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Summary Moral constructivism is a distinctive position both in metaethics and normative ethics. In metaethics, moral constructivism holds that being the result of a suitable constructivist procedure (normally, a characterization of correct practical reasoning) constitutes the correctness of moral judgments, principles and values. Accordingly, normative principles and values are not something we discover through the use of theoretical reason, but a construction of human practical reason. The motivation for this position is to offer an explanation of the nature and origin of normative truths (against moral skepticism) without commitment to the idea that such truths correspond to an independent order of facts (against moral realism). In normative ethics, constructivism holds that principles and judgments within a given normative domain are justified because of the very fact that they would be the result of a suitable constructivist device or procedure. This last thesis is neutral regarding the nature of such principles and judgments, so that some authors who use constructivist devices as a way of justifying their preferred normative content remain silent regarding their metaethical commitments.
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  1. Carla Bagnoli (forthcoming). “Respect and Obligation. The Scope of Kant’s Constructivism”,. In S. Bacin, C. la Rocca & M. Ruffing (eds.), Proceedings of the XI International Congress of the Kantian Society. De Gruyter.
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  2. Carla Bagnoli (2013). Constructivism About Practical Knowledge. In , Constructivism in Ethics. Cambridge University Press. 153-182.
    It is largely agreed that if constructivism contributes anything to meta-ethics it is by proposing that we understand ethical objectivity “in terms of a suitably constructed point of view that all can accept” (Rawls 1980/1999: 307). Constructivists defend this “practical” conception of objectivity in contrast to the realist or “ontological” conception of objectivity, understood as an accurate representation of an independent metaphysical order. Because of their objectivist but not realist commitments, Kantian constructivists place their theory “somewhere in the space between (...)
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  3. Carla Bagnoli (2012). “Kant’s Contribution to Moral Epistemology”. Paradigmi 1:69-79.
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  4. Carla Bagnoli (2012). Self-Deception: A Constructivist Account. Humana.Mente 20:93-116.
    This paper takes a constitutivist approach to self-deception, and argues that this phenomenon should be evaluated under several dimensions of rationality. The constitutivist approach has the merit of explaining the selective nature of self-deception as well as its being subject to moral sanction. Self-deception is a pragmatic strategy for maintaining the stability of the self, hence continuous with other rational activities of self-constitution. However, its success is limited, and it costs are high: it protects the agent’s self by undermining the (...)
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  5. Carla Bagnoli, Constructivism in Metaethics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Constructivism in ethics is the view that insofar as there are normative truths, for example, truths about what we ought to do, they are in some sense determined by an idealized process of rational deliberation, choice, or agreement. As a “first-order moral account”--an account of which moral principles are correct--constructivism is the view that the moral principles we ought to accept or follow are the ones that agents would agree to or endorse were they to engage in a hypothetical or (...)
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  6. Carla Bagnoli (2009). Review of Charles Larmore The Autonomy of Morality. [REVIEW] Philosophical Review 118 (4):536-540.
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  7. Carla Bagnoli (2002). Moral Constructivism: A Phenomenological Argument. Topoi 21 (1-2):125-138.
  8. Carla Bagnoli (2001). Rawls on the Objectivity of Practical Reason. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 1 (3):307-329.
    This article argues that Rawls’ history of ethics importantly contributes to the advancement of ethical theory, in that it correctly situates Kantian constructivism as an alternative to both sentimentalism and rational Intuitionism, and calls attention to the standards of objectivity in ethics. The author shows that by suggesting that both Intuitionist and Humean doctrines face the charge of heteronomy, Rawls appearsto adopt a Kantian conception of practical reason. Furthermore, Rawls follows Kant in assuming that ethical objectivity can be vindicated only (...)
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  9. Melissa Barry (2013). Constructivist Practical Reasoning and Objectivity. In David Archard, Monique Deveaux, Neil Manson & Daniel Weinstock (eds.), Reading Onora O'Neill. Routledge. 17-36.
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  10. Selim Berker (forthcoming). Does Evolutionary Psychology Show That Normativity Is Mind-Dependent? In Justin D'Arms & Daniel Jacobson (eds.), Moral Psychology and Human Agency: Essays on the New Science of Ethics.
    Suppose we grant that evolutionary forces have had a profound effect on the contours of our normative judgments and intuitions. Can we conclude anything from this about the correct metaethical theory? I argue that, for the most part, we cannot. Focusing my attention on Sharon Street’s justly famous argument that the evolutionary origins of our normative judgments and intuitions cause insuperable epistemological difficulties for a metaethical view she calls "normative realism," I argue that there are two largely independent lines of (...)
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  11. Thomas M. Besch, Reflections on the Foundations of Human Rights.
    Is there an approach to human rights that justifies rights-allocating moral-political principles as principles that are equally acceptable by everyone to whom they apply, while grounding them in categorical, reasonably non-rejectable foundations? The paper examines Rainer Forst’s constructivist attempt to provide such an approach. I argue that his view, far from providing an alternative to “ethical” approaches, depends for its own reasonableness on a reasonably contestable conception of the good, namely, the good of constitutive discursive standing. This suggests a way (...)
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  12. Thomas M. Besch (2011). Kantian Constructivism, the Issue of Scope, and Perfectionism: O'Neill on Ethical Standing. European Journal of Philosophy 19 (1):1-20.
    Kantian constructivists accord a constitutive, justificatory role to the issue of scope: they typically claim that first-order practical thought depends for its authority on being suitably acceptable within the right scope, or by all relevant others, and some Kantian constructivists, notably Onora O'Neill, hold that our views of the nature and criteria of practical reasoning also depend for their authority on being suitably acceptable within the right scope. The paper considers whether O'Neill-type Kantian constructivism can coherently accord this key role (...)
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  13. Thomas M. Besch (2008). Constructing Practical Reason: O'Neill on the Grounds of Kantian Constructivism. Journal of Value Inquiry 42 (1):55-76.
    The paper addresses O'Neill's view that her version of Kant's Categorical Imperative, namely, the requirement of followability (RF), marks the supreme principle of reason; it takes issue with her claim that RF commits us to Kantian constructivism in practical philosophy. The paper distinguishes between two readings of RF: on a weak reading, RF ranges over all (practical) reasoning but does not commit to constructivism, and on a strong version RF commits to constructivism but fails to meet its own test, and (...)
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  14. Thomas M. Besch (2004). On Practical Constructivism and Reasonableness. Dissertation, University of Oxford
    The dissertation defends that the often-assumed link between constructivism and universalism builds on non-constructivist, perfectionist grounds. To this end, I argue that an exemplary form of universalist constructivism – i.e., O’Neill’s Kantian constructivism – can defend its universalist commitments against an influential particularist form of constructivism – i.e., political liberalism as advanced by Rawls, Macedo, and Larmore – only if it invokes a perfectionist view of the good. (En route, I show why political liberalism is a form of particularism and (...)
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  15. Charles P. Bigger (1981). Kant's Constructivism. Southern Journal of Philosophy 19 (3):279-291.
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  16. Michael E. Bratman (1998). Review of Korsgaard's The Sources of Normativity. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 58 (3):699-709.
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  17. David O. Brink (1987). Rawlsian Constructivism in Moral Theory. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 17 (1):71 - 90.
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  18. Matthew Chrisman (2010). Constructivism, Expressivism and Ethical Knowledge. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 18 (3):331-353.
    In the contemporary metaethical debate, expressivist (Blackburn, Gibbard) and constructivist (Korsgaard, Street) views can be viewed as inspired by irrealist ideas from Hume and Kant respectively. One realist response to these contemporary irrealist views is to argue that they are inconsistent with obvious surface-level appearances of ordinary ethical thought and discourse, especially the fact that we talk and act as if there is ethical knowledge . In this paper, I explore some constructivist and expressivist options for responding to this objection. (...)
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  19. Bradford Cokelet (2008). Ideal Agency and the Possibility of Error. Ethics 118 (2):315-323.
    Lavin’s conclusion—that strong imperativalism and constitutivism are incompatible—spells trouble for contemporary Kantians who, like Korsgaard, hope to combine these two doctrines. I aim to offer them some solace by showing that Lavin’s criticism rests on a mistaken conception of ideal rational agency.
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  20. David Copp (2005). A Skeptical Challenge to Moral Non-Naturalism and a Defense of Constructivist Naturalism. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 126 (2):269 - 283.
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  21. John K. Davis (2010). An Alternative to Relativism. Philosophical Topics 38 (2):17-37.
    Some moral disagreements are so persistent that we suspect they are deep: we would disagree even when we have all relevant information and no one makes any mistakes (this is also known as faultless disagreement). The possibility of deep disagreement is thought to drive cognitivists toward relativism, but most cognitivists reject relativism. There is an alternative. According to divergentism, cognitivists can reject relativism while allowing for deep disagreement. This view has rarely been defended at length, but many philosophers have implicitly (...)
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  22. Giovanni De Grandis (2003). Conoscenza, azione e antropologia nella filosofia di John Rawls. Problemata. Quaderni di Filosofia 3:81-139.
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  23. Dale Dorsey, Humean Constructivism and the Relativity Problem(S).
    In this paper, I argue that a form of moral constructivism inspired by Hume's Enquiry yields a plausible response to the problem of relativity. Though this problem can be stated in many different ways, I argue that a Humean constructivism is far more universal in scope that Hume's positions are often taken to be. In addition, I argue that where Hume's position does imply a limited scope, this limitation is perfectly appropriate. I discuss four iterations of the relativity problem(s) here: (...)
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  24. E. Sonny Elizondo (2013). Reason in its Practical Application. Philosophers' Imprint 13 (21):1-17.
    Is practical reason a cognitive faculty? Do practical judgments make claims about a subject matter that are appropriately assessed in terms of their agreement with that subject matter? According to Kantians like Christine Korsgaard, the answer is no. To think otherwise is to conflate the theoretical and the practical, the epistemic and the ethical. I am not convinced. In this paper, I motivate my skepticism through examination of the very figure who inspires Korsgaard's rejection of cognitivism: Kant. For as I (...)
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  25. David Enoch, Idealizing Still Not Off the Hook: A Reply to Sobel's Reply.
    Many philosophers interested in the nature of moral or other normative truths and facts are attracted to response-dependence accounts. They think, in other words, that the target normative facts are reducible to, or constituted by, or identical with, some facts involving our relevant responses. But these philosophers rarely allow all of our actual responses (of the relevant kind) to play such a role. Rather, they privilege some..
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  26. David Enoch (2011). Can There Be a Global, Interesting, Coherent Constructivism About Practical Reason? Philosophical Explorations 12 (3):319-339.
    More and more people seem to think that constructivism - in political philosophy, in moral philosophy, and perhaps in practical reasoning most generally - is the way to go. And yet it is surprisingly hard to even characterize the view. In this paper, I go to some lengths trying to capture the essence of a constructivist position - mostly in the realm of practical reason - and to pinpoint its theoretical attractions. I then give some reason to suspect that there (...)
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  27. David Enoch (2011). Shmagency Revisited. In Michael Brady (ed.), New Waves in Metaethics. Palgrave Macmillan.
    1. The Shmagency Challenge to Constitutivism In metaethics – and indeed, meta-normativity – constitutivism is a family of views that hope to ground normativity in norms, or standards, or motives, or aims that are constitutive of action and agency. And mostly because of the influential work of Christine Korsgaard and David Velleman (and, some would say, because of the also-influential work of Kant and Aristotle), constitutivism seems to be gaining grounds in the current literature. The promises of constitutivism are significant. (...)
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  28. David Enoch (2006). Agency, Shmagency: Why Normativity Won't Come From What is Constitutive of Action. Philosophical Review 115 (2):169-198.
    There is a fairly widespread—and very infl uential—hope among philosophers interested in the status of normativity that the solution to our metaethical and, more generally, metanormative problems will emerge from the philosophy of action. In this essay, I will argue that these hopes are groundless. I will focus on the metanormative hope, but—as will become clear—showing that the solution to our metanormative problems will not come from what is constitutive of action will also devastate the hope of gaining significant insight (...)
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  29. David Enoch (2005). Why Idealize? Ethics 115 (4):759-787.
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  30. Eva Erman (2012). Review Essay: On Forst's the Right to Justification. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
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  31. Luca Ferrero (2009). Constitutivism and the Inescapability of Agency. Oxford Studies in Metaethics 4:303-333.
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  32. William J. FitzPatrick (2005). The Practical Turn in Ethical Theory: Korsgaard's Constructivism, Realism, and the Nature of Normativity. Ethics 115 (4):651-691.
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  33. Paul Formosa (2013). Is Kant a Moral Constructivist or a Moral Realist? European Journal of Philosophy 21 (2):170-196.
    : The dominant interpretation of Kant as a moral constructivist has recently come under sustained philosophical attack by those defending a moral realist reading of Kant. In light of this, should we read Kant as endorsing moral constructivism or moral realism? In answering this question we encounter disagreement in regard to two key independence claims. First, the independence of the value of persons from the moral law (an independence that is rejected) and second, the independence of the content and authority (...)
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  34. Samuel Freeman (2007). The Burdens of Public Justification: Constructivism, Contractualism, and Publicity. Politics, Philosophy and Economics 6 (1):5-43.
    The publicity of a moral conception is a central idea in Kantian and contractarian moral theory. Publicity carries the idea of general acceptability of principles through to social relations. Without publicity of its moral principles, the intuitive attractiveness of the contractarian ideal seems diminished. For it means that moral principles cannot serve as principles of practical reasoning and justification among free and equal persons. This article discusses the role of the publicity assumption in Rawls’s and Scanlon’s contractualism. I contend that (...)
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  35. Richard Galvin (2011). Rounding Up the Usual Suspects: Varieties of Kantian Constructivism in Ethics. Philosophical Quarterly 61 (242):16-36.
    Some commentators have attributed constructivism to Kant at the first-order level; others cast him as a meta-ethical constructivist. Among meta-ethical constructivist interpretations I distinguish between ‘atheistic’ and ‘agnostic’ versions regarding the existence of an independent moral order. Even though these two versions are incompatible, each is linked with central Kantian doctrines, revealing a tension within Kant's own view. Moreover, among interpretations that cast Kant as rejecting substantive realism but embracing procedural realism, some (i.e., those that are ‘constructivist’) face charges of (...)
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  36. Heidi Chamberlin Giannini (2013). Korsgaard and the Wille/Willkür Distinction: Radical Constructivism and the Imputability of Immoral Actions. Kant Studies Online:72-101.
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  37. Christopher W. Gowans (2002). Practical Identities and Autonomy: Korsgaard's Reformation of Kant's Moral Philosophy. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 64 (3):546-570.
  38. Chris Heathwood (2012). Could Morality Have a Source? Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 6 (2):1-19.
    It is a common idea that morality, or moral truths, if there are any, must have some sort of source, or grounding. It has also been claimed that constructivist theories in metaethics have an advantage over realist theories in that the former but not the latter can provide such a grounding. This paper has two goals. First, it attempts to show that constructivism does not in fact provide a complete grounding for morality, and so is on a par with realism (...)
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  39. Thomas E. Hill Jr (1989). Kantian Constructivism in Ethics. Ethics 99 (4):752-770.
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  40. Thomas E. Hill (2001). Hypothetical Consent in Kantian Constructivism. Social Philosophy and Policy 18 (02):300-.
  41. Alison Hills (2008). Kantian Value Realism. Ratio 21 (2):182–200.
    Why should we be interested in Kant's ethical theory? One reason is that we find his views about our moral responsibilities appealing. Anyone who thinks that we should treat other people with respect, that we should not use them as a mere means in ways to which they could not possibly consent, will be attracted by a Kantian style of ethical theory. But according to recent supporters of Kant, the most distinctive and important feature of his ethical theory is not (...)
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  42. Nadeem J. Z. Hussain (2012). A Problem for Ambitious Metanormative Constructivism. In Jimmy Lenman & Yonatan Shemmer (eds.), Constructivism in Practical Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
    We can distinguish between ambitious metanormative constructivism and a variety of other constructivist projects in ethics and metaethics. Ambitious metanormative constructivism is the project of either developing a type of new metanormative theory, worthy of the label “constructivism”, that is distinct from the existing types of metaethical, or metanormative, theories already on the table—various realisms, non-cognitivisms, error-theories and so on—or showing that the questions that lead to these existing types of theories are somehow fundamentally confused. Natural ways of pursuing the (...)
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  43. Nadeem J. Z. Hussain & Nishi Shah (forthcoming). Metaethics and Its Discontents: A Case Study of Korsgaard. In Carla Bagnoli (ed.), Moral Constructivism: For and Against. Cambridge University Press.
    The maturing of metaethics has been accompanied by widespread, but relatively unarticulated, discontent that mainstream metaethics is fundamentally on the wrong track. The malcontents we have in mind do not simply champion a competitor to the likes of noncognitivism or realism; they disapprove of the supposed presuppositions of the existing debate. Their aim is not to generate a new theory within metaethics, but to go beyond metaethics and to transcend the distinctions it draws between metaethics and normative ethics and between (...)
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  44. Nadeem J. Z. Hussain & Nishi Shah (2006). Misunderstanding Metaethics: Korsgaard's Rejection of Realism. In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics 1. Clarendon Press. 265-94.
    Contemporary Kantianism is often regarded as both a position within normative ethics and as an alternative to metaethical moral realism. We argue that it is not clear how contemporary Kantianism can distinguish itself from moral realism. There are many Kantian positions. For reasons of space we focus on the position of one of the most prominent, contemporary Kantians, Christine Korsgaard. Our claim is that she fails to show either that Kantianism is different or that it is better than realism. Our (...)
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  45. Aaron James, Political Constructivism: Foundations and Novel Applications.
    What is “political constructivism”? And to what extent is it of general use to political philosophy? My aim is to suggest that we can extract answers to these questions from John Rawls’s most clearly constructivist work, “Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory.” In particular, we can formulate political constructivism as a general approach to political philosophy which is free from at least two limitations that Rawls himself might otherwise seem to place on its potential scope. The first is the special “political” (...)
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  46. Aaron James (2007). Constructivism About Practical Reasons. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (2):302–325.
    Philosophers commonly wonder what a constructivist theory as applied to practical reasons might look like. For the methods or procedures of reasoning familiar from moral constructivism do not clearly apply generally, to all practical reasons. The paper argues that procedural specification is not necessary, so long as our aims are not first-order but explanatory. We can seek to explain how there could be facts of the matter about reasons for action without saying what reasons we have. Explanatory constructivism must assurne (...)
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  47. Scott James (2009). The Caveman's Conscience: Evolution and Moral Realism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (2):215-233.
    An increasingly popular moral argument has it that the story of human evolution shows that we can explain the human disposition to make moral judgments without relying on a realm of moral facts. Such facts can thus be dispensed with. But this argument is a threat to moral realism only if there is no realist position that can explain, in the context of human evolution, the relationship between our particular moral sense and a realm of moral facts. I sketch a (...)
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  48. Patrick Kain (2006). Constructivism, Intrinsic Normativity, and the Motivational Analysis Argument. In Heiner Klemme, Manfred Kuehn & Dieter Schönecker (eds.), Moralische Motivation. Kant und die Alternativen. (Kant-Forschungen 16). Meiner Verlag.
    This essay addresses the relationship between Kant's theory of moral motivation and theories of normativity. Constructivist or "ideal agent" theories of normativity claim that what makes a principle normative is that rational agents endorse or possess a motive of a certain kind to comply with it, or that they endorse or possess such a motive to comply with it insofar as they are rational. Korsgaard has argued that Kant's "motivational analysis" of the concept of obligation in Grundlegung I provides an (...)
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  49. Patrick Kain (2006). Realism and Anti-Realism in Kant's Second Critique. Philosophy Compass 1 (5):449–465.
    This critical survey of recent work on Kant's doctrine of the fact of reason and his doctrine of the practical postulates (of freedom, God, and immortality) assesses the implications of these doctrines for the debate about realism and antirealism in Kant's moral philosophy. Section 1 briefly surveys some salient considerations from the first Critique and Groundwork. In section 2, I argue that recent work on the role, content, "factual" nature, and epistemic status of the fact of reason does not support (...)
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  50. Patrick Kain (2004). Self-Legislation in Kant's Moral Philosophy. Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 86 (3):257-306.
    Kant famously insisted that “the idea of the will of every rational being as a universally legislative will” is the supreme principle of morality. Recent interpreters have taken this emphasis on the self-legislation of the moral law as evidence that Kant endorsed a distinctively constructivist conception of morality according to which the moral law is a positive law, created by us. But a closer historical examination suggests otherwise. Kant developed his conception of legislation in the context of his opposition to (...)
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