Practical reason and the unity of agency: critical notice of Christine M. Korsgaard's 'Self-Constitution'

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Garnett, Michael (2011)

In her book Self-Constitution, Christine Korsgaard unfolds an impressive chain of reasoning intended to tie the normativity of the moral law at one end to the very idea of action at the other. In this paper I voice concerns regarding two key links in this chain. The first relates to her so-called 'argument against particularistic willing', an argument designed to derive the authority of the categorical imperative from the very idea of reflective action, by showing that one truly qualifies as an agent only insofar as one acts on a 'principle of choice'. The second concerns her attempted explanation of how bad action can be possible if principles of practical reason are, as she thinks they are, constitutive principles of action. I suggest that her attempt to deal with this problem by appeal to the idea that practical principles can be more or less agentially unifying is ultimately hindered by her employment of an insufficiently explicated notion of agential unity.
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