Ideas of Christine M. Korsgaard, by Theme

[American, fl. 1996, Professor at Harvard University.]

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16. Persons / A. Concept of a Person / 4. Persons as Agents
A person viewed as an agent makes no sense without its own future
     Full Idea: In forming a particular plan of life, you need to identify with your future in order to be what you are even now. When the person is viewed as an agent, no clear content can be given to the idea of a merely present self.
     From: Christine M. Korsgaard (Intro to 'Creating the Kingdom of Ends' [1996], §2)
     A reaction: I certainly like the notion that we should treat persons primarily as agents, since I take personhood to be more like a process than an existent entity. If a large brick is about to hit you, you actually have no future, though you think you have.
To make sense of personal identity, focus on agency rather than experience
     Full Idea: A focus on agency makes more sense of personal identity than a focus on experience.
     From: Christine M. Korsgaard (Intro to 'Creating the Kingdom of Ends' [1996], §2)
     A reaction: This strikes me as eminently sensible advice for the beginning of any discussion of personal identity. Her personal bęte noir is Parfit, who focuses on what we are conscious of.
20. Action / A. Definition of Action / 1. Action Theory
Theory of action focuses on explanation and prediction; practical action on justification and choice
     Full Idea: When we look at our actions from the theoretical standpoint our concern is with their explanation and prediction. When we view them from the practical standpoint our concern is with their justification and choice.
     From: Christine M. Korsgaard (Intro to 'Creating the Kingdom of Ends' [1996], §4)
     A reaction: A nice distinction, which invites us to further subdivide action theory into two branches, with entirely different concerns.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 1. Nature of Value / f. Ultimate value
If we can't reason about value, we can reason about the unconditional source of value
     Full Idea: If you can only know what is intrinsically valuable through intuition (as Moore claims), you can still argue about what is unconditionally valuable. There must be something unconditionally valuable because there must be a source of value.
     From: Christine M. Korsgaard (Aristotle and Kant on the Source of Value [1986], 8 'Three')
     A reaction: If you only grasped the values through intuition, does that give you enough information to infer the dependence relations between values?
An end can't be an ultimate value just because it is useless!
     Full Idea: If what is final is whatever is an end but never a means, ...why should something be more valuable just because it is useless?
     From: Christine M. Korsgaard (Aristotle and Kant on the Source of Value [1986], 8 'Finality')
     A reaction: Korsgaard is offering this as a bad reading of what Aristotle intends.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / g. Self interest
Self-concern may be a source of pain, or a lack of self-respect, or a failure of responsibility
     Full Idea: For utilitarians, self-concern causes needless pain; for Kantians, it evinces a lack of respect for one's own humanity; for the religious moralist, it is a failure of responsibility for what has been placed in one's special care.
     From: Christine M. Korsgaard (Intro to 'Creating the Kingdom of Ends' [1996], §5)
     A reaction: Worryingly, given my heathenish views, I find the third one the most congenial. If we don't take responsibility for our own selves (e.g. for having a great talent), then no one (even parents) will take responsibility for anything.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 1. Goodness / b. Types of good
Goodness is given either by a psychological state, or the attribution of a property
     Full Idea: 'Subjectivism' identifies good ends with or by reference to some psychological state. ...'Objectivism' says that something is good as an end if a property, intrinsic goodness, is attributed to it.
     From: Christine M. Korsgaard (Aristotle and Kant on the Source of Value [1986], 8 'Three')
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / b. Rational ethics
Maybe final value rests on the extrinsic property of being valued by a rational agent
     Full Idea: Korsgaard argues for the ultimate dependence of final value on the extrinsic property of being valued by a rational agent.
     From: report of Christine M. Korsgaard (Creating the Kingdom of Ends [1992]) by Francesco Orsi - Value Theory 2.3 n4
     A reaction: This hyper-Kantian view doesn't strike me as very plausible. Not philosophical theory which entirely cuts animals out of the story has much appeal for me.
23. Ethics / A. Egoism / 1. Ethical Egoism
Personal concern for one's own self widens out into concern for the impersonal
     Full Idea: The personal concern which begins with one's life in a particular body finds its place in ever-widening spheres of agency and enterprise, developing finally into a personal concern for the impersonal.
     From: Christine M. Korsgaard (Intro to 'Creating the Kingdom of Ends' [1996], §5)
     A reaction: I am very struck by this nice thought, which comes from a very committed Kantian. It seems to me to capture the modern orthodoxy in ethical thinking - that concern for one's self, rather than altruism, is central, but altruism should follow from it.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / g. Contemplation
Contemplation is final because it is an activity which is not a process
     Full Idea: It is because contemplation is an activity that is not also a process that Aristotle identifies it as the most final good.
     From: Christine M. Korsgaard (Aristotle and Kant on the Source of Value [1986], 8 'Activity')
     A reaction: Quite a helpful way of labelling what Aristotle has in mind. So should we not aspire to be involved in processes, except reluctantly? I take the mind itself to be a process, so that may be difficult!
For Aristotle, contemplation consists purely of understanding
     Full Idea: Contemplation, as Aristotle understand it, is not research or inquiry, but an activity that ensues on these: an activity that consists in understanding.
     From: Christine M. Korsgaard (Aristotle and Kant on the Source of Value [1986], 8 'Aristotle')
     A reaction: Fairly obvious, when you read the last part of 'Ethics', but helpful in grasping Aristotle, because understanding is the objective of 'Posterior Analytics' and 'Metaphysics', so he tells you how to achieve the ideal moral state.