Constructivism in metaethics
Metaethical constructivism is the view that insofar as there are normative truths, they are not fixed by normative facts that are independent of what rational agents would agree to under some specified conditions of choice. The appeal of this view lies in the promise to explain how normative truths are objective and independent of our actual judgments, while also binding and authoritative for us.
Constructivism comes in several varieties, some of which claim a place within metaethics while others claim no place within it at all. In fact, constructivism is sometimes defended as a normative theory about the justification of moral principles. Normative constructivism is the view that the moral principles we ought to accept are the ones that agents would agree to or endorse were they to engage in a hypothetical or idealized process of rational deliberation.
Metaethical constructivist theories aim to account for the nature of normative truths and practical reasons. They bear a problematic relation to traditional classifications of metaethical theories. In particular, there are disagreements about how to situate constructivism in the realism/antirealism debate. These disagreements are rooted in further differences about the definition of metaethics, the relation between normative and metaethical claims, and the purported methods pertinent and specific to metaethical inquiry. The question of how to classify metaethical constructivism will be addressed in what follows by focusing on the distinctive questions that constructivist theories have been designed to answer. Section 1 explains the origin and motivation of constructivism. Sections 2–4 examine the main varieties of metaethical constructivism. Section 5 illustrates related constructivist views, some of which are not proposed as metaethical accounts of all normative truths, but only of moral truths. Sections 6 and 7 review several debates about the problems, promise and prospects of metaethical constructivism.