Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Dr. Will Reckner
Phillipa Foot once described the case of a Sudeten farm boy who, in 1944, had to choose between joining the SS and being executed (Foot 2). Perhaps it is clear that he was right to choose death rather than join such an evil organization. But if he disagreed, what are we supposed to say to him? Suppose he said that he knew the SS was evil and that joining would require him to do evil things, but when faced with the alternative of execution, why did he have to do the right thing?
This problem can be generalized: what are we to say to someone who is in between a rock and a hard place? Someone who has the choice between doing what is right and staying alive? It is in those moments when a particular problem begins to press. We can see what is right, but we find ourselves driven to ask why we must do what is right. That is, we ask: why is morality normative for us? Why does morality guide, command, and obligate us? What justifies the claims morality makes on us?
I will first summarize Korsgaard’s view as presented in Sources. Then, I will explain in more detail how the problem arises and what it is. Next, I will consider one alternative for how we might solve this problem. This first solution will revolve around arguing that our reflective consciousness gives us reasons to protect and preserve reflective consciousness. But this argument will fail because it is neither supple enough to accommodate actions that, while usually wrong, are permitted in certain circumstances nor strong enough to explain why we think many actions are wrong (notably, coercion). Last, I will present and defend my alternative theory.
Scott, Julian, "So What: The Justification of Morality in Christine Korsgaard’s The Sources Of Normativity" (2020). Honors Theses. 1515.