Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Practice, Reasons and the Agent's Point of View

19 Pages Posted: 20 May 2008  

George Pavlakos

University of Glasgow, School of Law

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: 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.

Suggested Citation

Pavlakos, George, Practice, Reasons and the Agent's Point of View (13 May 2008). Available at SSRN: or

George Pavlakos (Contact Author)

University of Glasgow, School of Law ( email )

Stair Building
5 - 8 The Square
Glasgow, Scotland G12 8QQ
United Kingdom

Paper statistics

Abstract Views