An Aristotelian Alternative
to- Kantian Internalism
GEORGE W. HARRIS
University of California Press
BERKELEY LOS ANGELES LONDON
PART 1. BEGINNINGS 1
1. The Internalism Requirement and the Integration Test 27
2. Impartiality, Regulative Norms, and Practical Reason 52
3. The Thin Conception of Integrity and the Integration Test 88
4. An Integrity- Sensitive Conception of Human Agency,
Practical Reason, and Morality 108
PART 2. THE GOODS OF RESPECT 129
5. General Features and Varieties of Respect 135
6. Respect, Egoism, and Self-Assessment 149
7. The Categorical Value of the Goods of Respect 158
PART 3. THE GOODS OF LOVE 175
8. General Features of Love 179
9. The Normative Thoughts of Parental Love, Part I:
Self-Restricting Normative Beliefs 192
10. The Normative Thoughts of Parental Love, Part II:
Other- Restricting Normative Beliefs 213
11. Peer Love 245
12 The Normative Thoughts of Friendship 259
13. The Normative Thoughts of Neighborly Love, Part 1:
Autonomy and Subservience 286
14. The Normative Thoughts of Neighborly Love, Part II:
Autonomy of Conscience and the Unjust Community 304
15. Loneliness, Intimacy, and the Integration Test 327
PART 4. THE GOODS OF ACTIVITY: THE PLACE OF THE
17. Shared Activities 373
18. Normative Thoughts and the Goods of Activity 392
My project in this book is to argue for what, subject to some important departures, I will call an "Aristotelian" perspective against various "Kantian" views. Though there will be plenty of detailed argument in the text, here I would like to provide some autobiographical thoughts that might help the reader to understand something of the soul of this book. When I was an adolescent in the late 1950s and early 1960s growing up in the cotton mill villages of South Carolina, I somehow came across Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. I can't really remember what possessed me to read the book, but I did; and I have not been the same person since. Anyone familiar with the Deep South at that time and with that book should know why. The experience began a process that continues to this day, a process in search of moral coherence where innocence has been lost. Much later in my life, with much less innocence and a great deal more complexity, I discovered Kant, who for a long time seemed to restore equilibrium. But innocence lost is :never regained and coherence restored is always only partial and often temporary. One of the events (there were several) that crystallized my disaffection with Kant was the discovery of another work of fiction, William Styron's Sophie Choice. This book has left an indelible impression on me, much of which is expressed in my book Dignity and Vulnerability. Reading Styron led me to think more deeply about moral luck, to the current philosophical literature on that topic, and to read Aristotle again. This led me even farther away from Kant and to the views expressed here in Agent-centered Morality. What does not get fully expressed in this book is how my discovery and appreciation of the work of Isaiah Berlin, especially his objective pluralism, require me to reject some central theses of Aristotle. The implications of my analysis clearly show that there are plural and conflicting values that can come into conflict in irreconcilable and tragic ways, ways that I do not believe Aristotle fully appreciated. But I do not here show or attempt to show that there might be persons whose quality of character is both different from and incommensurable with the kind of character I think many of us want most to be like. I do think there are such persons. Nor do, I discuss the Aristotelian doctrine of the unity of the virtues, a doctrine that I believe is incompatible both with the facts regarding the plurality of human valuing and with the facts regarding the neurological possibilities for members of our species. I say all this because I have come to Berlin late but can already tell that reading him at this much later point in my life is like having read To Kill a Mockingbird so many years ago. I just do not yet know how much Berlin's thought will affect my adjustments to a fundamentally Aristotelian way of seeing things. Perhaps in the future I will write a book that will reveal that I can reconcile what I think is right about Berlin's pluralism with what I think is right about Aristotle's ethics. Or perhaps, though far less likely, I will write a book that will reveal yet another transition of a deeper kind that leaves both Kant and Aristotle behind. Though it might seem odd to preface a book ten years in the writing with a cautionary note of this sort, I hope it reflects some honesty and some reassurance to those who find themselves involved in similar struggles to understand and appreciate the complexities of life. Agent-centered Morality is, I believe, a mature book, but it does not represent the end of the process or a final coherence. Under Berlin's influence, I have come to doubt that there is such a thing.
One of the special difficulties involved in writing a book is the task of defining its parameters. This is motivated in part by the simple desire to finish. But if this were the only motivational current at work, the task would be easy. One could just quit with the desire to move on. The agony begins, however, at the confluence of the desire for closure and myriad other concerns. Among them are the desires for rigorous argumentation, thoroughness of analysis, felicitous presentation, and fairness to one's rivals. Any good writer or thinker is deeply committed to all these things, and being committed to all is what makes being a writer so very difficult. Nevertheless, the one feature of a book that is not contingent, if it is to find its way to readers, is that it must come to an end. On the other hand, a book can lack some rigor of argumentation; it can lack completeness of analysis; it can tolerate a good deal of infelicitous expression; and, as we all know, it can be very unfair to its rivals. The various motivational factors involved in the desire to finish are diverse, and some are more pressing than others. Death approaches, your children want and need your affection, papers require grading, the joys and duties of citizenship beckon, and there are fish yet to be caught. So if one is to do these other things and finish the book, one must do the best one can under the circumstances. I have tried to be true to these commitments, especially regarding fairness to my rivals. Doubtless my depiction of the opposition could in some cases be more detailed. But at some point more detail regarding the thoughts of others runs against the current of the desire to state one's own. My apologies, then, where I have not dealt with others as I might were we not all walled in by Space and time.
I am extremely grateful to Ed Dimendberg, the philosophy editor at the University of California Press, for his interest in my work. The production of my previous book, Dignity and Vulnerability, was simply superb. An author could not ask for more professional treatment than I have received from Ed and the people at California. I am especially grateful to Cindy Fulton, production editor, and to Sheila Berg, copy editor, for their excellent work.
Many others have contributed in both direct and indirect ways to the manuscript. Paul Davies, more than anyone else, has been a constant sounding board and reliable critic. Greg Baier, Larry Becker, E. J. "Ted" Bond, Douglas Browning, Keith Butler, Tony Cunningham, Dwight Furrow, Brie Gertler, James Harris, Robert Kane, James Klagge, Mark Katz, Steven Leighton, Noah Lemos, and John Sisko are all due special thanks, as are the referees for the Press. I wish also to thank Marcia Baron and Christine Korsgaard for answering some questions by email regarding their work. To mystudents at the College of William and Mary who have made many valuable contributions to my work, I am enormously grateful, as I am to Debbie Wilson, the department secretary, who has been an utterly reliable resource. I wish also to thank the College of William and Mary for two research leaves to complete this project. And to many others I have failed to !mention, I express my heartfelt gratitude.
During the period in which this book was written, three of the most
important events of my life transpired. I married my wife, Patty, and my
two daughters, Rachel and Jenny, were born. It is to the three of them
that this book is dedicated.
I think you're right, Lysis, to say that if we were looking at things the right way, we wouldn't be so far off course. Let's not go in that direction any longer.
1. See Barbara Herman, The Practice of Moral Judgment
Mass.: Harvard University Press, -1993); Marcia Baron, Kantian
Ethics Almost Without Apology (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995);
Donagan, The Theory of Morality (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, -1977); Thomas Hill, Dignity and 'Practical Reason in
Kant Moral Theory (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992); Onora
ONeill, Constructions of Reason: Explorations of Kant Practical Philosophy
Cambridge University Press,
1989), and Towards Justice and Virtue:
A Constructive Account of Practical Reason (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, -1996); Henry E. Allison, Kant Theory of Freedom (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1990); David Cummiskey,
York: Oxford University Press, -1996); and Christine M. Korsgaard,
the Kingdom of Ends (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
The Sources of Normativity
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2 / Beginnings
constructed from Kant's ethics. My primary goal here is to construct an agent-centered conception that is largely Aristotelian in its structure and to argue that it is superior to the alternative of Kantian internalism.
According to a long and venerable philosophical tradition dating back to the Enlightenment, morality is a normative perspective that has three essential features. It is impartial in its evaluations and demands; it universally applies to all human beings who can properly be called agents; and it is one that is rational for all rational human agents to take against alternative perspectives. A major reason that the order that begins with human agency is important is that if we proceed in this way we find that all three Enlightenment claims regarding morality are false, or so I will argue. An even more important reason is that we can discover a better alternative.
The reverse order of the one suggested here is the approach historically associated with one interpretation of the Enlightenment tradition. Because the Enlightenment tradition, on this interpretation, begins with an analysis of the morality of actions and obligations and proceeds to the morality of agents and character, it is act-centered rather than agent-centered. A major puzzle of this approach is that it quickly generates the problem of why we should be moral: Somehow we are first to understand what morality requires of us and then to worry over whether those requirements are rational. But if we are concerned with rationality, why begin with morality at all? Why not begin with an account of practical reason and see if anything resembling morality shows up within the account? The danger of the traditional methodology is that distortions of practical reason will be imposed to save the conception of morality.
This explains, then, why I think that practical reason comes before
morality. But why think that a prior conception of agency is necessary
for a conception of practical reason? I defend the claim that practical
rationality is character- relative in the sense that what is practically
rational for an agent turns on the kind of person the agent is. In this
regard, we sometimes describe others as courageous, temperate, or long-suffering.
When we do, we employ aretaic concepts involving self-control. On other
occasions, we describe others as respectful, sympathetic, loving, or devoted.
When we do, we employ concepts involving virtues that I call virtues of
caring. It is in terms of the latter, the virtues of caring, that I claim
practical reason is character-relative. That there is no standpoint outside
character that is the
Finally, the claim that practical reason is character-relative (a point to which I will return at the end of this introduction) does not in itself deny the universality of morality, for character might be shared among human beings in a way that establishes a substantial universal form of practical reason and therefore of morality. Very reluctantly, I have come to the conclusion that there is no such form. Nevertheless, there is a conception of morality, I will argue, that is practically rational for a surprisingly large portion of humanity. Things are relative but not as relative as some relativists would have us believe. Constructing this conception of morality is by far the main task of this book.
I argue for a conception of human agency that begins with the concept of human integrity. In the process, I argue that criteria for practical rationality are character- relative. I then argue that normative beliefs, including beliefs about obligation, have rational foundation in terms of their providing solutions to what I call integration problems. Moreover, it is the notion of integrity that provides us with a test for adjudicating philosophical disputes about the nature of rational agency. This test I call the integration test. It will turn out that the dispute between the view presented here and the view of Kantian internalism turns on a dispute about the nature of rational agency. If such a dispute can be rationally adjudicated and one of the views is correct, there must be some test that selects for the better theory. It is the integration test that plays this adjudicating role. Later, we will see what this test is.
A reason for suspecting that integrity is the clue to providing an adequate
conception of practical reason involves a central issue of this book: the
issue of regulative norms and their relationships within practical reason.
Less technically and more generally, the idea is something like the following.
People care about a variety of things in a variety of ways. They love their
friends, their families, and their communities; they respect, sympathize
with, and esteem strangers; they are dedicated to their work and enjoy
their play, and they are committed to causes, practices, and principles.
All these things factor into practical reason being what it is for at least
most human beings. As factors within practical reason, these various concerns
take on the status of norms that regulate our thinking about how to live
4 / Beginnings
what to do. Some of these norms are "partial" because they involve personal connectedness in a sense that others do not. Loving a child is a good example of a partial norm. Other norms lack this personal element and are best understood as "impartial." Respect and sympathy for strangers are usually good examples. One of the central questions of this book is, How are we are to understand these norms and their interrelationships such that they are the norms of a person as a practical reasoner? A very general answer is that they must be integrated as a roughly coherent set of norms. To be a set of norms that reflect personhood and practical reason they must achieve a certain kind of integrity as a whole. As such, they must constitute a psychology.
Another, more specific answer, of course, is to be found among the various Enlightenment conceptions of practical reason and morality, the most developed of which is the Kantian branch of that tradition. In chapter z, I argue that to achieve the necessary kind of wholeness or integrity and to account for the right psychology, the relationships among these regulative norms cannot be hierarchical in the way required by the Enlightenment tradition. More precisely, I argue that this is true on the assumptions of our considered moral judgments.
Against some of the most recent attempts to defend an Enlightenment view, I argue that human agents must integrate the kinds of concerns they have into a manageably coherent life in order to be agents at all and that there is no way of achieving such integration through a dominant norm that regulates other norms without being regulated in any way by them. That is, the regulative relationships among norms must be symmetrical rather than asymmetrical in order to achieve integration of the sort necessary for at least most humans. If this is true, I argue, then neither impartial respect nor impartial sympathy can do the work required of them by Kantians and utilitarians. Moreover, I argue that no norm can be asymmetrically dominant over other norms within practical reason, no matter whether it is partial or impartial. The reader might think of this as a hypothesis and the remainder of the book as a test of it. On this view, the role any norm plays in an agent's life will be recognized by how it regulates and is regulated by other norms in an agent's psychology in a way that preserves the integrity of that psychology. It is from this perspective that I develop a specific answer to our question that is an alternative to the Enlightenment tradition.
The methodology I find distorting, then, is one that begins with a conception
of moral agency according to which an agent is a moral agent only
Increasingly, many contemporary philosophers share the view that human agents are surely not the kinds of agents required by agent-neutral theories of morality. They also share the view that it is a good thing they are not.' Some even have the view that human agents are not moral agents. Lacking in this literature, however, is any developed conception of practical reason and morality that represents an alternative to the Enlightenment tradition. What is needed is an alternative moral psychology that will supply the account of regulative norms that the Enlightenment tradition has failed to provide. Moreover, that account must accommodate what is valid in recent Kantian defenses against contemporary philosophical attacks.
While I share the view that it is a good thing we are not the kinds
of agents required by agent-neutral conceptions of morality, I do not reject
the moral status of our agency. What allows me to do this is a reversal
of methodology, which is Aristotelian in spirit. I begin by asking what
human agents are like. Is there an essential connection between the agency
2. See Michael Stocker, "The Schizophrenia of Modern Ethical
Theories," and Susan Wolf, "Moral Saints," both in The Virtues: Contemporary
Essays on Moral Character, ed. Robert B. Kruschwitz and Robert C. Roberts
(Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, -1986), 36-45 and
respectively; Michael Slote, Goods and Virtues (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1983); Lawrence Blum,
and Morality (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980);
Cottingham, "Ethics and Impartiality," Philosophical Studies
(1983): 83 -99,
and "Partiality, Favouritism and Morality," Philosophical
Quarterly 36 (July 1984): 357-73;
"Personal Love and Kantian Ethics in Effi Briest,"
Philosophy and Literature
8 (April :E984): 15-3-1; Bernard Williams,
Luck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981).
6 / Beginnings
particular human and the good of that human? Only after coming to a somewhat affirmative and informative answer to this question do I proceed. I then ask if there is any importance in retaining a moral/nonmoral distinction regarding human agents. I believe that there is.
If I am right about this, then all morality must be agent-centered in one very important sense: There can be no acceptable theory of moral obligation that is entirely agent-neutral. Moral obligation cannot be entirely independent of what is good for the agent who has the obligations of morality. Nor can it be completely without connection to the agent's particular personal commitments.
The connection for which I argue is this: To be an ongoing agent is not to be the agent of a principle that comes into play willy-nilly as dictated by events external to the agent's reasons for living; rather, it is to be an agent whose actions have their coherence and meaning within the agent's way of life with its own constitutive good. Being an ongoing agent, therefore, essentially involves finding life worthwhile and having reasons for living. It also involves having reasons for living one way rather than another. No way of life, then, is morally obligatory that is entirely independent of a human agent's own good. If this is true, then no individual act that is destructive to the most fundamental goods of that life can be morally obligatory for an agent.
My methodology, therefore, commits me first to come to terms with the connection between the concept of human agency and the concept of a particular human agent's own good. Only then does it allow me to proceed to questions of obligation. Moreover, it commits me to giving an account of an agent's sense of obligation in terms of how an agent's reasons for action emerge in the context of those things in virtue of which the agent finds life meaningful.
If we are to think of morality as a function of practical reason and understand practical reason in terms of the integrative functions of human consciousness, we need a general account of an integrative function. For this we need a general account of integrity. I call this general account the thin conception of integrity.
The thin conception of integrity focuses on the person to whom we are
willing to attribute at least four features. Here I will simply state these
features, leaving developed discussion and argument for them for the remain-
I say much more about the concept of integrity and motivate its elements
in chapter 3, but it seems important for purposes of clarity to comment
briefly here on the first two elements. To say that a person of integrity
has at least one and no more than one basic "self " is not to endorse any
strongly Cartesian views on the unity of consciousness. It may very well
be true that the best explanation of certain forms of irrationality is
in the notion of 01partitioned" systems of consciousness.' Self-deception
is a possible example. But if partitioning is the best explanation for
such phenomena, certain conditions must hold. Foremost is that each of
these systems must achieve a certain level of integration or unity within
its own domain to constitute a personality system. This system then must
be segregated in Significant ways from other personality systems that somehow
functionally relate to the same human organism. Each such system must have
an identity of its own. If these identifiable personality systems are sufficiently
conflicting and separate, no overall unity of personality is possible for
the human to which they functionally relate. If this is true, then the
human lacks the substantial unity of personality required for personal
integrity. Similar comments apply if the personality system that represents
a particular human's "true self" is partitioned from explicit consciousness.
Such a person lacks integrity despite having a very unified personality
on any particular occasion.
3. See Donald Davidson, "Deception and Division,"
and David Pears, "The Goals and Strategies of Self- Deception," both in
Multiple Self, ed. Jon Elster (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985),
79-92and 59-78, respectively; and David Pears, Motivated Irrationality
Clarendon Press, 1984).
8 / Beginnings
It is important, then, to keep in mind two points regarding the first two elements of integrity. First, there must be some overall substantial unity or integration of personality for a human to be a person with integrity. This is in contrast to being a human with several partitioned personality systems with their own self-contained integration. Second, the human who suffers from serious cases of fragmented personality is not a person to whom integrity is attributable, and the same is true of the human whosesense of unity of personality is partitioned from conscious recognition.
From these observations, we can now say in general what an integrative function is. The general conception of an integrative function as it applies to practical reason is that it is a function of one's psychology that makes the basic elements of integrity in the thin sense possible. Later, it will become clear that one major difference between the view advocated here and Kantian internalism is the account of what makes such a function in the general sense possible.
Any specific, as opposed to general, conception of an integrative function would require a substantive conception of integrity. If there are different substantive conceptions of integrity that realize the basic elements of the thin conception and they yield integrative functions significantly different in their configurations, practical relativism is the resUlt.4The conception of morality defended here is a function of one specific conception of integrity. I call it the thick conception of integrity.
The thick conception of integrity includes the features of the thin conception but adds others as well. More accurately, the thick conception is only one version of how the thin conception might have substance rather than mere form. This is to say that there might be many different thick conceptions that realize the thin conception other than the one I consider; hence the possibility of relativism.
The agent I have in mind is one who has self-respect and self-esteem,
as well as impartial respect, sympathy, and esteem for others. These attitudes
regarding others, then, express the relevant impartial norms of the agent
of integrity in the thick sense. But in addition to these concerns, this
agent also has a number of other concerns that express his or her partial
4. I must hedge here. I am now only beginning
to take seriously Isaiah Berlin's claim that moral pluralism is neither
relativistic nor universalistic. So while I will continue
to use the term "relativism," it should be understood here simply as the
denial of universalism, leaving open the possibility that there are at
least two ways of denying universalism, by appeal to relativism proper
or to moral pluralism. For Berlin's discussion, see his book, The Crooked
Timber of Humanity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), esp.
I argue for a specific conception of the integrative function of practical reason as it applies to the agent of integrity in the thick sense and consider alternative conceptions. In this regard, it is important to distinguish three major competitors, one of which is associated with Aristotle and two of which are associated primarily with Kant.
The first I call simply the Aristotelian conception of the integrative function as it applies to the thick conception of integrity, with the understanding that the conception is Aristotelian in spirit and not in historical detail. The conception defended here is clearly revisionary in regard to its Aristotelian origins, as is much of Kantian internalism in regard to its Kantian origins. It reflects an inclusive-ends view of eudaimonia (the good for a human) and includes the following two claims:
10 / Beginnings
Second, some clarification is necessary of how considerations of eudaimonia enter into the deliberations of a practically rational agent. On what is to my mind a rather crass view, Aristotle's agent simply asks what is conducive to his or her happiness, and means-ends reasoning ensues. Interpreted narrowly, a passage from book -i of the Nicomachean Ethics might seem to support this. There Aristotle says:
totle, Kant, and the Stoics: Rethinking Happiness and Duty, ed. Stephen Engstrom and Jennifer Whiting (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 203 -36.
6. W. F. R. Hardie was the first to make the distinction between the inclusive ends and the dominant end interpretations of Aristotle, in W. F. R. Hardie, "The Final Good in Aristotle's Ethics," in Aristotle: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. J. M. E. Moravcsik (Garden City: N.Y.: Anchor Books, 1967), z97-3Z2. Leading defenders of the dominant end view are David Keyt, "Intellectualism in Aristotle," in Essays in Ancient Greek Philosophy, ed. John P. Anton and Anthony Preus (Albany: State University of New York Press, iq8i), 364 - 87; and Richard Kraut, Aristotle on the Human good (Princeton: Princeton University Press,:i.989). Advocates of the inclusive ends interpretation are J. L. Ackrill, "Aristotle on Eudaimonia," in Essays on Aristotle Ethics, ed. Amelie Oksenberg Rorty (Berkeley: University of Cahiornia Press, :1980), -15-34; Sarah Broadie, Ethics with Aristotle (London: Oxford University Press, igg-i); and Anthony Kenny, The Aristotelian Ethics (London: Oxford University Press, 1978) and Aristotle on the Perfect Life (London: Oxford University Press, :1992).
7. The Aristotelian conception interpreted as involving a dominant end would include the following two claims:
b. Though the norms grounded in subdominant ends might be symmetrical in their regulative functions vis-a-vis each other, the norms grounded in the dominant end are asymmetrical in their regulative functions vis-a-vis the norms of the subdominant ends.
One of the primary functions of book i, I believe, is to get clear on the sense of good relevant to ethical inquiry. When we find clarity on this issue, we get a much more plausible view of how eudaimonia enters into an agent's practical deliberations, and this is important to how I am interpreting the Aristotelian scheme.
The first thing Aristotle wants to establish is that the sense of good relevant to the study of ethics is one that must be relevant to practical reason. Consider in this regard the following passage that begins at Nicornachean Ethics, -iog6b:53. He says:
8. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans.
Martin Ostwald (Indianapolis: Library of Liberal Arts, Bobbs-Merrill, -ig6z).
Hereafter, all quotes from the Nicomachean Ethics are from the Ostwald
12 / Beginnings
way that its relevance is questionable to the weaver, the carpenter, the general, and the physician. Why? Because the crafts and ethics are concerned with how to live and act, rather than with what is true in the Platonic sense. Thus the relevant sense of good must be one that guides or is capable of guiding practical reason. This is to say, in Barbara Herman's terms, that the sense of good relevant to the study of ethics is the one that applies to things that appear within our deliberative field, that present themselves to us as things to be pursued, cherished, nurtured, maintained, respected, loved, and so on.9 Being clear on this, however, only tells us something about what we are looking for in the relevant sense of good. We need to know much more.
The comments on the physician are especially important. Aristotle seems to express some ambivalence about whether the sense of good should be relativized to the individual, as in the physician's case, or should be taken as good for "man" in the sense of the good for humanity. Actually, I do not believe that it is either of these, for there is another possibility. Consider the difference between the good for humanity, the good for this particular human, and the good for this particular kind of human, for example, the ideal Athenian. Taking the latter as a guide to interpretation, we can read Aristotle as rejecting as too broad (and thin) the conception of humanity as the proper subject of inquiry and as too narrow the study of some particular human. The question is how to specify the subject matter in a way that is neither too broad and thin for substance nor too narrow and particular for purposes of generalization. 10
I take it that the ideal Athenian, for us, fails on the latter grounds.
Still, we can take the reference to the ideal Athenian in another way.
We can take it
to mean that any study of ethics
that yields any substantive results will always be relative to a way of
life and to the character of those for whom that way of life is in some
sense a natural expression of who they are at the core. In this sense,
the person with integrity on the thick conception is the subject of the
current study, rather than the ideal Athenian. And by taking the thick
conception as the subject, we both leave behind some objectionable features
of Aristotle's view and remedy some deficiencies. The views
9. Herman, The Practice of Moral Judgment, 152, 166, 168, 172, 179, -180, 18-1, 182-83,19:1, 193-94,:E96-202.
10. Aristotle shows some sensitivity to this concern at
"We do not mean a man who lives in isolation, but a man
who also lives with parents, children, a wife, and friends and fellow citizens
generally, since man is by nature a social and political being. But some
limit must be set to these relationships, for if they are extended to include
ancestors, descendants, and friends of friends, they will go on to infinity."
Similarly, the current project of Aristotelian internalism is not to be perfectly true to Aristotle. Aristotle was wrong about all sorts of things, as was Kant. So I will not be defending Aristotle as a disciple of some sort, devoted to showing that the master had things right. Rather, I will be constructing a conception of what it is to be a person of integrity in the thick sense that runs in the opposite direction of the Kantian analysis. Rather than fit the analysis of partial norms within the context of the categorical imperative with its perfect and imperfect duties, I argue that it is best to fit the concerns for those who are not closely related to us within a conception of our own good in the sense that their well-being is central to the meaningfulness of our own lives when we are persons of integrity in the thick sense. Much more will be said as I proceed.
The relevant sense of good, then, is one that can guide practical reason and is relative to a character of a certain sort and to the way of life expressive of that character. But we need to know more about how this sense of good enters into the deliberations of the agent in the form of eudaimonia. Here we must see how the criteria of finality and self-sufficiency function and in what sense the Aristotelian agent (as constructed here) aims at eudaimonia. I think the best way of understanding Aristotle is that practical reason aims at eudaimonia only in the sense that practical reason is guided by a sense of good that raises the issues of finality and self-sufficiency in its evaluation of how to act and to live. About finality, Aristotle says:
14 / Beginnings
What does all this come to in regard to the agent of integrity in the
thick sense? In terms of finality, it means that the agent experiences
life in a way that many things appear within his or her deliberative field
as good. That is, they are goods that are relevant to practical reason,
things to be pursued, cherished, nurtured, maintained, respected, and loved,
and they are, as such, valued as ends. However, they are final only as
they appear as ordered within a life as a whole, for it is only from the
viewpoint of life as a whole that the issue of finality can arise. In this
regard, to aim at eudaimonia is nothing more than to attempt to see the
various goods of life as ordered in a way that the choice of the life in
which they appear is chosen for itself and for no further end. To the extent
to which a life with its goods is ordered in a way that meets the criterion
of finality it is practically rational. Why? Because it is to that extent
guided by the relevant sense of good. The other criterion is self-sufficiency,
which operates a bit differently than finality. Whereas finality requires
that the goods be ordered in a way that makes them the proper object of
final choice, self-sufficiency requires that all the goods get into the
ordering, if at all possible. Nothing of importance can avoidably be left
out. In this regard, to aim at eudaimonia is nothing
12. Aristotle seems to mean
one thing by self-sufficiency in book 1 of the Nicomachean Ethics and
another thing in book 10. In book 10, he emphasizes the notion
of independence rather than the notion of completeness when he provides
the divinity argument for the highest value of contemplation. The idea
is that the gods, who spend their time in contemplation, are invulnerable
to supporting conditions for their way of life in a way that other creatures
are not. Since appeals to divinity will play no positive role in my argument
or the Aristotelianism
construct, I will not employ this
notion of self-sufficiency.
As I employ these concepts, however, I want to make four clarifications: one having to do with the concept of eudaimonism itself; one, with the criterion of finality; one, with the concept of evaluating from the perspective of a life as a whole; and one, with self-sufficiency.
Beginning with eudaimonism, I want to distinguish between what I call subjective eudaimonism, on the one hand, and objective eudaimonism, on the other. The distinction between the two can best be made out in terms of Aristotle's definition of eudaimonia, that is, activity of the soul in accordance with virtue, and how he understands the status of external goods in the life well lived. According to what I call the subjectivist interpretation, external goods are not a part of one's well-being but are the equipment one needs for living the life of virtue. Perhaps the best expression of this view is found in Richard Kraut's book, Aristotle on the Human Good. His interpretation of Aristotle is that external goods are not a part of one's wellbeing but are the equipment for acting virtuously. In some cases, this makes sense. Wealth is the mere equipment whereby the generous person can act magnanimously. But what about the people who benefit from such generosity? Are they merely equipment needed for virtuous activity? Kraut's answer is that they are not, but insofar as they are valued for themselves, they do not reflect on the well-being of the generous person. Rather, concern for them reflects an altruistic attitude toward others. A similar analysis is given of the virtues of friendship and justice. On this view, that things go badly for other people is not something that makes life go badly for the agent, except insofar as things going badly for others lessens the occasions for one's virtuous activities. Thus to say that eudaimonia is activity of the soul in accordance with virtue is to assert that there is an identity relationship between eudaimonia and some exercise of the self. Since external goods are not parts of the self or its activities, they are not components of eudaimonia, the life well lived.
According to the objectivist construction of eudaimonia that I want
to defend, some external goods, most notably friends, family, fellow citizens,
and others, are intrinsic constituents of eudaimonia itself for creatures
like us. On this understanding, the definition of eudaimonia is best understood
as activity of a psychology (soul) in accordance with virtue and the goods
16 / Beginnings
to which that virtue is attached. The virtue of justice attaches us to persons worthy of respect, the virtue of sympathy, to persons in need; and the virtues of friendship and parental love, to our friends and children. Our character, on this Aristotelian construction, attaches us to items in the world and to the intrinsic well-being of those items. If this is true, then when things go badly for those items, things go badly for us. When asked how his life is going, the virtuous personís answer will often be couched in terms solely related to the well-being of others. Contrast in this regard these responses: Things are going badly because I have a headache, I have nothing virtuous to do, my child is ill, my friend's home was destroyed in a fire, workers are being cheated out of their pay, people are starving in Africa. Notice that many of the responses on the list do not mention the self but others, but they are mentioned in the context of why life is not what it could be. Also contrast these positive responses to the same question: Things are going really well because I feel great, my child just had her first recital, my friends and I played bridge last night, the workers strike has been settled in a way that is fair to all sides, and the drought has ended in Africa. These responses, both negative and positive, are intrinsic to what it is to thrive as a social being. Now, when eudaimonia is understood in this way, the self does not dominate the understanding of how well life is going in the way that it does on Krauts understanding of Aristotle. And it should be noted that eudaimonia on this view involves vulnerability because of the way in which one's character attaches one's well-being to items in the world that are external goods. When Aristotle says that we do not deliberate about external goods, part of what that means on this interpretation is that social beings bring certain values to the task of practical reason and with these values in place, they ask, How am I to live in a way that best accommodates these goods?"
The criteria of finality and self-sufficiency are brought to the task
of answering this question understood on the objectivist reading of eudaimonia.
Regarding finality, it is important to keep in mind that it can come in
degrees. Among alternative ways of life open to an agent, none of them
might satisfy the criterion perfectly. In such cases, we can speak of the
way of life that is most final, the one that is most chosen for itself
as an end and not as a means to anything else. This clarification accommodates
the fact that
13. Aristotle is usually taken
to be a perfectionist, but the Aristotelianism I
here is pluralistic in that there are goods other than perfection. For
a contrasting, perfectionist construction of Aristotle, see
University Press, 1993).
Regarding the evaluation from the perspective of a life as a whole, it needs to be recognized that we do not have the kind of access to our lives that allows us in any literal way to evaluate from this perspective. We have only a relatively vague notion of what our lives will turn out to be as a whole. This is why we should understand this perspective as simply requiring us to place our choices, at least the most fundamental ones, within the context of how our priorities fit within a way of life, and we do have some idea of what this is. The contrast is a decision model the rationality of which is defined independently of a concern for how things fit within a way of life at all.
Finally, there are two concepts of self-sufficiency that should not
be confused. The first, which is the one employed here, is the idea that
all the goods for a meaningful life are included. The second is that the
kind of life that includes all the goods in the first sense is free of
the contingencies of moral luck. Both the Stoics and Aristotle thought
it rational to pursue a life that was self-sufficient in the first sense,
but they differed on whether the life of eudaimonia was self-sufficient
in the latter sense. 14 Because he thought ex-
14. There is a dispute about
this among Aristotelians. Kraut takes Aristotle to put a great deal of
emphasis on invulnerability on his intellectualist interpretation
18 / Beginnings
ternals were intrinsic goods of the best life, Aristotle thought thatwe need a modicum of good luck for good living. Because they identified the best life with untroubledness (ataraxia), the Stoics rejected the value of externals and identified the best life with the life of virtue and hence immune to the forces of luck. For the Stoics, the goods of virtue are all under our control, immune to luck, and are all the goods there are in a life well lived. As will become clear, I side with Aristotle. it is only in understanding the fact that many of us are creatures with a character full of caring about externals that practical reason is made what it is for us.
To sum up, then: The Aristotelian conception first involves the appearance of things that are good (in the relevant sense) within an agent's deliberative field. The agent then considers different sets of priorities as candidates for accommodating those goods. Each set of priorities is considered as the basis for the imaginative projection of a way of life and how the things thought of as good by the agent appear within that way of life. Finally, the criteria of finality and self-sufficiency are employed to evaluate which set of priorities is rational. To the extent to which a set of priorities meets the criteria of finality and self-sufficiency it solves the integration problems of the agent. All this assumes that it is the appearance of things that are meaningful within the agent's deliberative field that generates the need for an
tegrative function in the first place. It makes no assumption about happiness as the goal of one's deliberations.
In contrast with the Aristotelian conception of the integrative function of practical reason are two impartial conceptions. The first I call externalist impartialism, which includes the following two claims:
b. The rational grounds for the dominant, asymmetrical norm are independent of those goods that make life meaningful from an agent's own point of view.
The second conception of impartialism I call internalist impartialism, and it includes the following two claims:
b. The rational grounds for the agent's norms, including the dominant, asymmetrical norm, are the goods that make life meaningful from an agent's own point of view.
counting for other goods. The remainder of the book is given to an argument against internalist Kantianism, where I argue that no conception of practical reason that employs an asymmetrical regulative norm can solve the integration problems of the agent of integrity in thethick sense.
The basic contrast of this book, then, is between two conceptions of practical reason. As best I can, I want here to provide a brief sketch of the contrast. Herman has argued that one requirement of an adequate conception of morality is that the rightness of an action must be the nonaccidental result of its motive. This she (rightly) takes to be one of Kant's most fundamental points. If we combine this requirement with the claim that morality is based on practical reason, then the rightness of an action is both (i) the nonaccidental result of its motive and (ii) practically rational, all things considered. All Kantians, I think, would agree. Moreover, on the interpretation given here, the Aristotelian would as well. The difference between the Kantian and the Aristotelian conceptions of practical reason is in how they account for these two requirements and in what Korsgaard has called reflective endorsement. 16
Consider first the Kantian account. Here some comments by Herman are helpful. She makes an illuminating distinction between the end or object of an action and the motive for an action. The end or object of an action, she says, "is that state of affairs the agent intends his action to bring about." 17 About motives, she says, "The motive of an action, what moves the agent to act for a certain object, is the way he takes the object of his action to be good, and hence reason-giving." 1,1 Now consider how this distinction might shed light on how the rightness of an action could be the nonaccidental result of its motive and rational, all things considered.
Imagine a case in which three people-A, B, and C-all do the right thing
from different motives -A from narrow self-interest, B from natural sympathy,
and C from the Kantian sense of duty. Let us assume that the right thing
to do in the context is to render aid to someone in distress. A takes the
object of his action to be good as a means of promoting his own narrowly
self-interested goals, and it is in this sense that he sees the object
as giving him a reason for action. Perhaps the person in distress is someone
17. Herman, The Practice of Moral Judgment, 25.
No doubt, the Kantian view is a very powerful one, one not to be taken
lightly or dismissed with caricature. How does the Aristotelian view, as
I construe it here, differ? The major differences are these. First, full
rationality, on the Aristotelian view, is not achieved by an impartial
decision procedure, and second, there are no norms, on the Aristotelian
view, that are asymmetrical in their regulative functions. On the Kantian
view, the dominant norm of practical reason is the concern that one's deliberations
take a certain form, namely, the impartial employment of the CI procedure
(categorical imperative decision procedure). It is the fact that deliberations
take this form that guarantees that the rightness of an act is the nonaccidental
result of its motive. But on the Aristotelian view there is no such procedure.
Rather, norms are the various ways an agent has of caring about himself
or herself and others and other things in the natural and social environment.
Hence, on this view, norms are at once both psychological and ethical.
How, then, does the Aristotelian view guarantee that the rightness of action
is the nonaccidental result of its motive? Here the concept of integrity
plays a crucial role. The most general answer is that the character of
an agent of integrity is such that any form of caring is influenced and
balanced by the need to make a place for the other forms of caring indicative
of the agent's character. Different things appear as good within the agent's
deliberative field because the agent cares about a variety of things in
a variety of ways. Practical reason, then, is not the capacity to employ
an impartial decision pro-
cedure. Rather, it is a complex capacity that assists a psychology in its movement toward the equilibrium of integrity. This involves not only means-end reasoning but other things as well. Among them is the capacity for meriological analysis (the ability to relate parts to wholes) and the exercise of imagination. In order to gain an intuitive understanding of this, consider the agent of integrity in the thick sense.
The agent of integrity in the thick sense is one who cares in a variety of ways, including those of self-interest, natural sympathy, and impartial respect for others. It is the fact that such an agent is both sympathetic and respectful that he is not narrowly self- interested. Hence, A (above) reasons badly because his sense of self-interest is not regulated by other concerns. The Aristotelian self-interested agent could not see rendering aid as good simply because it serves some narrow self-interest. Why? Because his character is such that he cares about things other than himself, and his practical reason is guided by a sense of good that employs the criterion of selfsufficiency. Remember that self-sufficiency is the concern that all goods that appear within an agent's deliberative field be included within a way of life. Moreover, this concern is at once both psychological and ethical. Thus, his concerns, guided by the criterion of self-sufficiency, do not allow him to reason egoistically, because the objects of his actions are not seen by him to be good in a way that allows for such practical reasoning. Not only is it false that actions that render aid have only instrumental value for him; they are intrinsically valued as parts of the life most worth living. This consideration reflects the criterion of finality. The Aristotelian agent's practical reasoning, then, is one in which he is moved by the imaginative projection of a life of a certain sort. Why is it that he is moved by such a thought? Because of his character, the kind of person he is, one who is caring in a variety of ways and whose evaluations are guided by a certain sense of good. Thus he does not act for the goal of eudaimonia in the sense of pursuing happiness but for those goods envisioned within a way of life in which they are most meaningfully secured and balanced. It is his character that makes the vision both intrinsically alluring and rational. It is not the thought that these goods are means to the life most worth living.
Now consider the Aristotelian conception of a naturally sympathetic
agent. The Aristotelian agent would not see the case of relieving distress
as good simply because it serves some narrow self-interest. Nor would the
Aristotelian sympathetic agent see rendering aid as good simply because
It relieves distress. He would be concerned that it also be consistent
with all the other things with which he is concerned. That is, he would
see it as good
The contrast between the Kantian and Aristotelian views should now stand
out in greater relief in the way that they account for both the requirement
that an act be the nonaccidental result of its motive and the requirement
that a right act is rational, all things considered. On the Kantian view,
agents reason from an impartial perspective and the CI procedure, and the
capacity for such reasoning governs their natural inclinations, which might
otherwise lead them to do the wrong thing. This perspective employs an
asymmetrical regulative norm and informs agents of how their characters
are to be formed. On the Aristotelian view, the reasoning of an agent is
shaped by the fact that an agent has a certain core character, one that
cares in a variety of ways about himself or herself and other things in
the natural and social environment and is guided by a certain sense of
good. This is what it means to assert that practical reason is character-
relative. It is the imaginative projection of a life shaped by a set of
priorities that ultimately determines how the agent sees the object of
his or her action as good and reason-giving, and it is the fit between
vision and character that ultimately constitutes full rationality. If we
apply these thoughts to the agent of in-
19. Later I will consider a distinction between
procedural constructions of Kant and nonprocedtiral, or substantive, constructions.
take Sherman to suggest a nonprocedural understanding of the categorical
imperative, whereas Korsgaard endorses a procedural view. Allen Wood also
defends a procedural understanding in "The Final Form of Kant's Practical
Kant "Metaphysics of Morals," Spindel Conference -1997,
Southern Journal of Philosophy 36, supplement (1998): -i-zo.
24 / Beginnings
tegrity in the thick sense, we will get, or so I argue, a better accountof the rightness of actions. Nothing about such projection, however, requires an impartial decision procedure, and I take it as a requirement of the Aristotelian view to show how this is possible.
I also argue that the Aristotelian view gives us a better account of reflective endorsement than does the Kantian account recently defended by Korsgaard in her Tanner Lectures, There she says:
Part 1 is concerned with the thin conception of integrity and the general
conception of practical reason appropriate to it. Chapter 1
concerned with methodology, especially as it bears on the dispute between
the Aristotelian conception of practical reason and Kantian internalism.
There I consider
I turn now to a discussion of the internalism requirement and a defense of the methodological significance of the integration test for rational inquiry concerning the nature of practical reason.