The normative sources of practical identity : a Peircean approach to the contemporary debate
- Poggiani, Francesco
- [University Park, Pennsylvania] : Pennsylvania State University, 2016.
- Physical Description:
- 1 electronic document
- Additional Creators:
- Colapietro, Vincent Michael, 1950-
- Restrictions on Access:
- Open Access.
- According to an increasingly influential picture of rational agency, agents are constituted in such a way that they cannot help pursing or caring about, not so much personal satisfaction or a particular conception of the good, as the development of intelligible and mutually consistent self-conceptions. While there is much to be said in favor of this reflective picture of agency (as I shall call it), doubts about its capacity to provide us with an adequate account of the sources of normativity invite further critical scrutiny. The problem with regarding the aim of self- constitution (Korsgaard) or self-understanding (Velleman) as a sufficient condition of normativity comes down to the question of how one can be rationally motivated to act in accordance with her own practical identity or self-conception if the latter can acquire no more rational worth than what is conferred upon it from the disengaged perspective of a purely supervising consciousness. In the first two chapters I present in detail several aspects of this line of criticism. In the second half of the second chapter I articulate, with the help of Charles Taylor, the broader question to which the foregoing constitutivist theories can be seen as offering a partial answer: how should we account for the possibility of genuine (non-fallacious) and efficacious (non-circular) ad hominem reasoning about the sources of normativity? In other words, how (if at all) can we ground normativity in our own affective experience without begging the normative question?In the fifth chapter I argue, on the basis of Charles Peirces mature conception of pragmatism, that any intelligible (self-)conception presupposes a purposive background of significance, and that our deliberate purposes (or ideals) themselves can only be clarified by showing how they enable us to regulate our conduct by increasing its stability (in terms of the particular habits which are conceivably entailed them). Consequently, our very capacity to reflect upon our beliefs and inclinations, and control ourselves in light of standards of conduct, is constrained on one side of the deliberative process by what we cannot help believing (or doubting) and seeking (or fleeing); on the other side, it is constrained by what we cannot help affirming (or rejecting) and admiring (or despising). This conclusion might be taken to support the idea that, after all, we have not answered the normative question but rather shown the impossibility of answering it. The suggestion cannot be resisted as long as we hold on to a picture of deliberative agency that is inconsistent with the foregoing (pragmatic) view of what understanding or reflecting upon anything (including ourselves) actually means.As I argue in chapters 3 and 4, Peirces phenomenological insights contains valuable resources for the articulation of an alternative account of rational agency. The latters distinctive features vis-a-vis the reflective picture can be most clearly exhibited by comparing their contrasting attempts at rejecting normative hedonism. The upshot of my exploration of Peirces iiirefutation of hedonism, which is parallel to his rejection of subjective idealism (5.5), can be summed up by the idea that practical rationality does not merely begin with acts of reflective endorsement; it is rather in and through acts of acknowledgement and articulation. In other words, Peirces pragmatism allows us to see why the sources of normativity can only be given in and developed through experience, which in Peirces view always involves, at one level of it, a vague sense of being incapable of doing otherwise. This comprises the crucial moment, during a persons course of life, in which she comes to conceive of herself as being defined by a vaguely perceived normative orientation. But the latter can only be articulated by engaging ourselves in a deliberate course of self-experimentation, by which normative feelings are gradually clarified and allowed to shape our practical identities. This is what gives our indubitable beliefs inescapable and inclinations their normative worth: we do not confer value upon them, but gradually validate whether or not they are in fact as powerful as they claim to be by turning them into hypotheses for the deliberate work of self-formation.
- Dissertation Note:
- Ph.D. Pennsylvania State University, 2016.
- Technical Details:
- The full text of the dissertation is available as an Adobe Acrobat .pdf file ; Adobe Acrobat Reader required to view the file.
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