march, 2019

07mar2:00 pm4:00 pmMitchell Berman: 'Interest-Relational Reasons, and Artificial Oughts'


Event Details

It is our pleasure to invite you to the second of a pair of Hart Seminars this week by Mitchell Berman. This is an optional pre-read seminar, and the reading will be circulated five days prior to the event.

Abstract: Although many normative philosophers today take a reason to be the fundamental normative concept, we have no shared understanding of what a reason is. This paper joins a growing chorus of scholars who analyze reasons as facts within one or another multi-place relational schema. In particular, it proposes that a reason is a fact within a six-place relational schema that includes a place for agential interests—actual, supposed or imagined. By providing that a fact can be a reason for an agent only in relation to interests predicated of her, while allowing that such interests can be merely supposed or imagined, the account is radically deflationary; it entails, among other things, that every available option is supported by some reason. The interest-relational account is deflationary but not inert. The paper shows that the account solves several problems that have bedeviled other analyses of reasons, including concerning beliefs, and concerning accrual. Furthermore, the deflationary interest-relational analysis can make sense of the ‘thin’ or ‘formal’ oughts associated with ‘artificial normative systems’ (such as games, fashion, and the law) much more satisfactorily than can the more robust analyses of reasons that predominate in the metanormative literature.

Mitchell Berman is the Leon Meltzer Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. He writes and teaches in American constitutional law, constitutional theory, philosophy of criminal law, general jurisprudence, and philosophy of sport. His work and thinking in these diverse fields is unified and shaped by his interest in deepening our understanding of normativity and normative systems. Professor Berman’s scholarship has addressed topics including justification, coercion, desert, blameworthiness, cheating, blackmail, and refereeing practices in professional basketball.

Professor Berman’s seminar is part of our Hart Seminar Series, which features a diverse group of leading scholars working at the intersection of law and philosophy. Hart Publishing contributes generous support to make the seminar series possible.


(Thursday) 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm


University of Surrey School of Law

Frank Whittle Building (AB) Fifth Floor, Guildford, GU2 7XH

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