In Michael Gibbons (ed.), Encyclopedia of Political Thought. Wiley-Blackwell (2014)

Adam Cureton
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
The term “constructivism” names a family of political, moral and metaethical views that, in general terms, regard some or all normative claims as valid in virtue of being outcomes of a “procedure of construction” in which actual or hypothetical agents react to, choose, or otherwise settle on principles of justice, moral rules, values, etc. Traditionally, moral validity or justifiability was thought to depend on God, the Forms, or some other independent moral order. Various procedures of a different, epistemological, sort were then proposed to help us gain access to the moral facts, which were thought to exist independently of us (e.g., we might need to undergo physical and mental training of the sort described in Plato's Republic or learn how to reflect in a “calm, cool hour”). Constructivists, by contrast, think that there are certain procedures that are not designed to discover which normative claims are already valid. For them, the validity of some or all reasons, principles, values or other normative claims consist in being the result of a procedure of construction. For example, Rousseau (1997) held that states are legitimate just in case and because they would be agreed to by reasonable people who were concerned to advance their own basic interests in freedom, self-improvement, and happiness, while Locke (1998) argued that governments are legitimate just in case and because free and equal (male, property-owning) people in a state of equal freedom actually agreed to them so long as those governments remain within the confines of natural law.
Keywords Constructivism  Social contract  Practical reason  Kant
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