Normative Identity is about how we define ourselves and others in terms of our ideas about the good and the right. Conflict as well as cooperation spring from our normative identity. Terrorists as well as social reformers find meaning and justification for their actions in their beliefs about whom and what they are and should be. But normative identities are not immune to rational criticism. This book argues that we should try to develop for ourselves a complex normative identity, based on the values of truth, justice, and beauty and consistent with the requirements of rational agency. Per Bauhn develops distinct but interrelated themes in moral philosophy to offer a new understanding of the relation between identity, values, meaning and agency. Ultimately he outlines a normative identity that is both rationally justified and can function as a source of meaning and motivation.
Preface / 1. The Concept of Normative Identity / 2. The Need for Meaning / 3. The Narrative Conception of Self / 4. The ’Is’-’Ought’ Problem / 5. Normative Identity and Agency / 6. The Citizen Agent / 7. The Artist Agent / 8. Concluding Comments: Normative Identities for an Imperfect World / Works Cited / Index
In this brief, accessible, well-documented book, Bauhn (Linnaeus Univ., Sweden) examines how normative identities—which give choices and lives subjective meaning and value—can also solve the supposed “is-ought” problem and give objective meaning and moral value. With wide-ranging examples from philosophy, history, literature, aesthetics, religion, and politics, the book provides a rich understanding of the role and significance of normative identities in personal and communal lives. It aligns especially with a Gewirthian analysis of moral justification, providing what this reviewer considers to be one of the clearest and least tedious expressions thereof…. Bauhn captures his thesis best in the book's last line: “The phenomena of identity and identification, often portrayed as antithetical to universalism and rationalism in ethics, can instead be shown to be capable of incorporating universalist morality, anchoring it in the pursuits of individual agents.” Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty.
Normative identity is a crucial concept that underlies not only moral philosophy but also a broader understanding of decision theory. Per Bauhn offers a comprehensive scan of various candidates before setting out his citizen agent account that is grounded in the normative structure of action consistent with Alan Gewirth. This account, along with his use of narrative and art leading to the artist agent, are original and constructive. This book represents an important contribution to this central debate.
What does it mean to develop a personal identity that takes care of the beauty of one’s own life as well as the common good for all? In this well-written book, Per Bauhn gives an exhaustive answer to this question. Moreover, by doing so, he convincingly demonstrates that the coherent conceptualization of virtue ethics need not be—as it is too often claimed—anti-deontological and anti-modern.
Per Bauhn has produced an impeccable analysis of the concept of normative identity that, coupled with a Gewirthian argument for justifying normative identities, penetratingly illuminates both the duties that individuals and states owe to each other and the duties that agents owe to themselves. Equally valuably, it shows that the capacity for aesthetic judgment is essential for moral judgment.
Per Bauhn is Professor of Practical Philosophy at Linnaeus University, Sweden. His publications in English include Ethical Aspects of Political Terrorism (1989), Nationalism and Morality (1995), and The Value of Courage (2003).