A reply to Carol Voeller and Rachel Cohon: “The moral law as the source of normativity” by Carol Voeller “the roots of reason” by Rachel Cohon by
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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I am going to begin today by bringing together one of the themes of Carol Voeller’s remarks with one of the criticisms raised by Rachel Cohon, because I see them as related, and want to address them together. Voeller argues that the moral law is constitutive of our nature as rational agents. To put it in her own words, “to be the kind of object it is, is for a thing to be under, or constituted by, the laws which are its nature. For Kant, laws are constitutive principles … in something very close to an Aristotelian sense: for Kant, laws are proper to objects1 much as form is to object, for Aristotle.” Voeller believes that the moral law defines the kind of cause that we are, and we are under the moral law because we are that kind of cause. Since the defining quality of a rational agent is that a rational agent acts on its representation - I prefer to say conception - of a law, Voeller thinks the question for Kant is whether we can find a law which just is the law for causes that act on their representations of laws. As she puts it, “The problem, for Kant, is whether there is a law of a cause that acts on norms - on reflection, on its representation of a law. If there is, then the constitutive principle of that cause will be the law normative for it in reflection.” Now Voeller appears to think that I will disagree with this strategy for grounding the moral law, because she sees me as giving an anti-metaphysical or ametaphysical account of Kant’s ethics, in contrast to Kant’s own. But so far, I don’t..
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Klas Roth (2012). Education and a Progressive Orientation Towards a Cosmopolitan Society. Ethics and Education 7 (1):59 - 73.
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