practical and theoretical normativity is a common (albeit not uncontroversial) procedure in philosophy, constitutivism seems to dissolve the dividing line between the two on a substantial level. For constitutivist theorists like Christine M. Korsgaard and J. David Velleman, practical normativity derives from what it means to be an agent and theoretical normativity from what it means to be a thinker, where being an agent and being a thinker are overlapping notions. I want to show that, in constitutivism, there is another kind of ought that stands beyond practical and theoretical normativity and unites them: being rational. My eventual aim is to defend the thesis that a domain-neutral notion of rationality is at the basis of constitutivists’ efforts to explain normativity. Firstly, I will defend those points in Korsgaard’s and Velleman’s highly controversial theories which are relevant for me. Secondly, I will argue that fulfilling practical and theoretical obligations ultimately is a necessity of rationality. So I can, thirdly, show that there is no substantial dividing line between practical and theoretical normativity in constitutivism.