The Normativity of Instrumental Reason

Christine M. Korsgaard

in The Constitution of Agency

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199552733
Published online January 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720321 | DOI:
 The Normativity of Instrumental Reason

Show Summary Details


Most philosophers think it uncontroversial that practical reason requires us to take the means to our ends, but have been silent about the normative foundation of this requirement. The interesting question, almost everyone agrees, is whether practical reason requires anything more, such as a principle of morality or prudence. This chapter examines the question what makes instrumental reason normative. It articulates the answers implicit in the rationalist and empiricist traditions, criticizing the former for its inability to explain how we can be motivated by the instrumental principle, and the latter for its inability to explain how we can be guided by it. It argues that the normativity of instrumental reason, like that of moral reason, must be grounded in the agent's autonomy, and also that there can be no requirement to take the means to our ends unless there are also required ends.

Keywords: autonomy; categorical imperative; desire; empiricist; Hume; instrumental; Kant; normativity; rationalist; reason

Chapter.  23779 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.