Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 501–514 | Cite as

Pains of Perseverance: Agent-Centred Prerogatives, Burdens and the Limits of Human Motivation

  • Gideon Elford


An important question in recent work in political philosophy concerns whether facts about individuals’ motivational deficiencies are facts to which principles of justice are sensitive. In this context, David Estlund has recently argued that the difficulties individuals’ face in motivating themselves to act do not affect the content of normative principles that apply to them. Against Estlund, the paper argues that in principle the motivational difficulties individuals face can affect the content of normative principles that apply to them. This argument is made with reference to so-called Agent-Centred Prerogatives. The paper argues that because the limits on human motivational capacities can affect the extent to which it is burdensome to do something, those limits also impact on the nature of justified Agent-Centred Prerogatives. If Agent-Centred Prerogatives to depart from a putative normative principle depend on the burdensomeness of complying with that requirement, human motivational capacities can affect which normative principles apply.


Agent-centred prerogatives Ideal theory Justice Normative principles 



I would like to thank the two anonymous referees at Ethical Theory and Moral Practice for very helpful comments on an earlier draft of the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New CollegeUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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