The Varieties of Moral Improvement, or why Metaethical Constructivism must Explain Moral Progress

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 20 (1):17-38 (2017)
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Abstract

Among the available metaethical views, it would seem that moral realism—in particular moral naturalism—must explain the possibility of moral progress. We see this in the oft-used argument from disagreement against various moral realist views. My suggestion in this paper is that, surprisingly, metaethical constructivism has at least as pressing a need to explain moral progress. I take moral progress to be, minimally, the opportunity to access and to act in light of moral facts of the matter, whether they are mind-independent or -dependent. For the metaethical constructivist, however, I add that moral progress ought also mean that agents come to be or could come to be motivated to act in light of the right kind of moral judgments. Together I take this to mean that, for all forms of constructivism, moral progress must be explained as a form of moral improvement, or agents aspiring to be better sorts of moral agents. In what moral improvement consists differs for various forms of constructivism. Here I distinguish between three different versions of metaethical constructivism: Humean constructivists as represented by Street, Kantian constitutivist constructivists as represented by Korsgaard, and constructivists about practical reason as represented by Carla Bagnoli. I conclude by showing that only constructivism as a view about practical reason can fully account for moral progress qua the opportunity for moral improvement.

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Caroline T. Arruda
University of Texas at El Paso

Citations of this work

Constructivism in Metaethics.Carla Bagnoli - 2017 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Constructivism in Metaethics.Carla Bagnoli - 2011 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Moral Progress and Evolution: Knowledge Versus Understanding.Eleonora Severini - 2021 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (1):87-105.
Butchering Benevolence Moral Progress Beyond the Expanding Circle.Hanno Sauer - 2019 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 22 (1):153-167.

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