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The Yeoh Tiong Lay Centre for Politics, Philosophy and Law will welcome Professor Kurt Sylvan (University of Southampton) to King's in November to deliver the third lecture of the 2023/24 Lecture Series in Practical Agency.   


Hylomorphism about Rationality


According to a familiar script in the philosophy of normativity, there is an important conceptual distinction between ‘formal’ requirements of coherence and ‘substantive’ requirements of reasons-responsiveness.  Once this distinction is granted, three options are typically considered for understanding the metaphysics of normativity: (1) internalists (e.g., Williams, Foot, Smith, Korsgaard, Markovits) hold that the normativity of coherence is fundamental and the normativity of reasons is derivative, (2) externalists (e.g., Scanlon, Parfit, Kolodny) hold that reasons are normatively fundamental and coherence is (at best) apparently normative, and (3) dualists (e.g., Worsnip, Fogal) hold that substantive and structural rationality are both normatively fundamental.  This talk defends a fourth option that has been neglected in contemporary philosophy, though it seems implicit in Aristotle and Kant: hylomorphism about rationality.  On this view, substantive and structural requirements of rationality are abstractions from more fundamental unities—namely, rational activities.  After developing the view in Kant-inspired way, I argue that hylomorphism about rationality gives (i) a better account of the range and interrelations of substantive and structural requirements than (1-3), and (ii) a better framework for understanding how normativity is grounded in the mind than the familiar Humean and (allegedly) Kantian forms of internalism.

Author Bio

Kurt Sylvan is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton.  He specializes in epistemology, philosophy of practical reason, and philosophy of mind.  His papers have appeared in Philosophical Review, Mind, and Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.  He was co-editor (with Ruth Chang) of the Routledge Handbook of Practical Reason, and is currently finishing (a) a book on theoretical normativity and (b) a new edition of the Blackwell Companion to Epistemology (with Matthias Steup, Ernest Sosa, and Jonathan Dancy).

At this event

Massimo Renzo

Professor of Politics, Philosophy & Law

Event details

Room SW 1.17, The Dickson Poon School of Law, First Floor, Somerset House East Wing, King's College London, Strand WC2R 2LS
Strand Building
Strand Campus, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS