Southern Journal of Philosophy 55 (4):415-438 (2017)

David G. Dick
University of Calgary
In his writings on moral philosophy, Bishop Joseph Butler adopts an identifiably “constitutivist” strategy because he seeks to ground normativity in features of agency. Butler's constitutivist strategy deserves our attention both because he is an influential precursor to much modern moral philosophy and because it sheds light on current debates about constitutivism. For example, Butler's approach can easily satisfy the “error constraint” that is often thought to derail modern constitutivist approaches. It does this by defining actions relative to the kind of being who performs them, instead of relative to the circumstances of their performance. This gives Butler a conceptually stable account of something that is both fully an action yet morally bad, for which an agent might be held morally responsible. Should modern constitutivists wish to model their views on Butler's in order to satisfy the error constraint, they need not adopt all his theological and other commitments, but they will have to avoid the currently popular constitutivist strategy of deriving normative force from the inescapability of a given principle.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/sjp.12262
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 68,916
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Sources of Normativity.Christine Korsgaard - 1999 - Philosophical Quarterly 49 (196):384-394.
The Methods of Ethics.Henry Sidgwick - 1962 - Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 30 (4):401-401.
The Possibility of Practical Reason.J. David Velleman - 2000 - Philosophical Studies 121 (3):263-275.
The Methods of Ethics.Henry Sidgwick - 1903 - International Journal of Ethics 13 (2):251-254.

View all 16 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Bishop Butler's View of Conscience.D. Daiches Raphael - 1949 - Philosophy 24 (90):219-238.
Constitutivism and the Inescapability of Agency.Luca Ferrero - 2009 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 4:303-333.
Joseph Butler on Forgiveness.Linda Radzik - 2014 - In Johannes Brachtendorf & Stephan Herzberg (eds.), Vergebung: Philosophische Perspektiven auf ein Problemfeld der Ethik. Muenster: Mentis. pp. 139-47.


Added to PP index

Total views
70 ( #162,166 of 2,497,778 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
4 ( #171,267 of 2,497,778 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes