Susanne Mantel


Geb. C 5.2, Room 218.1,
Tel. +49 (0)681 302-4224


  • 2001-2007 studies at the Eberhard-Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany
  • 2007: Magister Artium in Philosophy (major subject), German Literature (minor subject) and Psychology (minor subject)
  • 2008: teacher’s degree (Staatsexamensabschluss) in German Language and Philosophy/Ethics
  • 2008 start of the dissertation project about acting for a normative reason at the Universität Tübingen, supervised until 2010 by Prof. Dr. Sabine A. Döring
  • 2010-2014: continuation of the dissertation project about acting for a normative reason at the Universität des Saarlandes at the Lehrstuhl für Praktische Philosophie, Prof. Ulla Wessels und Prof. Christoph Fehige
  • 2010: studies as »Visiting Scholar« at the UC Berkeley, USA, with Prof. Niko Kolodny and Prof. Jay Wallace
  • 2011-2012: assistant with the Lehrstuhl für Philosophie des Geistes und Kulturphilosophie (Prof. Heinz-Dieter Heckmann) 
  • since November 2012: assistant with the Lehrstuhl für Praktische Philosophie (Prof. Ulla Wessels and Prof. Christoph Fehige)
  • July 2014: defense of the dissertation »Acting for a normative reason: A competence account«



My PhD thesis with the title »Acting for a normative reason: A competence account« (now a book manuscript) is about what it is to act for a normative reason. I investigated necessary and sufficient conditions of acting for a normative reason and tried to answer the question how normative and motivating reasons are related in this kind of acting. In particular, I argued against the view that acting for normative reasons is incompatible with the psychological explanation of action and the psychological conception of motivating reasons. I also examined which role rationality plays in acting for a normative reason.

My habilitation project will probably be concerned with epistemology and its (alleged) normativity.

I am mainly interested in action theory, rationality, and normativity. Further fields of interest are ethics and meta-ethics, values, virtue theory, virtue epistemology, epistemic normativity, epistemology in general, and philosophy of mind.

In political philosophy, my main interest lies in the ethics of migration.


Scholarships and awards

  • »Lauener Prize for Up and Coming Philosophers«, awarded in September 2016 by the Lauener Foundation for Analytical Philosophy in Bern
  • »Wolfgang-Stegmüller-Preis«, awarded in September 2015 by the German Society for Analytic Philosophy (GAP) for the dissertation »Acting for a Normative Reason: A Competence Account«
  • »Dr. Eduard Martin-Preis« awarded in October 2015 by the Philosophical Faculty I of Saarland University for the dissertation »Acting for a Normative Reason: A Competence Account«
  • Dissertation scholarship »Dissertationsstipendium nach dem Landesgraduiertenförderungsgesetz« by the Landesstiftung Baden-Württemberg 2008–2010
  • Student scholarship by the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes 2002–2007



  • Three cheers for dispositions: A dispositional approach to acting for a normative reason, Erkenntnis, 2016, DOI: 10.1007/s10670-016-9832-8

    Agents sometimes act for normative reasons - for reasons that objectively favor their actions. Jill, for instance, calls a doctor for the normative reason that Kate is injured. In this article I explore a dispositional approach to acting for a normative reason. I argue for the need of epistemic, motivational, and executional dispositional elements of a theory of acting for a normative reason. Dispositions play a mediating role between, on the one hand, the normative reason and its normative force, and the action on the other hand. Thereby, they help to deal with problem cases such as cases of deviant causal chains and improper instrumental motivation.


  • Dispositionen: Segen oder Fluch für die kausale Theorie der epistemischen Stützungsbeziehung? Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung (forthcoming)

    Wir stützen viele unserer Überzeugungen auf andere mentale Zustände. Doch worin besteht eine Stützungsbeziehung (engl. basing relation)?
    Kausale Theorien nennen folgende kausale Bedingung dafür, dass die Überzeugung Ü auf den mentalen Zustand M gestützt ist.
         (KB) M hat Ü verursacht oder M verursacht, dass Ü aufrechterhalten wird.
    Das Problem abweichender Kausalketten zeigt jedoch, dass KB nicht hinreichend für die Stützungsbeziehung ist. In letzter Zeit wurde mehrfach vorgeschlagen, dass das Problem durch eine dispositionale Zusatzbedingung gelöst werden könne, die zusammen mit KB hinreichende Bedingungen angibt. Sie lautet grob folgendermaßen:
         (DB) Ü ist die Manifestation einer mentalen Disposition des Subjekts, auf M-artige Zustände hin Ü-artige Zustände auszubilden oder aufrechtzuerhalten.
    Ich werde untersuchen, ob die kausale Theorie durch DB gestärkt werden kann, oder ob sie von ihr vielmehr geschwächt wird.
    Zwar schließt DB abweichende Kausalketten erfolgreich aus, doch lässt sich unter Bezugnahme auf DB letztlich KB in Zweifel ziehen und für eine rein dispositionale Theorie argumentieren, die auf KB verzichtet. Daher stellt der Versuch, die kausale Theorie durch eine dispositionale Zusatzbedingung zu retten, unbeabsichtigter Weise den kausalen Ansatz als solchen in Frage. Daraus folgt, dass eine rein dispositionale Theorie vorzuziehen ist.


  • Worldly reasons: An ontological inquiry into motivating considerations and normative reasons, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 2015, DOI: 10.1111/papq.12094

    In this paper I advocate a worldly account of normative reasons according to which there is an ontological gap between these and the premises of practical thought, i.e., motivating considerations. While motivating considerations are individuated fine-grainedly, normative reasons should be classified as coarse-grained entities, e.g., as states of affairs, in order to explain certain necessary truths about them and to make sense of how we count and weigh them. As I briefly sketch, acting for normative reasons is possible nonetheless if the connection between normative reasons and motivating considerations is a competence-based correspondence.


  • How to be psychologistic about motivating but not about normative reasons, Grazer Philosophische Studien: Internationale Zeitschrift für Analytische Philosophie 93 (2016) 80–105, DOI: 10.1163/18756735-09301005

    Because normative reasons are non-psychological, and motivate us when we act for them, some have concluded that motivating reasons have to be non-psychological, too. This thought has served as part of an argument against the Causal-Psychological Account of Action, because the account states that motivating reasons are psychological. Recently, many authors recognized that there are two different notions of motivating reasons which are commonly being confused in this dispute. This paper’s aim is to point out more carefully the argument against the Causal-Psychological Account and the dilemma faced by that argument. This will hopefully show that and why motivating reasons – in the sense in which they figure in the Causal-Psychological Account – can be psychological even if agents act for non-psychological normative reasons.


  • No reason for identity: on the relation between motivating and normative reasons, Philosophical Explorations, 2014, DOI:10.1080/13869795.2013.815261.

    This essay is concerned with the relation between motivating and normative reasons. According to a common and influential thesis, a normative reason is identical with a motivating reason when an agent acts for that normative reason. I will call this thesis the ‘Identity Thesis’. Many philosophers treat the Identity Thesis as a commonplace or a truism. Accordingly, the Identity Thesis has been used to rule out certain ontological views about reasons. I distinguish a deliberative and an explanatory version of the Identity Thesis and argue that there are no convincing arguments to accept either version. Furthermore, I point out an alternative to the Identity Thesis. The relation between motivating and normative reasons can be thought of as one of representation, not identity.

  • Acting for reasons, apt action, and knowledge, Synthese, 2013, DOI: 10.1007/s11229-012-0230-8.

    I argue for the view that there are important similarities between knowledge and acting for a normative reason. I interpret acting for a normative reason in terms of Sosa’s notion of an apt performance. Actions that are done for a normative reason are normatively apt actions. They are in accordance with a normative reason because of a competence to act in accordance with normative reasons. I argue that, if Sosa’s account of knowledge as apt belief is correct, this means that acting for a normative reason is in many respects similar to knowledge. In order to strengthen Sosa’s account of knowledge, I propose to supplement it with an appeal to sub-competences. This clarifies how this account can deal with certain Gettier cases, and it helps to understand how exactly acting for a normative reason is similar to apt belief.

  • Handeln aus normativen Gründen – ein praktisches Pendant zu Wissen.

    In this short article I discuss why it is important to understand the phenomenon of acting for a normative reason and whether it could be helpful to compare it to theoretical phenomena such as knowledge. One question is whether there might be cases of acting only in accordance with a normative reason which are of a similar structure as Gettier cases.

  • Warum nach Wahrheit suchen? Grazer Philosophische Studien: Internationale Zeitschrift für Analytische Philosophie, 78, 2009. 292-301.
    (This essay was rewarded with the third prize of the essay competition of the Gesellschaft für Analytische Philosophie “GAP”.)

    The article explores two attempts to establish the value of true beliefs and the disvalue of false beliefs. It shows how an argument form the constitutive aim of beliefs fails both to establish the conditional and unconditional value (the value of existing beliefs being true versus of acquiring new true beliefs). The second attempt establishes both sorts of value for some beliefs, and it acknowledges that this value comes in degrees and is relative to persons, but this value is practical value, and it exists only for persons possessing desires as well as freedom of action.

  • Motivierende Gründe und praktische Überlegung, Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung 63 (2), 2009. 260-284.

    The essay explores arguments against the view that motivating reasons are psychological entities (Psychologism). The two main arguments concern the content of an agent’s practical deliberation and actions which are performed for a normative reason. They presuppose a very close connection between motivating reasons and what, from the agent’s perspective, appears to be a normative reason. Psychologism can be defended by rejecting this connection if the primary function of motivating reasons is to explain actions. The explanation of actions in terms of what, from the agent’s perspective, appears to be a normative reason is far more problematic than the explanation of actions in terms of psychological entities.



  • Star, Daniel. Knowing Better: Virtue, Deliberation, and Normative Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. xvii1147. $60.00 (cloth), Ethics (forthcoming).
  • Thomas Hurka: The Best Things in Life. A Guide to What Really Matters, 200 S., OUP, Oxford 2011, Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung, 66 (2), 2012. 351-354.
  • Kieran Setiya: Reasons without Rationalism, 131 S., Princeton University Press, Princeton 2007, Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung, 64, 2010. 433-437.


Selected talks

  • The influence of normative beliefs: Where internalism and externalism meet. At the workshop »Reasoning, Reflection, and Normativity: the 4th meeting of the European Normativity Network«, November 2016, Oslo.
  • Flüchtlingsaufnahme als gobale Hilfspflicht. At the interdisciplinary conference »Flucht, Transit, und Asyl – Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf ein europäisches Versprechen«, September 2016, Bonn.
  • Aufnehmen, ohne die Einreise zu erlauben? At the »IV. Tagung für Praktische Philosophie«, September 2016, Salzburg.
  • On how to explain rational motivation. At the »7th International Lauener Symposium on Analytical Philosophy on Themes from Thomas M. Scanlon«, September 2016, Bern.
  • How normative reasons explain action. At a meeting for the DFG network »Practical Thought and Good Action« with the title »Action and Ability«, July 2016, Leipzig.
  • Reasons, normativity, and epistemic standards. At the »Workshop Metaethik«, May 2016, Frankfurt a.M.
  • How normative reasons explain. At the »research unit for epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of cognition«, February 2016, Aarhus.
  • What is the normativity of attitudes? At the conference »The Normativity of Attitudes«, December 2015, Saarbrücken.
  • Dispositionen: Segen oder Fluch für die kausale Theorie der epistemischen Stützungsbeziehung? At the conference of the Gesellschaft für Analytische Philosophie (GAP 9), September 2015, Osnabrück.
  • Dispositionen in Erkenntnis- und Handlungstheorie. At the workshop »Fähigkeiten: vom Können, Tun und Wissen«, July 2015, FU Berlin.
  • The practical, the theoretical, and the legal: Similarities concerning reasons, defeaters, and reasoning. Commentary to Prof. Jonathan Dancy’s talk »Reasoning in and outside the law« at the conference »Defeasibility in the Law« of the excellence cluster »Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen«, March 2015, Frankfurt a.M.
  • Die Kompetenztheorie des Handelns aus normativen Gründen. Book symposium about my dissertation »Acting for a normative reason: A competence account«, with commentaries by Dr. Benjamin Kiesewetter and Prof. Ralf Stöcker, March 2015, Berlin.
  • Dispositionen und abweichende Kausalketten. At the doctoral colloquium of Prof. Holger Steinfath, February 2015, Göttingen.
  • On acting for a normative reason. At the conference »Normativity and Meaning«, May 2014, Saarbrücken.
  • Aus guten Gründen: Handlungserklärungen und normative Gründe. At the Institutskolloquium of the Humbldt Universität zu Berlin, January 2014, Berlin.
  • Epistemic and normative reasons (together with Christian Wendelborn). At the conference »Reasons: Action, Belief, Perception«, October 2013, Saarbrücken.
  • On the identity of motivating and normative reasons. At the conference of the British Society for Ethical Theory (BSET), July 2013, London.
  • On why (not) to identify normative reasons with motivating reasons. At the eighth conference of the Gesellschaft für Analytische Philosophie (GAP), September 2012, Konstanz.
  • The nature of motivating reasons. At the workshop »Action explanation and causality« of the DFG-Netzwerk »Practical Thought and Good Action«, August 2012, Magdeburg.
  • Epistemic normativity: Ought I to believe the truth? At the seventh »Cologne Summer School in Philosophy« entitled »The normativity of epistemic rationality« with Prof. Ralph Wedgwood, July 2012, Köln.
  • Handeln aus normativen Gründen – ein praktisches Pendant zu Wissen. At the Konferenz der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Philosophie (DGPhil), September 2011, München.
  • The source of agential authority. At the Tübinger Studierendenkonferenz with M. Bratman, June 2011, Tübingen, Germany. Available at
  • Acting for normative reasons. At the GAP-Doktorandenworkshop Meta-Ethik und normative Ethik, November 2010, Essen, Germany.
  • The assessment of actions – introducing a third dimension. At the Tübinger Studierendenkonferenz with T.M. Scanlon, May 2010, Tübingen, Germany. Available at
  • What Transparency tells us about practical rationality and reasons. At the seventh conference of the Gesellschaft für Analytische Philosophie (GAP), September 2009, Bremen, Germany.
  • Could rationality be responding to reasons? At the Tübinger Studierendenkonferenz with M. Smith, May 2009, Tübingen, Germany. Available at
  • Motivating reasons and rationalization of actions. At the European Congress for Analytic Philosophy (ECAP 6), August 2008, Krakau, Poland.



Winter term 2015/16:
Seminar Philosophisches Argumentieren in der Flüchtlingsdebatte

Winter term 2015/16:
Seminar Schlussfolgern, rechtfertigen, wissen: rationale Inferenz

Summer term 2015:
Seminar Einführung in die Politische Philosophie mit Texten von der frühen Neuzeit bis heute

Winter term 2014/15:
Seminar Aristoteles‘ Nikomachische Ethik und neuere Texte zur Tugendethik

Summer term 2014:
Seminar Ausgewählte Themen der Politischen Philosophie: Globalisierung und Migration

Winter term 2012/13:
Seminar Soll ich oder soll ich nicht? Werte, Normen und Regeln (with Oliver Petersen)

Summer term 2012:
Seminar Deontologie und Konsequentialismus

Winter term 2011/12:
Seminar Werte und das gute Leben

Summer term 2011 (from 2011 on at the Universität des Saarlandes):
Seminar Handlung, Motivation und Gründe

Summer term 2010 (at the Universität Tübingen):
Seminar Einführung in die Handlungstheorie


Information about current seminars is accessible to students of the Universität des Saarlandes via Moodle.


Conference Organization

December 2015: workshop »The Normativity of Attitudes« in Saarbrücken (organized together with Frank Hofmann and Eva Schmidt). Our speakers were Maria Alvarez, Anna-Maria Eder, Frank Hofmann, John Hyman, Susanne Mantel, Ram Neta, Jonas Olson, Eva Schmidt, John Skorupski, and Kurt Sylvan.


May 2014: workshop »Normativity and Meaning« in Saarbrücken (organized together with Stephan Padel). Our main speaker was Michael Ridge.


October 2013: conference »Reasons: Action, Belief, Perception« in Saarbrücken (organized together with Eva Schmidt). Our main speakers were Terence Cuneo, Gerhard Ernst, Jennifer Hornsby, and Asbjorn Steglich-Petersen. Further information about the conference can be found on the conference website.


2009-2011: organization of student conferences (together with other students and supported by Prof. Dr. Sabine A. Döring) in Tübingen: 2009 with Prof. Micheal Smith, 2010 with Prof. T. M. Scanlon and 2011 with Prof. Michael E. Bratman (for more information, talks, and pictures, see