The Logic of Political Constructivism

Dissertation, University of Kansas (2000)
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My project in the dissertation is to develop a constructivist account of the normative structure of political or civil obligations. The first part of the dissertation focuses on Kant's moral and political constructivism respectively. In chapter two I argue that Kant's account of the normativity of moral obligations is rooted in the idea of moral community which is an objective end that is built into the structure of our practical reasoning. Moral obligations are justified for Kant because they reflect our rational agency and, in particular, the interest we have in promoting a moral community. ;In chapter three I focus on what Kant's idea of the problem of politics: the construction of a society that can successfully and universally administer justice while promoting the interest each citizen has in living in realizing their full capacities as autonomous human beings. I argue that Kant is unable to show that civil obligation---the duties we have qua citizens---are normative in the right sort of way. Kant's account of civil or juridical obligations fails to show that these obligations are normative as moral laws---that they are justified and reason-giving in virtue of their connection to our political consciousness. ;In chapters four through six I present a fully developed account of how political constructivism uses the features of practical reason to evaluate and assemble our ordinary political consciousness---fundamental ideas of free and open society---into a conception of justice, and the normativity of civil obligations---how they are justified and in what sense they are reason-giving for persons qua citizens. ;I lay out Rawls's argument that justice as fairness is a freestanding view by working out exactly how the view is put together without appeal to any particular comprehensive doctrine. After setting out the mechanics, if you will, of political constructivism, I then present an account of the normativity of the political conception: the justification of principles of justice and the prescriptivity or reason-giving force of principles of justice



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Richard Buck
Mount St. Mary's University

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