Srinivasan, Amia, and . Normativity without Cartesian Priviledge

2015, Philosophical Issues: 25 (1): 273-299.

Summary: This paper aims to explore the implication of rejecting Cartesianism for our relationship to the normative realm. It is argued that it implies that this relationship is more fraught than many would like to think. Without privileged access to our own minds, there are no norms that can invariably guide our actions, and no norms that are immune from blameless violation. This will come as bad news to those normative theorists who think that certain central normative notions – e.g. the ethical ought or epistemic justification – should be cashed out in terms of subjects’ mental states precisely in order to generate norms that are action-guiding and immune from blameless vi- olation. Meanwhile Anti-Cartesianism might come as good news to those normative theorists who resist cashing out norms in terms of mental states. For Anti-Cartesnianism implies that no norms – however closely tied to the mental – can be perfectly action-guiding or totally immune from blameless violation. More generally, once we have accepted that our relationship to our own minds lacks the perfect intimacy promised by Cartesianism, we are, for better or worse, left with the view that the normative realm is suffused with ignorance and bad luck.

Comment: This is a good paper for teachings on epistemic normativity, more specifically on normative externalism. Having pre-knowledge on epistemic internalism and extermalism would be helpful in understanding this paper, but not necessarily required.