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Lectures on the History of Moral and Political Philosophy$
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Jonathan Wolff and G. A. Cohen

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691149004

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691149004.001.0001

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Reason, Humanity, and the Moral Law

Reason, Humanity, and the Moral Law

(p.305) Chapter 12 Reason, Humanity, and the Moral Law
Lectures on the History of Moral and Political Philosophy

G. A. Cohen

, Jonathan Wolff
Princeton University Press

This chapter comments on Christine Korsgaard's views on reason, humanity, and moral law in the context of her ethics. In particular, it examines Korsgaard's response to the question inspired by Thomas Hobbes' second argument, the one about the sovereign: how can the subject be responsible to a law that it makes and can therefore unmake? Korsgaard's ethics descends from Immanuel Kant, but it contrasts in important ways with Kant's ethics. Korsgaard's subject is unequivocally the author of the law that binds it, for its law is the law of its practical identity, and the subject itself “constructs” that identity. In the case of the Kantian subject, we can say that it both is and is not the author of the law that binds it. The chapter considers Korsgaard's claim that morality is grounded in human nature, along with her position on the problem of normativity and on obligation.

Keywords:   reason, Christine Korsgaard, humanity, moral law, ethics, subject, Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant, morality, human nature

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