Structures of agency essays

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Structures of agency essays

The Constitution of Agency: June 09, Christine M. Korsgaard, The Constitution of Agency: Korsgaard, one Structures of agency essays today's leading moral philosophers. Published for the most part during the decadethe essays in this collection represent a bridge between Korsgaard's The Sources of Normativity SNand her Self-Constitution SC.

They are organized into three parts, and preceded by a very rich Introduction, which provides the framework and the basic ideas developed in the essays.

The first part, "The Principles of Practical Reason", is dedicated to the norms of practical reasoning and rational agency. It is a lucid and clear manifesto of Korsgaard's "constitutivism", the view that rational beings constitute themselves as agents by choosing actions in accordance with the principles of practical reason.

Korsgaard uncovers the Platonic and Kantian roots of her constitutivist view, and defends it against two other competing views of practical reasoning, instrumentalism and realism. The second part, "Moral Virtue and Moral Psychology", deals with some important issues in moral psychology, such as the dependence of human Structures of agency essays on emotions and the more receptive aspects of practical reason.

In emphasizing that we are receptive to the demands of reason, Korsgaard argues for some interesting continuities between Aristotle's and Kant's conceptions of rational agency, and situates their disagreement in their respective understandings of the nature of emotions.

She deploys Aristotle's idea that emotions constitute a sort of perception of reason, make us susceptible to reason, and guide us in thinking and acting correctly. The third part, "Other Reflections", includes three articles that are both interpretative and constructive, as is characteristic of Korsgaard's style of dialoguing with historical figures.

The first essay starts as an attempt to make sense of Kant's paradoxical view of the right to revolution, but its broader aim is to address the universal bindingness and overridingness of morality. Korsgaard sets out to explain the case of the conscientious revolutionary who vindicates morality by taking the law into his hands, and to dispel the air of paradox surrounding the Kantian view.

The second essay starts with Hume's answer to the question of why we take up the impartial point of view in moral judgment, finds Hume's explanation inadequate, and builds an alternative response.

Her alternative construal aims to be congruent with and to better vindicate Hume's own perspective by reinterpreting it as a third-personal form of constitutivism The third essay develops the contrast between realism and constructivism in twentieth-century moral philosophy starting from its origin in the eighteenth century debates on the role of passion and reason in grounding obligation and argues that we need to emancipate contemporary moral philosophy from a mistaken view of concepts as essentially descriptive of what we find in the world.

Korsgaard argues that we can overcome the impasse by embracing constructivism. The way this contrast between constructivism and competing ethical views is articulated underlies the structure of many of these essays, and deserves careful examination.

Korsgaard follows John Rawls's lead in presenting Kantian constructivism as an improvement on intuitionism and sentimentalism in understanding the powers of reason Rawls Both of these views are heteronomous because they track the objects of the will outside the domain of practical reason.

In other words, they fail to adequately address the normative question. This way of interpreting Kant's novelty and legacy is also a way of conceptualizing contemporary issues.

The "Kantian job" -- as Korsgaard puts it -- is to show the third way between two sets of unsatisfactory options: The issue is whether the Kantian third view is a genuine alternative to its competitors, and this crucially depends on how it is construed.

Korsgaard originally defined Kantian Constructivism as a form of procedural realism SN Some have objected that Kantian constructivism so construed is unstable, or it simply does not qualify as a meta-ethical theory.

Korsgaard's definition was not specifically designed to account for what is distinctive of Kantian Constructivism, but to mark the differences with realism. Thus, it offers little help in drawing the contrast between Kantian and other Aristotelian, Humean, or pragmatist forms of constructivism and non-reductive forms of constructivism.

Construed solely in terms of proceduralism, constructivism is compatible with or perhaps reducible to competing meta-ethical accounts, including various non-reductivist forms of realism.

Structures of agency essays

In this respect, the characterization of constructivism in terms of the practical function of ethical concepts introduced here is not a significant improvement ff. It does not differentiate Kantian constructivists from pragmatists who define truth in terms of usefulness, or realists who use descriptions to solve practical problems.

The main problem with construing Kantian Constructivism as a form of proceduralism is that, taken outside its original context, this definition sounds unappreciative of the extent to which the Categorical Imperative makes no sense in isolation from the conception of agents as free and equal, as Rawls often insists.

The status of the Categorical Imperative remains a crucial issue to be addressed. When presenting the advantages of constructivism in this volume, Korsgaard oscillates between characterizing it as a view about practical reason and a view about the ontology of reasons.

How one conceives of practical reason is importantly related to how one conceives of the ontology of reasons. But the former perspective does not determine the latter, and it takes a further argument to show that the recognition of the practical function of reason commands one to endorse constructivism about the nature of concepts.

Korsgaard is precisely interested in providing such further argument, which goes under the heading of constitutivism, and it is a good question how this view about agency relates to meta-ethics. It would be a serious mistake, I believe, to suggest that this indeterminacy about the nature of constructivism depends on Korsgaard's unclarity or lack of precision.

It is no wonder that Kantian constructivism does not easily fit the map of the heyday of meta-ethics: But pole stars change over time, and borders shift. There is no reason to chastise Korsgaard because she does not fit a map that has become useless for navigation.

Reason stands for an account of what it is for a reflective mind to produce reasons. Such production occurs, not through the application of an algorithm, but is an activity governed by practical principles 3.Structures of Agency: Essays.

Structures of agency essays

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