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Christine M. Korsgaard presents an account of the foundation of practical reason and moral obligation. Moral philosophy aspires to understand the fact that human actions, unlike the actions of the other animals, can be morally good or bad, right or wrong. Few moral philosophers, however, have exploited the idea that actions might be morally good or bad in virtue of being good or bad of their kind - good or bad as actions. Just as we need to know that it is the function of the heart to pump blood to know that a good heart is one that pumps blood successfully, so we need to know what the function of an action is in order to know what counts as a good or bad action. Drawing on the work of Plato, Aristotle, and Kant, Korsgaard proposes that the function of an action is to constitute the agency and therefore the identity of the person who does it. As rational beings, we are aware of, and therefore in control of, the principles that govern our actions. A good action is one that constitutes its agent as the autonomous and efficacious cause of her own movements. These properties correspond, respectively, to Kant's two imperatives of practical reason. Conformity to the categorical imperative renders us autonomous, and conformity to the hypothetical imperative renders us efficacious. And in determining what effects we will have in the world, we are at the same time determining our own identities. Korsgaard develops a theory of action and of interaction, and of the form interaction must take if we are to have the integrity that, she argues, is essential for agency. On the basis of that theory, she argues that only morally good action can serve the function of action, which is self-constitution.
Christine M. Korsgaard presents a compelling new view of humans' moral relationships to the other animals. She defends the claim that we are obligated to treat all sentient beings as what Kant called "ends-in-themselves". Drawing on a theory of the good derived from Aristotle, she offers an explanation of why animals are the sorts of beings for whom things can be good or bad. She then turns to Kant's argument for the value of humanity to show that rationality commits us to claiming the standing of ends-in-ourselves, in two senses. Kant argued that as autonomous beings, we claim to be ends-in-ourselves when we claim the standing to make laws for ourselves and each other. Korsgaard argues that as beings who have a good, we also claim to be ends-in-ourselves when we take the things that are good for us to be good absolutely and so worthy of pursuit. The first claim commits us to joining with other autonomous beings in relations of moral reciprocity. The second claim commits us to treating the good of every sentient creature as something of absolute importance. Korsgaard argues that human beings are not more important than the other animals, that our moral nature does not make us superior to the other animals, and that our unique capacities do not make us better off than the other animals. She criticizes the "marginal cases" argument and advances a new view of moral standing as attaching to the atemporal subjects of lives. She criticizes Kant's own view that our duties to animals are indirect, and offers a non-utilitarian account of the relation between pleasure and the good. She also addresses a number of directly practical questions: whether we have the right to eat animals, experiment on them, make them work for us and fight in our wars, and keep them as pets; and how to understand the wrong that we do when we cause a species to go extinct.
Christine M. Korsgaard is one of today's leading moral philosophers: this volume collects ten influential papers by her on practical reason and moral psychology. Korsgaard draws on the work of important figures in the history of philosophy such as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Hume, showing how their ideas can inform the solution of contemporary and traditional philosophical problems, such as the foundations of morality and practical reason, the nature of agency, and the role of the emotions in action.
In Part 1, The Principles of Practical Reason, Korsgaard defends the view that the principles of practical reason are constitutive principles of action. By governing our actions in accordance with Kant's categorical imperative and the principle of instrumental reason, she argues, we take control of our own movements and so render ourselves active, self-determining beings. She criticizes rival attempts to give a normative foundation to the principles of practical reason, challenges the claims of the principle of maximizing one's own interests to be a rational principle, and argues for some deep continuities between Plato's account of the connection between justice and agency and Kant's account of the connection between autonomy and agency.
In Part II, Moral Virtue and Moral Psychology, Korsgaard takes up the question of the role of our more passive or receptive faculties--our emotions and responses --in constituting our agency. She sketches a reading of the Nicomachean Ethics, based on the idea that our emotions can serve as perceptions of good and evil, and argues that this view of the emotions is at the root of the apparent differences between Aristotle and Kant's accounts of morality. She argues that in fact, Aristotle and Kant share a distinctive view about the locus of moral value and the nature of human choice that, among other things, gives them account of what it means to act rationally that is superior to other accounts.
In Part III, Other Reflections, Korsgaard takes up question how we come to view one another as moral agents in Hume's philosophy. She examines the possible clash between the agency of the state and that of the individual that led to Kant's paradoxical views about revolution. And finally, she discusses her methodology in an account of what it means to be a constructivist moral philosopher.
The essays are united by an introduction in which Korsgaard explains their connections to each other and to her current work.
Christine M. Korsgaard presents a compelling new view of humans' moral relationships to the other animals. She defends the claim that we are obligated to treat all sentient beings as what Kant called "ends-in-themselves". Drawing on a theory of the good derived from Aristotle, she offers an explanation of why animals are the sorts of beings for whom things can be good or bad. She then turns to Kant's argument for the value of humanity to show that rationality commits us to claiming the standing of ends-in-ourselves, in two senses. Kant argued that as autonomous beings, we claim to be ends-in-ourselves when we claim the standing to make laws for ourselves and each other. Korsgaard argues that as beings who have a good, we also claim to be ends-in-ourselves when we take the things that are good for us to be good absolutely and so worthy of pursuit. The first claim commits us to joining with other autonomous beings in relations of moral reciprocity. The second claim commits us to treating the good of every sentient creature as something of absolute importance. Korsgaard argues that human beings are not more important than the other animals, that our moral nature does not make us superior to the other animals, and that our unique capacities do not make us better off than the other animals. She criticizes the "marginal cases" argument and advances a new view of moral standing as attaching to the atemporal subjects of lives. She criticizes Kant's own view that our duties to animals are indirect, and offers a non-utilitarian account of the relation between pleasure and the good. She also addresses a number of directly practical questions: whether we have the right to eat animals, experiment on them, make them work for us and fight in our wars, and keep them as pets; and how to understand the wrong that we do when we cause a species to go extinct.
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