22.4.2020 Tuomo Tiisala (University of Helsinki)

Structural Heteronomy

Time: Wednesday 22nd April 16:15–17:45

Location: The seminar will take place as an online conference via the university supported application Zoom. Join the Zoom conference here: https://helsinki.zoom.us/j/61778733886.

Abstract: The ideal of autonomy generates an ethical requirement of self-governing, but not merely in moral psychology. I argue that those who identify autonomy as the guiding ethical value ought to recognize the requirement of self-governing also in the domain of understanding. In other words, the demand for rational endorsement, which the ideal of autonomy expresses, pertains not only to one’s determination of one’s will but essentially to the very concepts one uses to think and to act as well. Reasoning with concepts whose inferential structure one does not endorse is another way in which a subject may be governed by an alien force. In fact, I argue, using the regress of rules, that this type of heteronomy is an unavoidable feature of the structure of conceptual understanding. Because the ground level of understanding consists in knowledge-how, in contrast to knowledge-that, it escapes self-consciousness and rational control – and thus apparently also the ethical requirement of self-governing. This tension between the ideal of autonomy and the pragmatist account of understanding gives rise to a new ethical problem which I call structural heteronomy. Despite being structurally unavoidable, I argue that structural heteronomy demands an ethical response. The response I defend is distinct from the cultivation of virtue in moral psychology, namely a line of ethical work that aims at semantic self-consciousness.

Tuomo Tiisala is a university lecturer in Practical Philosophy at the University of Helsinki.