Transcendental arguments, as I understand them, seek necessary conditions for the possibility of some assumed phenomenon. Taking the phenomenon for granted, they ask what must be presupposed as its “transcendental condition.” Our focus is on transcendental arguments in practical philosophy. And mine is more specifically on arguments that seek to show that we are committed to fundamental principles of morality, for example, the Categorical Imperative or some related principle, as a necessary condition for the very possibility of some practical phenomenon.
I argue that shared second-personal competence, and a shared basic second-personal authority of anyone with second-personal competence is a presupposition of the second-person standpoint so understood. On this understanding, it follows that morality, as constituted by norms all (second-personally competent) moral agents are mutually accountably for complying with, is a transcendental condition of second-personal agency.
Stephen Darwall is the Andrew Downey Orrick Professor of Philosophy at Yale. He has written broadly on the foundations and history of ethics. His major books include Impartial Reason, The British Moralists and the Internal ‘Ought’: 1640-1740, Philosophical Ethics, and The Second-Person Standpoint: Morality, Respect, and Accountability. Oxford University Press has recently published two volumes of his essays: Morality, Authority, and Law: Essays in Second-Personal Ethics I and Honor, History, and Relationship: Essays in Second-Personal Ethics II. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is, with David Velleman, a founding co-editor of Philosophers’ Imprint.
Moderation: Professor Robert Stern, Ph. D.
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