Hi all -
Very happy to have Sharon Street joining us at PEA Soup for a stint in the Featured Philosophers chair! Sharon is Associate Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Philosophy at NYU. She provides a very helpful introduction to her work below the fold. Please join me in welcoming Sharon!
I am grateful for the invitation to appear here on PEA Soup, and would like to thank Dale Dorsey, David Shoemaker, and David Sobel for organizing this series. I would be glad to discuss any aspect of my work over the next few days.
Roughly speaking, the goal of my work so far has been to develop an account of normativity that coheres with a broadly naturalistic conception of the world. While most of my writings focus on the case of practical reasons, the view I develop is intended to apply to epistemic reasons as well.
My work on the topic may be divided into three parts. The first part is the negative part, in which I argue against various “realist” accounts of normativity (including non-naturalist realist, naturalist realist, and “quasi-realist” accounts), according to which there are robustly attitude-independent normative reasons for belief and action. The second part is the positive part, in which I develop what I call a “Humean constructivist” account of normativity. The third part consists in an effort to show how even if we construe debates about the attitude-independence of normative reasons as “substantive normative debates,” as theorists such as Simon Blackburn, Ronald Dworkin, and Allan Gibbard recommend that we do, we still have to give up the view that there are robustly attitude-independent normative reasons. The epistemological problems that plague realism, I try to show, cannot be sidestepped by interpreting claims about attitude-independent reasons as first-order normative claims; rather, I argue, traditional metaethical problems end up reasserting themselves in a substantive normative guise.
My published and forthcoming papers, as well as a few unpublished ones, are available at https://files.nyu.edu/ss194/public/sharonstreet/Writing.html. Here is a brief summary of what topics I address where:
I argue against non-naturalist versions of normative realism in “A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value,” “Objectivity and Truth: You’d Better Rethink It,” and a draft on Parfit’s metaethics entitled “Nothing ‘Really’ Matters, But That’s Not What Matters.”
I argue against naturalist versions of normative realism in “A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value” (especially section 7), “Reply to Copp: Naturalism, Normativity, and the Varieties of Realism Worth Worrying About,” and a rough draft entitled “Normativity and Water: The Analogy and Its Limits.”
I argue against quasi-realism in “Mind-Independence Without the Mystery: Why Quasi-Realists Can’t Have It Both Ways,” and section 7 of “What is Constructivism in Ethics and Metaethics?”.
I argue against realism about epistemic reasons in “Evolution and the Normativity of Epistemic Reasons.”
I argue against theism, exploring some parallels with secular normative realism, in “If Everything Happens for a Reason, Then We Don’t Know What Reasons Are: Why the Price of Theism is Normative Skepticism.”
I develop my positive “Humean constructivist” account of normativity in “Constructivism about Reasons,” “What is Constructivism in Ethics and Metaethics?”, and “Coming to Terms With Contingency: Humean Constructivism about Practical Reason.”
I address objections to the positive account in “In Defense of Future Tuesday Indifference: Ideally Coherent Eccentrics and the Contingency of What Matters” (addressing the allegedly implausible consequences of subjectivist views like my own) and the draft “How to Be a Relativist About Normativity” (addressing the question of how one may consistently be a constructivist about normativity “all the way down,” including with respect to the attitude-dependence thesis itself).
I argue that epistemological problems cannot be sidestepped by interpreting claims about attitude-independent reasons as substantive normative claims in “Objectivity and Truth: You’d Better Rethink It,” “Mind-Independence Without the Mystery: Why Quasi-Realists Can’t Have It Both Ways,” and “Nothing ‘Really’ Matters, but That’s Not What Matters.” I discuss the sense in which theism is a substantive normative claim (one that, like realism, leads to epistemological problems) in “If Everything Happens for a Reason, Then We Don’t Know What Reasons Are.”
Finally, I offer a summary of the phenomenon of undermining explanations in “Does Anything Really Matter or Did We Just Evolve to Think So?”. (This paper was written primarily for an undergraduate audience, but it contains some material on undermining versus vindicating explanations that I don’t discuss elsewhere.)