T. M. Scanlon on Normativity: A Methodological Exploration


  • Piyarudee Chaiyaporn Chulalongkorn University


philosophical methodology, normativity, reason for action, reflective equilibrium, T. M. Scanlon


This article argues that T. M. Scanlon’s account of normativity, grounded in the concepts of reasons and reason relations, is strongly justified as it attains substantive coherence through the method of reflective equilibrium. The argument focuses on three strategies employed by Scanlon in his critical analysis of Joseph Raz’s and Jonathan Dancy’s alternative accounts of normativity, namely, (1) characterization, (2) the pursuit of narrow reflective equilibrium (N-RE), and (3) the pursuit of wide reflective equilibrium (W-RE). In addition to the robustness provided by substantive coherence, which safeguards his account against Justin Clarke-Doane’s objection regarding reliability, Scanlon is also able to address other criticisms. This is because Scanlon’s philosophical methodology incorporates (1) conceptualization and generalization through instances and (2) the pursuit of convergence among divergent accounts.

Author Biography

Piyarudee Chaiyaporn, Chulalongkorn University

Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts



Theptawee Chokvasin เทพทวี โชควศิน. (2007). Dunlayaphap choeng phinit phikro nai chariyasat ดุลยภาพเชิงพินิจพิเคราะห์ในจริยศาสตร์ [Reflective equilibrium in ethics]. Warasarn teknoloyi Suranaree วารสารเทคโนโลยีสุรนารี [Suranaree Journal of Social Sciences], 1(2), 1-15.


Broome, J. (2000). Normative Requirements. In J. Dancy (Ed.), Normativity (pp. 78-99). Blackwell.

Broome, J. (2018). Reason fundamentalism and what is wrong with it. In D. Star (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of reasons and normativity (pp. 297-317). Oxford University Press.

Calhoun, C. (2016). Moral aims: Essays on the importance of getting it right and practicing morality with others. Oxford University Press.

Cappelen, H., Gendler, T. S., & Hawthorn, J. (Eds.). The Oxford handbook of philosophical methodology. Oxford University Press.

Cath, Y. (2016). Reflective Equilibrium. In H. Cappelen, T. S. Gendler, & J. Hawthorn (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of philosophical methodology (pp. 213-230). Oxford University Press.

Clarke-Doane, J. (2017). Objectivity and reliability. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 47(6), 841–855.

Dancy, J. (2000). Practical reality. Oxford University Press.

Dancy, J. (2004a). Enticing reasons. In R. J. Wallace, P. Pettit, S. Scheffler, & M. Smith, (Eds.), Reason and value: Themes from the moral philosophy of Joseph Raz (pp. 91-118). Clarendon Press.

Dancy, J. (2004b). Ethics without principles. Oxford University Press.

Dancy, J. (2018). Practical Shape: A theory of practical reasoning. Oxford University Press.

George, R. P. (2022, June 28). Joseph Raz: Philosopher of freedom. Public Discourse. https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2022/06/83065/

Gert, J. (2003). Brute rationality. Nous, 37(3), 417-446.

Gert, J. (2007). Normative strength and the balance of reasons. The Philosophical Review, 116(4), 533-562.

Harman, G. (1982). Conceptual Role Semantics. Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic, 23(2), 242-256.

Hart, H. L. A. (1958). Positivism and the separation of law and morals. Harvard Law Review, 71(4), 593-629.

Holyoak, K. J., & Nisbett, R. E. (1988). Induction. In R. J. Sternberg & E. E. Smith (Eds.), The psychology of human thought (pp. 50-91). Cambridge University Press.

Hornsby, J. (2008) A disjunctive conception of acting for reasons. In A. Haddock, & F. Macpherson (Eds), Disjunctivism: Perception, Action, Knowledge (pp. 244-261). Oxford University Press.

Johnson-Laird, P. (1988). The taxonomy of thinking. In R. J. Sternberg & E. E. Smith (Eds.), The psychology of human thought (p. 443). Cambridge University Press.

Little, M. O. (2013). In Defence of Non-Deontic Reasons. In D. Bakhurst, B. Hooker, & M. O. Little (Eds.), Thinking about reasons: Themes from the philosophy of Jonathan Dancy (pp. 112-136). Oxford University Press.

McDowell, J. (2013). Acting in the light of a fact. In D. Bakhurst, M. O. Little, & B. Hooker (Eds.) Thinking about reasons (pp. 13-28). Oxford University Press.

Metz, E. K. H. (2018). Review of Practical Shape by Jonathan Dancy. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 21(5), 1251-1253.

Mill, J. S. (1859). On Liberty. John W. Parker and Son.

Nersessian, N. J. (1990). Faraday to Einstein: Constructing meaning in scientific theories. Springer.

O’Neil, M. (2016, April 30). As simple as possible, but not simpler: form the philosophy to the politics of non-intrinsic egalitarianism [Remarks]. The celebration to mark the retirement from teaching of T. M. Scanlon, Harvard University. https://www.academia.edu/25022560/_As_simple_as_possible_but_not_simpler_from_the_philosophy_to_the_politics_of_non_intrinsic_egalitarianism_Remarks_made_at_the_celebration_to_mark_the_retirement_from_teaching_of_T_M_Scanlon_Harvard_University_April_2016&nav_from=bd6f5bb0-3bcd-4fac-a013-34805eab223c&rw_pos=0

Rawls, J. (1974). The independence of moral theory. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 48, 5-22.

Raz, J. (1975). Practical reason and norms. Oxford University Press.

Raz, J. (1999). When we are ourselves: The active and the passive. In Engaging reason: On the theory of value and action (pp. 5-21). Oxford University Press.

Raz, J. (2009). Between authority and interpretation: On the theory of law and practical reason. Oxford University Press.

Scanlon, T. M. (1998). What we owe to each other. Harvard University Press.

Scanlon, T. M. (2003). Rawls on Justification. In S. R. Freeman (Ed.), The Cambridge companion to Rawls (pp. 139-167) Cambridge University Press.

Scanlon, T. M. (2004). Reasons: A puzzling duality. In R. J. Wallace, P. Pettit, S. Scheffler, & M. Smith (Eds.), Reason and value: Themes from the moral philosophy of Joseph Raz (pp. 231-246). Clarendon Press.

Scanlon, T. M. (2011). The Unity of the Normative. Philosophical Studies, 154(3), 443-450.

Scanlon, T. M. (2014). Being realistic about reasons. Oxford University Press.

Scanlon, T. M. (2017). Normative realism and ontology: Reply to Clarke-Doane, Rosen, and Enoch and McPherson. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 47(6), 877-897.

Scanlon, T. M. (2021). Contractualism and Justification. In M. Stepanians & M. Frauchiger (Eds.), Reason, justification, and contractualism (pp. 17-44). De Gruyter.

Scanlon, T. M., & Dancy, J. (2002). Intention and Permissibility. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary, 74, 301-338.

Schroeder, M. (2015). Being Realistic about Reasons, by T. M. Scanlon. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 93(1), 195-198.

Thomson, J. J. (2008). Normativity. Open Court.

Wason, P. S. (1960). On the failure to eliminate hypotheses in a conceptual task. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 12(3), 129-140.

Way, J. (2019). Review of Practical Shape. Ethics, 129(4), 706-710.




How to Cite

Chaiyaporn, P. (2023). T. M. Scanlon on Normativity: A Methodological Exploration. Journal of Letters, 52(2), 164–180. Retrieved from https://so03.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/jletters/article/view/268005



Research Articles