Practical identity, reflective endorsement and narrative coherence

01 October 2016 → 12 December 2018
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Theory and methodology of philosophy
    • Philosophy
    • Ethics
    • Other philosophy, ethics and religious studies not elsewhere classified
types of identity
Project description

I propose a new conception of ‘practical identity’ which connects Christine Korsgaard’s ideas on the matter with a more inclusive, narrative theory of identity. ‘Practical identity’ is that aspect of human identity which follows from our practical commitments, from the fact that we act for reasons and that these reasons are expressive of who we are. This type of identity can be contrasted to ‘theoretical’ or ‘metaphysical identity’, which refers to the biological, psychological or immaterial essence one’s personhood. It is Korsgaard’s contention that talk about the former type of identity should replace talk about the latter, since it is practical and not metaphysical necessity which leads us to posit a unified self in the first place. This leads to the question of what the structure or form of such a practical identity might be. Korsgaard, true to her Kantian roots, assumes that this structure is law-like, but many philosophers disagree with her on this point and state that not all practical reasoning can be reduced to law-like reasoning. One intriguing alternative to Korsgaard’s proposal is that the implicit structure of one’s practical identity should be conceived of as ‘narrative’, its coherence as similar to the coherence of a character in a story rather than that of a legal system. This makes it possible to recognize and discuss many forms of practical reasoning that are not law-like, thus leading to a more inclusive and plausible interpretation of practical identity.