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Practice, Reasons and the Agent's Point of View

George Pavlakos

University of Glasgow, School of Law; University of Antwerp, Faculty of Law

13 May 2008

Positivism, in its standard outlook, is normative contextualism: if legal reasons are content-independent, then their content may vary with the context or point of view. Despite several advantages vis-a-vis strong metaphysical conceptions of reasons, contextualism implies relativism, which may lead further to the fragmentation of the point of view of agency. In his Oxford Hart-lecture, Coleman put forward a fresh account of the moral semantics of legal content, one that lays claim to preserving the unity of agency while retaining the social facts thesis, which has been a key intuition of positivism. The present essay identifies potential weaknesses with this account and proposes a reconstruction along rationalist lines: Firstly, it advances a descriptive account of reflective agency that is delivered in terms of a modest conceptual analysis; secondly, this is combined with a context-dependent or "buck-passing" account of value, which illustrates that substantive reasons for action must be anchored, ontologically speaking, to particular social practices (Social Dependency Thesis). In the end the unity of agency comes at an affordable price, for it is not longer necessary to resort to metaphysical necessity and the most demanding conditions this imposes, in order to defend it.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 19

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Date posted: May 20, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Pavlakos, George, Practice, Reasons and the Agent's Point of View (13 May 2008). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1134682 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1134682

Contact Information

George Pavlakos (Contact Author)
University of Glasgow, School of Law ( email )
Stair Building
5 - 8 The Square
Glasgow, Scotland G12 8QQ
United Kingdom
University of Antwerp, Faculty of Law ( email )
Prinsstraat 13
Antwerp, 2000
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