Northwestern Events Calendar


Gertrude Bussey Lecture - Tamar Schapiro (MIT)

When: Friday, May 26, 2023
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM Central

Where: 555 Clark Street, B03, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Regina Hurley  

Group: WiPhi

Category: Academic


Making Sense of Kantian Constitutivism

Kant put forth the remarkable claim that being autonomous and being morally good amount to the same thing. To be governed by your own law just is to be governed by the moral law. Contemporary Kantian constitutivists, particularly Christine Korsgaard, have tried to defend a version of this claim by identifying autonomy with conformity to the “constitutive principle” of human agency as such. A constitutive principle is a principle you have to follow insofar as you are engaged in an activity of a certain kind. The rules of English grammar are constitutive of the activity of speaking English, and the rules of chess are constitutive of the activity of playing chess. The Kantian constitutivist claims 1) there is a constitutive principle of human agency as such, a principle you have to follow insofar as you engage the activity of…acting, simply as such, and 2) that principle just is the moral law. Setting aside the second part of the claim, my question is: what sense can we make of the first part? What could it even mean for some rule to be constitutive of the activity of human agency as such? What, exactly, needs to be constituted, and why? I argue that we can give at least one answer to this question if we rely on a Kantian theory of motivation that I have developed elsewhere (Feeling Like It, Oxford 2021). My hope is to show how the intelligibility of Kantian constitutivism depends in part upon the details of an accompanying theory of will and inclination.

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