The author considers how constructivism, presently known to us essentially as a theory for generating rules of social cooperation, embodies a certain conception of justification that in turn may be thought of as a general theory. It is argued that moral realism and projectivism are by turns platitudinous and unsatisfactory as conceptions of justification; by contrast the general conception of justification in constructivism makes sense of reason giving and coherent rivalry. The author argues that once the right picture of justification (...) is in place, the picture constructivism illustrates or embodies, the problem of moral ontology disappears. (shrink)
The author takes up three metaphysical conceptions of morality — realism, projectivism, constructivism — and the account of justification or reason that makes these pictures possible. It is argued that the right meta-ethical conception should be the one that entails the most plausible conception of reason-giving, rather than by any other consideration. Realism and projectivism, when understood in ways consistent with their fundamental commitments, generate unsatisfactory models of justification; constructivism alone does not. The author also argues for a particular interpretation (...) of how “objective moral obligation” is to be understood within constructivism. (shrink)
Two distinct problems of objectivity in moral theory are that of reference and truth and that of justification. These questions are often run together. However, it is possible to discuss the two questions separately. A defense is offered of moral ascriptions and moral properties, in opposition to the proposals of Mackie and Harman. But the thin or minimal defense of moral ascriptions leaves the second problem of objectivity unaddressed. Further argumentation leads to a proposal that claims limited moral objectivity.
Conrad’s Lord Jim presents not only a paradigmatic case of weakness of will, but an equally paradigmatic case of the enormous difficulties that attend fitting weakness of will into our other moral attitudes, particularly those relating to moral worth and moral shame. Conrad’s general conception of character and morality is deeply Aristotelian in many respects, somewhat Kantian in others. The essay traces out the intuitive strengths and philosophical difficulties that both an Aristotelian and a Kantian conception will have before the (...) problem of weakness of will, and argues that the ambiguity in Conrad’s treatment of Jim’s case is the reflection of the clash between these two equally compelling, incompatible conceptions of the self and moral worth. (shrink)