The moral development of first-person authority


McGeer, V. (2007). The moral development of first-person authority. European Journal of Philosophy , 16 (1), 81-108.
mcgeer_2007_ejp_161.pdf180 KB


A fully satisfying account of 1st person authority should satisfy two desiderata: (1) explain the privileged relation we bear to our own intentional states sufficient to justify a default presumption of authority; (2) explain why such authority matters for our ability to function well as rational agents.  The traditional epistemological approach fails on the second desideratum, suggesting the more radical alternative of analyzing first-person authority in terms of a rational and self-regulative capacity we have to author our own intentional states.   In comparing different versions of this “agency” model of authoritative self-knowledge, I argue that Richard Moran’s Kantian ideal of rational autonomy is neither necessary nor sufficient for well-functioning agency; worse, the ideal is unsuitable for human beings given our moral developmental liabilities. Using examples drawn from George Eliot’s Middlemarch, I argue we become better authoritative agents through embracing a less ambitious rational ideal.

Last updated on 10/07/2018