Christine Korsgaard is a Kantian moral philosopher who works on the problem of value. She wants not only to explain the moral obligations we have to one another, but also justify those obligations. In her book The Sources of Normativity, Korsgaard surveys four proposals, starting with Thomas Hobbes , who in the seventeenth century found the source of obligation in the legislative authority of a monarch, who implements divine commands with "irresistible power. Korsgaard says that in the early twentieth century this view was held by G.
|Published (Last):||23 March 2014|
|PDF File Size:||11.54 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||14.87 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
Christine Korsgaard is a Kantian moral philosopher who works on the problem of value. She wants not only to explain the moral obligations we have to one another, but also justify those obligations. In her book The Sources of Normativity, Korsgaard surveys four proposals, starting with Thomas Hobbes , who in the seventeenth century found the source of obligation in the legislative authority of a monarch, who implements divine commands with "irresistible power.
Korsgaard says that in the early twentieth century this view was held by G. Moore and recently by Thomas Nagel. Later in the eighteenth century, David Hume found the source of morality as human nature. This raises what Korsgaard calls the "normative question. The question is not "are the claims true," as the realists held, but can we find "practical reasons" that show morality to be good for us.
Although Korsgaard finds some justification for moral obligations in all these, her preferred arguments look to the autonomy or self-legislation championed by Immanuel Kant and contemporary Kantian constructivists like John Rawls and Korsgaard herself.
Indeed Kant identifies the moral law in the form of a categorical imperative with the human will. Moral obligations are self-imposed, giving us a kind of authority over ourselves which provides the normativity to moral claims.
The self-conscious human mind is essentially introspective and reflective. This reflexivity generates feelings of guilt or resentment when our deeds or the acts of others are seen to be immoral. Obligations and values are "projections" of our moral sentiments and dispositions. It is the problem of the normative.
For our capacity to turn our attention on to our own mental activities is also a capacity to distance ourselves from them, and to call them into question.
I perceive, and I find myself with a powerful impulse to believe. But I back up and bring that impulse into view and then I have a certain distance. Shall I believe? Is this perception really a reason to believe? I desire and I find myself with a powerful impulse to act. Shall I act? Is this desire really a reason to act?
The reflective mind cannot settle for perception and desire, not just as such. It needs a reason. Otherwise, at least as long as it reflects, it cannot commit itself or go forward. The Sources of Normativity, p. The problem can also be described in terms of freedom. It is because of the reflective character of the mind that we must act, as Kant put it, under the idea of freedom. As Kant puts it, we must make it our maxim to act on the desire. Then although we may do what desire bids us, we do it freely.
Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, p. Occasionally one meets the objection that the freedom that we discover in reflection is a delusion. Human actions are causally determined. When desire calls we think we can take it or leave it, but in fact someone could have predicted exactly what we will do. But how can this be a problem?
The afternoon stretches before me, and I must decide whether to work or to play. Suppose first that you can predict which one I am going to do.
That has no effect on me at all: I must still decide what to do. I am tempted to play but worried about work, and I must decide the case on its merits.
What then? I am tempted by play but worried about work, and I must decide the case on its merits. The worry seems to be that if we were sure we were determined or knew how we were determined then either we could not act or we would not act, or else we would act differently.
But why is this supposed to happen? Having discovered that my conduct is predictable, will I now sit quietly in my chair, waiting to see what I will do? Then I will not do anything but sit quietly in my chair. And that had better be what you predicted, or you will have been wrong. But in any case why should I do that, if I think that I ought to be working?
Well, suppose that you tell me what you predict I am going to do. If you predict that I am going to work, and I think that I should work, then there is no problem. Or do I now have to do it less freely? If you predict that I am going to play, and I think that I should work, I am glad to have been forewarned. For if I am about to do what I think I have good reason not to do, then a moment of weakness or self-deception must be in the offing, and now I can take precautions against it. And then perhaps I will work after all.
If you are going to tell me what you predict I will do, then your prediction must take into account the effect on me of knowing your prediction, because otherwise it will probably be wrong. Of course it can happen, in a specific kind of case, that knowing the sort of thing I am usually determined to do diminishes my freedom. If I see that I often give in to temptation, I might become discouraged, and fight against it even less hard. But there is no reason to think that this kind of discouragement would be the general result of understanding ourselves better.
Or if there is, it must come from some pessimistic philosophy of human nature, not from the Scientific World View If predictions can warn us when our self-control is about to fail, then they are far more likely to increase that self-control than to diminish it.
Determinism is no threat to freedom. Now it will be objected that this is not what philosophers mean when they claim that determinism is a threat to freedom. But how is it supposed to do that? By showing that we could not have done otherwise?
Freedom is the capacity to do otherwise, not the capacity to have done otherwise. No one has that capacity, because you cannot change the past. That sounds like a joke but I mean it. It is from within the deliberative perspective that we see our desires as providing suggestions which we may take or leave. The point here is the same as the point I made against the argument that reasons are not real because we do not need them for giving scientific explanations of what people think and do.
That is not, in the first instance, what we need them for, but that does not show that they are not real. We need them because our reflective nature gives us a choice about what to do.
We may need to appeal to the existence of reasons in the course of an explanation of why human beings experience choice in the way that we do, and in particular, of why it seems to us that there are reasons. Instead, it will be just the sort of explanation which I am constructing here: reasons exist because we need them, and we need them because of the structure of reflective consciousness, and so on.
I am claiming that it is to be explained in term of the structure of reflective consciousness, not as the possibly delusory perception of a theoretical or metaphysical property of the self. The Scientific World View is a description of the world which serves the purposes of explanation and prediction. When its concepts are applied correctly it tells us things that are true. But it is not a substitute for human life.
And that is the source of the problem. So if I decide that my desire is a reason to act, I must decide that on reflection I endorse that desire. And here we run into the problem. For how do I decide that? Is the claim that I look at the desire, and see that it is intrinsically normative, or that its object is?
Then all of the arguments against realism await us. Does the desire or its object inherit its normativity from something else? Then we must ask what makes that other thing normative, what makes it the source of a reason. And now of course the usual regress threatens. What brings such a course of reflection to a successful end?
Kant, as I mentioned, described this problem in terms of freedom. He defines a free will as a rational causality which is effective without being determined by any alien cause.
Anything outside of the will counts as an alien cause, including the desires and inclinations of the person. The free will must be entirely self-determining. Yet, because the will is a causality, it must act according to some law or other.
Since reasons are derived from principles, the free will must have a principle. But because the will is free, no law or principle can be imposed on it from outside. Kant concludes that the will must be autonomous: that is, it must have its own law or principle.
And here again we arrive at the problem. For where is this law to come from? If it is imposed on the will from outside then the will is not free. So the will must make the law for itself. But until the will has a law or principle, there is nothing from which it can derive a reason.
Summary: Korsgaard's Sources of Normativity
Korsgaard is a very prominent modern Kantian. The result purports to be an objective and universal theory of meta-ethics. As reflective beings, we must reflexively endorse a desire if it is to be considered a reason to act. Korsgaard turns inward the voluntarist formulation of legislator and citizen, positing the thinking self and acting self as our double nature.
The Sources of Normativity
We are social animals, so probably the whole thing has a biological basis. Or at least, when we invoke them, we make claims on one another. The same is true of the other concepts for which we seek philosophical foundations. Concepts like knowledge, beauty, and meaning, as well as virtue and justice, all have a normative dimension, for they tell us what to think, what to like, what to say, what to do, and what to be. And it is the force of these normative claims — the right of these concepts to give laws to us — that we want to understand. Why should I be moral?