Biennial Philosophy Conference: Dimensions of Normative Strength

September 13, 2024 - September 14, 2024

Williamsburg, VA 23185

In much practical philosophy the notion of a practical reason has emerged as a fundamental one, in terms of which many other evaluative and normative notions are explained. Of course there are many metaphysical accounts of reasons: desire-based accounts, primitivist accounts, constitutive accounts, and so on. But prior to any debates about such metaphysical issues, it is arguable there are normative questions that need to be answered. How do reasons contribute to determining how we ought to act? Do they just “add up,” or do they interact in more complex ways that can nevertheless be systematically described? Many normative phenomena favor the latter answer, and there are more and more philosophers who are advocating it. Such philosophers might say that a certain reason cannot require much, but can justify a great deal, and that both of these capacities need to be taken into account when trying to determine if we are required, or permitted, or ought, or ought not, act in certain ways.

Some philosophers now take the existence of multiple dimensions of normative strength for granted in their theorizing about first-order issues such as satisficing, supererogation, buck-passing accounts of value, rational underdetermination, and so on. Others seem unaware of the distinctions between various dimensions of normative strength, and continue to talk about reasons on the analogy with physical forces, the strength of which can be characterized with a single value. What is virtually lacking is any robust debate between those who take the simpler view, and those who appeal to multiple dimensions of normative strength. This conference aims to remedy this, and to shed light on the relative merits of acknowledging multiple roles for, and strengths of, reasons.

Who's Speaking?

Robert Audi (Notre Dame)

Selim Berker (Harvard)

Lanny Goldman (William & Mary)

Elizabeth Harman (Princeton)

Maggie Little (Georgetown) & Coleen Macnamara (UC Riverside)

Daniel Muñoz (UNC Chapel Hill)

Mark Schroeder (USC)

Holly Smith (Rutgers)

Sponsored by: Philosophy Department


Joshua Gert [[jngert]]