Self-consciousness, normativity and abysmal freedom

Inquiry 49 (6):498 – 523 (2006)
Abstract
This article critically examines Christine Korsgaard's claim in her Tanner Lectures to find in self-consciousness itself the norms that would answer our need for practical reasons, insofar as that need is constituted through our capacity for reflection. It shows that the way in which Korsgaard sees “the need for a reason” as arising out of self-consciousness implies a dilemma: on the one hand, we want as the ultimate source of our reasons an authority of which we cannot coherently demand legitimation in turn; on the other, our freedom demands that nothing count for us as a reason except insofar as it is in turn endorsed in reflection. Relying on resources drawn from the tradition of reflection, this paper argues that Korsgaard's attempt to resolve this tension is unsuccessful and appeals, in response to this failure, to faith in the authority of our reasons in the absence of foundational justification of them.
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