South African Journal of Philosophy

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Is Personal Identity Evaluative?

Jacqui Poltera


Martha Nussbaum subscribes to the view that our identity is an evaluative question determined by our common, deeply held beliefs about what is worthwhile in human life. In so doing, she asserts that for an account of ethics to have “philosophical power” it needs to be grounded in an account of human nature that is both evaluative and internal. I focus on Nussbaum\'s claim that personal identity has to include the necessary features of practical rationality and sociability. Although Nussbaum puts forward self-validating arguments to prove that we cannot – on pain of pragmatic in consistency – dispute that practical rationality and sociability are necessary features of human life, it is my claim that her account is flawed. The nature of the relationship between ethics and human nature is the broader context to such debates. This paper raises questions regarding on the one hand, whether it is possible to found ethics in human nature and, on the other, what we are to make of accounts that turn on the assumption that identity is ethical, not meta physical.

S. Afr. J. Philos. Vol.24(2) 2005: 87-96
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