Chapter

The Activity of Reason*

Christine M. Korsgaard

in Reasons and Recognition

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199753673
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918829 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199753673.003.0001
The Activity of Reason*

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I contrast two views of the relations among reason (the active dimension of the mind), rational principles, and reasons. On the Kantian view, rational principles are constitutive principles of rational activity, and substantive reasons result from applying those principles. According to Scanlon and Broome, substantive reasons exist independently of rational principles, whose function and normative status then becomes problematic. The problem for the Kantian view is that if we can characterize the activity of reason only as “justifying beliefs and actions” then it seems as if reasons must exist prior to that activity. I argue that the activities of justifying our beliefs and actions coincide with the activities of constructing a unified conception of the world and of constructing a unified self, respectively. These alternative descriptions enable us to explain why rational principles are normative and can be used to determine reasons.

Keywords: activity; Broome; Kant; normative; rationality; reason; Scanlon; substantive reasons

Chapter.  11859 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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