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The Sources of Normativity

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  303 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Ethical concepts are, or purport to be, normative. They make claims on us: they command, oblige, recommend, or guide. But where does their authority over us come from? Christine Korsgaard identifies and examines four accounts of the source of normativity that have been advocated by modern moral philosophers--voluntarism, realism, reflective endorsement, and the appeal to a ...more
Paperback, 290 pages
Published June 28th 1996 by Cambridge University Press
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Jun 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who value things, people with identities
Recommended to Anthony by: LG, Drew, DiClaudio, everyone
Somewhere in the middle of this book you get the feeling that you may, in fact, be a Kantian. Thankfully, that goes away by the end, but at that point you've been overwhelmed by the excellent commentaries by Cohen, Guess, and Williams (and to a less extent Nagel, although he mostly just confused me). Philosophy should always be in lecture form and always be this exciting. ...more
Richard Newton
Nov 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
I try to judge books on whether I find the reading experience good, rather than whether I agree with what the author has written. This is a good example. Korsgaard has written a very good and relatively accessible case of her views of why we ought to be moral - what are the sources of normativity? Her arguments are based on a Kantian perspective, with her own twist. Given the Kantian perspective she takes, a side benefit of this book is that I found it to be insightful about Kant's own moral phi ...more
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
Korsgaard is attempting to develop a neo-kantian ethic. Interestingly enough she does this both analytically and dialectically. Analytically in the sense that all her arguments are logical, and always attempting to contain a valid form. Dialectically, in that she is trying to take the good side out of voluntarism, emotivism, realism, etc., and develop them in a Kantian direction. Unfortunately the book largely fails, in my opinion.

Korsgaard makes one too many logical leaps, in the traditional ca
مهدی محمدی
Sep 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book has two characteristics which makes it readable. First, the way that author cultivates her ideas through dealing with different theories of normativity. Second, the way in which she interprets works of some great philosophers such as Hume and Kant.
Furthermore, "normative question" which is introduced as the main question of the book is extraordinary useful to face various theories in ethics. It could be used as a criterion for assessing other theories of normativity.
Daniel Tovar
Aug 22, 2007 rated it liked it

Like much of Korsgaard's work, I found it interesting but seriously mistaken.
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Your reasons express your identity, your nature; your obligations spring from what that identity forbids. [...] For to violate them is to lose your integrity and so your identity, and to no longer be who you are. That is, it is to no longer be able to think of yourself under the description under which you value yourself and find your life to be worth living and your actions to be worth undertaking. It is to be for all practical purposes dead or worse than dead.

Korsgaard seeks to answer the "nor
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Korsgaard presents a stunning Kantian theory of ethics in a series of lectures. Her writing is lucid and more readable than most philosophical texts, given its lecture format. Her ideas are humanistic, and even existentialist, while preserving the best of Kant's transcendental method and ideas.

Korsgaard argues that Kant's arguments from the autonomy of reason fail to analytically entail that we ought to act under the categorical imperative, as the Kingdom of Ends formulation, in order to be fre
Ralph Palm
Feb 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, 'Rawls-grade' application of Kant to contemporary philosophy, with an Isaiah Berlin style fluency with the historical literature. She also rights clearly on a complex topic, which is as welcome as it is rare.

In my opinion, things get a little muddled in the 4th lecture, but that might be due to my lack of familiarity with the contemporary versions of the issues. The responses included from other authors are even more of a mess, but since I know at least 2 of them (Thomas Nagel & Berna
Ana Ruiz
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, 5-stars, philosophy
I only read one of the essays in this book, but, Gosh, do I really have to get to the other ones at some point. If any one will convince you of being a kantian at this point, and make it beautiful (instead of dry-boring-old-German philosophy) in the meanwhile, it's Christine. Good for her, and for all of us that get to read her. ...more
Jan 26, 2019 rated it did not like it
Rational normativity? How about western-centric exceptionalism and Aristotelian ethics masquerading as truth? The rational is born from the normative, not the reverse. I disagree with the fundamental tenants of this book.
Jocelyn (foxonbooks)
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Korsgaard speaks in a clear, understandable way about exceptionally complex subjects. I don't know to what extent I agree with her conclusions, but she has introduced many fascinating ideas about rationality, morality and where we might find normativity with this series of lectures. ...more
Neil Aplin
Feb 24, 2021 marked it as to-read
Shelves: yet-to-be-read
Yes, I know, a bit beyond my pay-grade, but after failing to understand my step-daughter's essay on the subject, she offered me the book and I feel I owe it to everyone that I get my small head around all this! ...more
Joshua Stein
Oct 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: ethics, philosophy
Korsgaard is a legend in modern ethics and meta-ethics, and this book is a pretty good illustration of why that is. The arguments are succinct, poignant, and thoughtful; she considers a pretty wide range of possible views advanced throughout the 19th and 20th century ethics literature. One of the challenges with the book, and it does weigh a bit on my review of the book, is that the language is often more obscure and technical than it needs to be, and dwells on a lot of references within the lit ...more
Andrey Babitskiy
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, ethics
Four lectures by a well-known philosopher, published as a book, with critical commentaries by a few notable colleagues, namely, Thomas Nagel, Bernard Williams, GA Cohen, and Raymond Guess. Korsgaard has an agenda; she not only reviews sources of [moral] normativity proposed by her predecessors, but also tries to develop her own reflective approach, based on Kantian ideas. Informative, analytical, and fun to read. The polemical part of the book is worth the time, too.
Yusef Asabiyah
May 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What I most remember and love about this book is the use of Nietzsche. I read the book primarily to get a wider perspective than the one I had from Nietzsche, and then what I get is different, and more beautiful perspective on Nietzsche.
Jan 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Made me think I was a Kantian because of its emphasis on the connection of morality with one's self-concept. ...more
Ft. Sheridan
Jan 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Doesn't seem like it works, but I still can't wait for the sequel... ...more
Jonah Dunch
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A superb reworking of Kantian ethics. Korsgaard's prose is lucid and electrifying, and her arguments are ingenious and (at least part of the time) persuasive. A must-read for anyone. ...more
Jan 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
If I become a Kantian, Korsgaard's the reason. ...more
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Christine M. Korsgaard is an American philosopher whose main academic interests are in moral philosophy and its history; the relation of issues in moral philosophy to issues in metaphysics, the philosophy of mind, and the theory of personal identity; the theory of personal relationships; and in normativity in general. She has taught at Yale, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the U ...more

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