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Identity and reasons in contemporary liberal theory.

Keba, Andrej (2010) Identity and reasons in contemporary liberal theory. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Although it is commonly used in a variety of debates in normative political theory, the concept of practical identity is undertheorized and unclear. My dissertation aims to rectify this problem by providing a fully elaborated and philosophically robust account of identity. In developing this account I adopt the theory-indexed approach, which looks to define identity from the viewpoint of some normative conception of the person and society, rather than the viewpoint of shared but unsystematized intuitions about identity. Specifically, my enquiry is nested within the liberal perspective that affords individuals' reasons for action a central place in political justification. Starting from this theoretical background, I examine the prospects for defining identity as a determinant of individuals' reasons. I first discuss some prominent current arguments that link identities to individuals' reasons. I maintain that the Rawls-inspired argument that identities generate reasons grounded in self-respect fails because Rawls's "social bases of self-respect" cannot be understood as the argument requires. Harry Frankfurt's view of identities as constraints on the individuals' power of willing rests, I suggest, on a flawed interpretation of volitional inability. Finally, I find that Christine Korsgaard's view of identities as the subjective grounds for maximadoption vacillates between an unacceptably naturalist understanding of identity and one that cannot account for the particularity of identities. Following these criticisms, I suggest that the link between identities and reasons needs to be investigated by reconsidering the notion of a reason for action. I argue that for a conception of reasons to be acceptable to liberals, it must present reasons as universal in scope. This condition is met by Kant's conception, according to which reasons consist in the conformity of maxims with certain objective principles. Accepting this conception, I argue that identity can be seen as a sensible, but inscrutable, condition for the possibility of universal reasons.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Philosophy
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Government

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