Facts And Norms in European Political Theory, University of Copenhagen

Later this month I will be presenting in a conference titled ‘Facts and Norms in European Political Theory‘, held at the university of Copenhagen. I must admit I am quite excited to present my work alongside David Estlund and Pablo Gilabert, especially since the paper I am presenting is at odds with what they have previously written on the topic (and I suspect, at least in Estlund’s case, with what he is going to present in this conference).

The abstract for my paper is below.

Title: Can Motivational Facts Constrain Cosmopolitan Norms?

It is generally accepted that cosmopolitanism is not a strongly motivating view. As Martha Nussbaum writes, ‘the appeal to world citizenship fails—fails because patriotism is full of color and intensity and passion, whereas cosmopolitanism seems to have a hard time gripping the imagination’. Proponents and critics of cosmopolitanism share the view that it suffers from a ‘motivational gap’, that is, the fact that people in general do not seem to be motivated to act in the way cosmopolitan theory prescribes. It is more controversial, however, to argue that this motivational gap is significant to cosmopolitan theory at the normative level, rather than merely at the practical level. This paper argues that normative political theory might have been too quick in dismissing the argument that facts about motivation have normative significance. This is at least partly because advocates of this claim have been ambiguous as to what a normative motivational critique actually entails, and how is it different from one that is merely a critique of feasibility.

This paper therefore offers a framework for understanding the challenge the motivational gap poses for normative cosmopolitan theory. First, it will offer a typology of possible approaches to the motivational gap, which demonstrates the normative critique as being distinct from the weakness-of-will critique, feasibility-constraint critique, and the non-ideal theory critique. Second, it will offer three categories of the normative critique that help identify the nature of various arguments against cosmopolitanism. The normative motivational critique, it is argued, might understand the normative significance of motivation as an argument about the source, content, or scope of moral obligations, and each of these understandings pose a different normative challenge for cosmopolitanism.

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