Change in view: sensitivity to facts in prospective rationality

In G. Marchetti & S. Marchetti (eds.), The Contingency of Fact and the Objectivity of Values. Routledge. pp. 137-158 (2016)

Carla Bagnoli
University of Modena
In this chapter, I offer a constructivist account of practical reasoning as both generative and transformative in response to calls from philosophers as diverse as Iris Murdoch and Gilbert Harman, who have urged the development of a more nuanced picture of reasoning that incorporates revisionary and revelatory changes in viewpoint. Within this context, I describe sensitivity to facts as a form of emotional engagement that is also partially constitutive of facts. I consider both the epistemological and ontological aspects of this claim. From an epistemological point of view, my claim is that agents strengthen their discernment of relevant facts through emotional engagement. From an ontological point of view, my claim is that, through emotional engagement, agents alter their immediate relationship to objects, changing not only “what matters” but also the “facts of the matter”. To an important extent, then, facts are inseparable from the subjective concerns of the agent. This is not to say that there are no subject-independent facts of the matter, nor that objects are mere projections of an agent’s sensibility onto the cold, colorless canvass of valueless reality. Rather, my claim is that the ontological boundary between facts and values—and the normative status of facts—are both internal to the practical perspective, defined by an agent’s particular concerns and within shared practices of mutual recognition. The most relevant implications of the constructivist view are found at the level of prospective rationality, that is, within the temporal dimension of rationality. Emotional engagement fosters changes in perspective, but this should not be read as simply arbitrary fluctuations. Despite being perspectival, such changes are applied to a subject-independent field, which gains further intelligibility through the agent’s altered relationship to those circumstances. By examining the dynamics of such changes, we acquire a more nuanced theoretical vocabulary to help make sense of the prospective dimension of practical reasoning within which ordinary agents are engaged.
Keywords entanglement  constructivism  fact value distinction  practical reasoning
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