Chapter

Formal and Substantive Principles of Reason

Christine M. Korsgaard

in Self-Constitution

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780199552795
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720550 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199552795.003.0003
 Formal and Substantive Principles of Reason

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This chapter lays out the principles of practical reason whose normativity the book defends, and distinguishes them from other proposed principles of practical reason. The principle of instrumental reason is interpreted broadly as the general principle of practical judgment or application. Substantive moral principles, identified in terms of their distinctively moral content, are distinguished from formal moral principles, which dictate a certain form of practical deliberation, and some results of confusing the two are examined. The chapter argues that maximizing principles, such as the traditional principle of prudence or self-interest, are substantive rather than formal, and that this creates problems for establishing their normativity. They are set aside, and the book defends the principle of instrumental reason and the categorical imperative, as formal principles governing practical deliberation.

Keywords: categorical imperative; deliberation; formal; instrumental reason; self-interest; maximizing; moral principles; prudence; reasons; substantive

Chapter.  6856 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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