The normativity of self-grounded reason

Social Philosophy and Policy 22 (2):165-203 (2005)
Abstract
In this essay, I propose a standard of practical rationality and a grounding for the standard that rests on the idea of autonomous agency. This grounding is intended to explain the “normativity” of the standard. The basic idea is this: To be autonomous is to be self-governing. To be rational is at least in part to be self-governing; it is to do well in governing oneself. I argue that a person's values are aspects of her identity—of her “self-esteem identity”—in a way that most of her ends are not, and that it therefore is plausible to view action governed by one's values as self-governed. This is also plausible on independent grounds. Given this, I say, rational agents comply with a standard—the “values standard”—that requires them to serve their values, and to seek what they need in order to continue to be able to serve their values. Footnotesa I am grateful to many people for helpful comments and discussion over the many years in which I have been developing the ideas in this essay. With apologies to those whose help escapes my memory, I would like to thank Nomy Arpaly, Sam Black, Michael Bratman, Justin D'Arms, Dan Farrell, Pat Greenspan, Don Hubin, Dan Jacobson, Marina Oshana, Michael Ridge, Michael Robins, David Sobel, Pekka Väyrynen, and David Velleman. I presented early versions of some of the ideas in this essay to audiences in the departments of philosophy at the University of Alberta, the University of Maryland at College Park, l'Université de Montréal, the University of Southern California, and the University of Florida, to the 1999 Conference on Moral Theory and Its Applications, Le Lavandou, France, and to the 2001 Conference on Reason and Deliberation, Bowling Green State University. I am grateful for the helpful comments of those who participated in the discussions on all of these occasions and especially to the other contributors to this volume, and its editors. I owe special thanks to Ellen Paul for encouraging me to integrate my thinking on identity with my thinking on rationality and for her useful comments.
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