The Sources of Normativity

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Cambridge University Press, Jun 28, 1996 - Philosophy - 273 pages
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Ethical concepts are, or purport to be, normative. They make claims on us: they command, oblige, recommend, or guide. Or at least when we invoke them, we make claims on one another; but where does their authority over us - or ours over one another - come from? Christine Korsgaard identifies four accounts of the source of normativity that have been advocated by modern moral philosophers: voluntarism, realism, reflective endorsement, and the appeal to autonomy. She traces their history, showing how each developed in response to the prior one and comparing their early versions with those on the contemporary philosophical scene. Kant's theory that normativity springs from our own autonomy emerges as a synthesis of the other three, and Korsgaard concludes with her own version of the Kantian account. Her discussion is followed by commentary from G. A. Cohen, Raymond Geuss, Thomas Nagel, and Bernard Williams, and a reply by Korsgaard.

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The normative question
Reflective endorsement
The authority of reflection
The origin of value and the scope of obligation
Reason humanity and the moral law
Morality and identity
Universality and the reflective self
History morality and the test of reflection

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Thinking How to Live
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About the author (1996)

Christine M. Korsgaard is Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University. She is the author of Self-Constitution: Agency, Identity, and Integrity (2010), The Constitution of Agency (2009), The Sources of Normativity (Cambridge University Press, 1996) and Creating the Kingdom of Ends (Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Onora O'Neill, Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve, is a former Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge. She sits as a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords and is Emeritus Honorary Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. She has published widely on Kant's philosophy and her most recent publications include Acting on Principle, 2nd edition (Cambridge, 2013).

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