published on March 11, 2015
In Defense of Korsgaard's Orthodox Kantianism
This article defends the Kantian moral theory developed by Christine Korsgaard against the charge that it does not establish that immorality is always irrational because moral obligations are inescapable and overriding. My aim is to show that two versions of a well-known criticism of the view fail for the same reason. They do not recognize the role of inadequate reflection in accounting for immoral actions and, consequently, they do not fully appreciate the commitments that come with accepting the supposed structure of human psychology that is bedrock to the view. I argue, first, that G. A. Cohen makes too much of the difference between Korsgaard and Kant on the source of moral norms and that we can appeal to what she says about practical reason in an early paper of hers in order to handle his Mafioso case. Next, I take up J. David Velleman’s more recent treatment of Korsgaard’s view in response to Cohen’s Mafioso case. I show that Velleman’s argument that her view is concessive conflates his own view of human agency with Korsgaard’s practical identity theory. My hope is that this discussion shows how Korsgaard’s view can be made to work as an orthodox Kantianism.