The Constitution of Agency: Essays on Practical Reason and Moral Psychology

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In Part 1, The Principles of Practical Reason, Korsgaard defends the view that the principles of practical reason are constitutive principles of action. By governing our actions in accordance with Kant's categorical imperative and the principle of instrumental reason, she argues, we take control of our own movements and so render ourselves active, self-determining beings. She criticizes rival attempts to give a normative foundation to the principles of practical reason, challenges the claims of the principle of maximizing one's own interests to be a rational principle, and argues for some deep continuities between Plato's account of the connection between justice and agency and Kant's account of the connection between autonomy and agency.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a book that no serious ethicist can afford not to read carefully in its entirety. Extremely compelling and original picture of rational agency." —Ethics

"Christine Korsgaard is one of our most stimulating and arresting voices in moral philosophy. Her arguments are audacious, penetrating, and philosophically adroit. She has the confidence to write as if addressing a deeply interested group of people in the same room with her. It is a style whose candid vitality is very effective in communicating, that is, sharing both the seriousness and the fun of first-hand philosophical investigation." —Social Theory and Practice

"Most rigorous and compelling as it explores questions in action theory and moral psychology. It simultaneously furnishes valuable reflection on Plato, Aristotle, Hume, and Kant, and shows how at the end of the day some of their views might be far more plausible than they are often thought to be." —The Philosophical Quarterly

"An excellent collection of papers, many of which address key concerns in contemporary ethics in novel and fascinating ways." —Theoria

"As with any other work of such philosophical importance, the essays in this collection have initiated debates that will be the foci of ethics and action theory in the days to come."—Carla Bagnoli, otre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"A clear, careful contribution to scholarship on practical reason and moral psychology by a leading American philosopher."—A.W. Klink, CHOICE

"Korsgaard's project is highly ambitious, philosophically interesting and important. She pursues this project in a very original way, drawing together strands of thought from seemingly very different philosophical traditions in surprising ways, and the resulting synthesis is remarkable for its philosophical power and unity. As usual, Korsgaard's writing is engaging and pithy throughout, and it is hard not to be drawn inot the text. Anyone interested in the nature of morality, normativity or action should read these books." —Analysis Advance Access

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199552740
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/15/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Christine M. Korsgaard earned her B.A. at the University of Illinois in 1974, her Ph.D. at Harvard University, where she studied with John Rawls, in 1981, and an LHD at the University of Illinois in 2004. She is currently Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University. She works on moral philosophy and its history, practical reason, agency, personal identity, and the relations between human beings and the other animals.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Pt. 1 The Principles of Practical Reason

1 The Normativity of Instrumental Reason 27

2 The Myth of Egoism 69

3 Self-Constitution in the Ethics of Plato and Kant 100

Pt. 2 Moral Virtue and Moral Psychology

4 Aristotle's Function Argument 129

5 Aristotle on Function and Virtue 151

6 From Duty and for the Sake of the Noble: Kant and Aristotle on Morally Good Action 174

7 Acting for a Reason 207

Pt. 3 Other Reflections

8 Taking the Law into Our Own Hands: Kant on the Right to Revolution 233

9 The General Point of View: Love and Moral Approval in Hume's Ethics 263

10 Realism and Constructivism in Twentieth-Century Moral Philosophy 302

Bibliography 327

Sources 333

Index 335

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