Mittwoch, 8. Dezember 2010, 18 Uhr c.t.

Campus Westend, Hörsaalzentrum HZ5

Prof. Christine Korsgaard (Harvard University)

The Normative Constitution of Agency


Chaltristine M. Korsgaard (BA University of Illinois, 1974; PhD Harvard, 1981; LHD, University of Illinois, 2004) is Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University. She works on moral philosophy and its history, the theory of practical reason, the philosophy of action, personal identity, and the relations between human beings and the other animals. She is the author of four books: Self-Constitution: Agency, Identity, and Integrity (Oxford 2009), The Constitution of Agency (Oxford 2008), The Sources of Normativity (Cambridge 1996), and Creating the Kingdom of Ends (Cambridge 1996). She is also one of the editors of Reclaiming the History of Ethics: Essays for John Rawls (Cambridge 1997). She is currently working on Moral Animals, a book about the place of rationality and value in nature. She has held positions at Yale, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the University of Chicago. She won a Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award in 2004 and has served as President of the Eastern Division of the
American Philosophical Association.


The philosophical tradition affords us two different there are naturalistic conceptions, according to which an action is essentially a movement caused by a certain kind of mental state. Second, there are normative conceptions, familiar from the tradition of political philosophy, according to which the agency of some unit is constituted by the normative relations among its parts, and an action is just a movement produced by a properly constituted agent. For example, something done by the members of a political state counts as an action of the state only if it was enacted in the proper way by the right authorities. Some philosophers in the tradition, most notably Plato and Kant, have appealed to the idea of normative constitution to explain individual agency. These accounts may seem fanciful to modern ears, but I argue that they embody an important point: the kind of unity that is essential to agency must be normatively constituted.


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