Rawls' requirement that citizens of liberal democracies support only policies which they believe can be justified in 'public reason' depends on a certain ideal for the relationships between citizens. This is a valuable ideal, and thus citizens have reasons to try to achieve it. But it is not always possible to find the common ground that we would need in order to do so, and thus we should reject Rawls' strong claim that we have an obligation to defend our views (...) in public reason. Because I recognize that we have strong reasons to conduct our political enquiry within the guidelines of political liberalism, but deny that we always have an obligation to do so, one might call my view 'permissive political liberalism'. (shrink)
I attempt to vindicate our authority to create new practical reasons for others by making choices of own own. In The Doctrine of Right Kant argues that we have an obligation to leave the Juridical State of Nature and found the state. In a less familiar passage in Religion within the Bounds of Mere Reason he argues for an obligation to leave what he calls the Ethical State of Nature and join together in the Moral Community. I read both texts (...) as addressing and trying to resolve a tension between our individual freedom and our authority to make claims on one another. I explicate the political argument, and then develop the view that Kant sketches in the Religion, arguing that regarding others as capable of making choices that give you reasons to act is a condition of the full exercise of your autonomy. (shrink)
We often come to value someone or something through experience of that person or thing. You may thereby come to embrace a value that you did not grasp prior to the experience in question. Moreover, it seems that in a large and important subset of cases you could not have fully appreciated that value merely by considering a report of the reasons or arguments that purport to establish that it is valuable. Despite its ubiquity, this phenomenon goes missing in a (...) great deal of contemporary work in ethics and political philosophy. In this paper I further specify the phenomenon of interest by developing a series of examples. Then I support the claim that philosophers routinely overlook it by surveying several significant philosophical positions that do so. (shrink)
Kant’s political theory stands in the social contract tradition, but departs significantly from earlier versions of social contract theory. Most importantly Kant holds, against Hobbes and Locke, that we have not merely a pragmatic reason but an obligation to exit the state of nature and found a state. Kant holds that each person has an innate right to freedom, but it is possible to simultaneously honor everyone’s right only under the rule of law. Since we are obligated to respect each (...) person’s right to freedom, and can do so only in a state, we are obligated to submit to the authority of the state if we have one, and to establish one if we do not. In the first half of the essay I reconstruct this argument in more detail. In the second half I survey four points of controversy: (i) What is the relationship between Kant’s political philosophy and his moral philosophy? (ii) How does the innate right to freedom support the postulate that we are permitted to acquire property and other private rights? (iii) How does the postulate support an obligation to found the state? (iv) How should we understand Kant’s views about political revolutions? (shrink)
I argue that we cannot adequately characterize the aims of education in terms of some formal conception of what it is to think well. Implementing any such aim requires reliance on and communication of further, substantive normative commitments. This reveals that a standard contrast between an old-fashioned approach to education that aims to communicate a particular normative outlook, and a progressive approach that aims to develop skills of critical reasoning and reflection is confused and misleading.
I argue that unfortunate formative circumstances do not undermine the warrant for either responsibility or blame. I then diagnose the tendency to think that formative circumstances do matter in this way, arguing that knowledge of these circumstances can play an essential epistemic role in our interpersonal interactions.
Our ordinary talk reflects a deep tension in the way that we think about love. On the one hand, we regard love as an especially important expression of our agency. Yet, on the other hand, we also think of love as something that happens to us, in the face of which we are passive and can be powerless. While it’s hard to see how to hold these two ways of thinking of love together, in this paper I argue that we (...) must find some way of doing so. I argue that we must think of love as a contentful attitude attributable to its agent, an expression of our selves. But familiar ways of understanding agency sort love into the category of things that happen to us, rather than that of things that we do: You cannot love at will, nor is love an attitude to which you could reason. I conclude that questions about the relationship of our agency to what we love are not superficial, but stem from deep tensions about the relationship between love and reasons. A resolution to these difficulties would provide important insight not only into the character of love, but also the nature of agency, and its relationship to values, reasoning and reasons. (shrink)
Ripstein’s Kantian argument for the authority of the state purports to demonstrate that state authority is a necessary condition of each individual’s freedom. Ripstein regards an individual as free just in case her entitlement to control what is hers is not violated. After questioning whether his approach adequately distinguishes standards of legitimacy from standards of ideal justice, I argue for the superiority of an alternative conception of freedom. On the view that I defend a person is free just in case (...) she is able to move her body in space unimpeded by others. I argue that this conception allows for a more convincing version of the Kantian argument. (shrink)
Many thinkers agree that facilitating the development of students’ autonomy is a proper aim of education generally and higher education in particular. I defend a version of the autonomy view, but not as I think its other advocates imagine it. I suggest that an important aim of education is the facilitation of intellectual virtues. What is right about the idea that education should facilitate students’ autonomy is best captured in virtue terms as intellectual charity and humility.
I argue that political liberals should not support the monopoly of a single educational approach in state sponsored schools. Instead, they should allow reasonable citizens latitude to choose the worldview in which their own children are educated. I begin by defending a particular conception of political liberalism, and its associated requirement of public reason, against the received interpretation. I argue that the values of respect and civic friendship that motivate the public reason requirement do not support the common demand that (...) citizens “bracket” their comprehensive commitments in politics. Rather, citizens should seek to enact policies the justification of which is compatible with the truth of their fellow reasonable citizens’ worldviews. Next I argue that no single educational approach can meet this standard of justification. Many believe that state sponsored education in a pluralist, liberal society ought to present multiple worldviews in a neutral way. I argue that this aspiration is unrealizable, and no other educational model will plausibly meet the justificatory demand. Finally, I address two objections to my favored alternative: that it may allow for the inculcation of disrespect, and that it violates children’s autonomy. Against the first, I claim that political liberals have no grounds for thinking that reasonable citizens will seek to inculcate disrespect. Finally, I argue that there is no conception of autonomy that can sustain the second. (shrink)
The principle that children’s freedom should be preserved in their upbringing is sometimes thought to provide an alternative to imposing a particular conception of the good on them. But to sustain the alternative we must distinguish between those desires and proclivities that are educated into a person and those that are his own. Several philosophers appeal to innate or presocial tendencies to ground this distinction, but that approach fails. The ability to exercise first person authority over a desire or commitment (...) provides a better conception of what it is for such a state to be one’s own. But such desires and commitments are not distinct from those educated into a person. While the ideal of autonomy, conceived in these terms, can still provide some guidance for upbringing, it will not substitute for teaching children a conception of the good. (shrink)
I articulate and defend the most central claims of contemporary Kantian moral theory. I also explain some of the most important internal disagreements in the field, contrasting two approaches to Kantian ethics: Kantian Constructivism and Kantian Realism. I connect the former to Kant’s Formula of Universal Law and the latter to his Formula of Humanity. I end by discussing applications of the Formula of Humanity in normative ethics.
Kant rejects all of the standard accounts of the dependence of morality on religious claims or commitment. He nevertheless thinks that morality “leads to” religion. I defend an account of this “leading to” relationship, arguing that it is the result of Kant’s struggle to capture the practical import of the consequences of our actions within a moral theory that rejects the idea that we must maximize the good. On this view, the best way to acknowledge that the outcomes of our (...) actions matter, while maintaining uncompromising commitment to the moral law, is to hope in God. (shrink)
Kant’s claim that virtue has nothing to do with the content of our desires, but depends only on the strength of will needed to manage our desires, depends on an unattractive conception of inclination that he inherits from Hume. Kantians can replace this with a better view of desire without giving up what is most attractive about the Kantian approach: the claim that reason can motivate, and the associated illuminating account of practical freedom.
In the Groundwork Kant dismisses theistic principles, along with all other competitors to his Categorical Imperative, claiming that they are heteronomous. By contrast, he asserts, the fundamental moral principle must be a principle of autonomy. I argue that the best case for this Kantian conclusion conflates our access to the reasons for our commitments with an ability to state these reasons such that they could figure in an argument. This conflation, in turn, results from a certain Kantian conception of inclination, (...) and its role in our moral psychology. These are views that we ought to reject. Having done so we will see that a theistic ethics based on desire or love for God would not face a distinctive problem of heteronomy. (shrink)
Christine M. Korsgaard has had a profound influence on moral philosophy over the past forty years. Through her writing and teaching she has developed a distinctive, rigorous, and historically informed way of thinking about ethics, agency, and the normative dimension of human life more generally. The twelve original essays in this volume are written in her honor on the occasion of her retirement from teaching. They engage questions that recur in her work: Why are we obligated to do what morality (...) demands? What features of our nature make us subject to moral obligation? What does it mean to be autonomous and responsible for what we do? What do we owe to nonhuman animals? Contributors include Stephen Darwall, Kyla Ebels-Duggan, Barbara Herman, Richard Moran, Japa Pallikkathayil, Faviola Rivera-Castro, T.M. Scanlon, Tamar Schapiro, Sharon Street, David Sussman, Sigrún Svavarsdóttir, and David Velleman. These essays shed light on Korsgaard's own views while staking out provocative new positions on the topics that feature centrally in her own work. (shrink)
I consider how Christian philosophers should decide which questions are worth asking. I provide an interpretation and defense of Alvin Plantinga’s claim that Christian philosophers should strive for autonomy, and argue that this rules out some ways of settling on our questions. I then argue that the questions in which Christian philosophers should take an interest are those arising from or continuous with a distinctively Christian way of life.