The paper addresses O'Neill's view that her version of Kant's Categorical Imperative, namely, the requirement of followability (RF), marks the supreme principle of reason; it takes issue with her claim that RF commits us to Kantianconstructivism in practical philosophy. The paper distinguishes between two readings of RF: on a weak reading, RF ranges over all (practical) reasoning but does not commit to constructivism, and on a strong version RF commits to constructivism but fails to meet (...) its own test, and so is self-defeating. The paper argues that RF, if understood strongly, depends for its reasonableness on reasons that cannot coherently be required to meet RF, so that RF cannot be the supreme principle of reason. The paper considers several responses to this problem in order to suggest that RF depends for its reasonableness on perfectionist considerations. (shrink)
In _"I that is We, We that is I"_ leading scholars analyze the many facets of Hegel’s formula for the intersubjective structure of human life and explores its relevance for debates on social ontology, recognition, action theory, constructivism, and naturalism.
Both metaethicists and Kant scholars alike use the phrase ‘Kantianconstructivism’ to refer to a kind of austere constructivism that holds that substantive ethical conclusions can be derived from the practical standpoint of rational agency as such. I argue that this widespread understanding of Kant is incompatible with Kant’s claim that the Categorical Imperative is a synthetic a priori practical judgement. Taking this claim about the syntheticity of the Categorical Imperative seriously implies that moral judgements follow from (...) extra-logical but necessary principles. These principles have to do not with the laws of practical thinking but the laws of practical thought about an object. I conclude that historical Kant was not what has come to be called a ‘Kantian constructivist’. (shrink)
John Rawls's account of Kantianconstructivism is perhaps his most striking contribution to ethics. In this paper, I examine the relation between Rawls's constructivism and its foundation in Kantian intuitions. In particular, I focus on the progressive influence on Rawls's approach of the Kantian intuition that the substance of morality is best understood as constructed by free and equal people under fair conditions. Rawls's focus on this Kantian intuition, I argue, motivates the focus on (...) social contract that grounds both his accounts of the original position and of reflective equilibrium. Critics, including Onora O'Neill and Larry Krasnoff, object that Rawls's view distorts various aspects of Kantian moral reasoning. I argue that these objections (i) exaggerate the distinctions between Kant's and Rawls's decision procedures and (ii) reflect an unnecessarily constricted view of Kant's moral thought. (shrink)
According to the standard objection, Kantianconstructivism implicitly commits to value realism or fails to warrant objective validity of normative propositions. This paper argues that this objection gains some force from the special case of moral obligations. The case largely rests on the assumption that the moral domain is an eminent domain of special objects. But for constructivism there is no moral domain of objects prior to and independently of reasoning. The argument attempts to make some progress (...) in the debate by defending a robust conception of construction, which names a distinctive view of practical reasoning as transformative. (shrink)
Many neo-Aristotelians argue that practical identities are normative, that is, they provide us with reasons for action and create binding obligations. Kantian constructivists agree with this insight but argue that contemporary Aristotelians fail to fully justify it. Practical identities are normative, Kantian constructivists contend, but their normativity necessarily derives from the normativity of humanity. In this paper, I shed light on this underexplored similarity between neo-Aristotelian and Kantian constructivist accounts of the normativity of practical identities, and argue (...) that both ultimately fail. I end by suggesting an alternative justification of the claim that practical identities are normative. (shrink)
John Rawls’s 1980 Dewey Lectures are widely acknowledged to represent the locus classicus for contemporary discussions of moral constructivism. Nevertheless, few published works have engaged with the significant interpretive challenges one finds in these lectures, and those that have fail to offer a satisfactory reading of the view that Rawls presents there or the place the lectures occupy in the development of Rawls's thinking. Indeed, there is a surprising lack of consensus about how best to interpret the constructivism (...) of these lectures. In this paper, I argue that the constructivism presented in the Dewey Lectures is best understood as involving the view that moral truth is correspondence with procedurally-determined, stance-dependent facts. Employing Rawls’s discussion of rational intuitionism as a foil, I defend this reading against textual discrepancies from within the lectures, as well as those one finds across Rawls’s other works. In addition to settling interpretive disputes, I draw out the ways in which this understanding of Kantianconstructivism fits within the broader comparative project in ‘moral theory’ that Rawls inherits from Sidgwick. (shrink)
The introduction summarizes the main arguments formulated in the six papers of this special issue on Constitutivism and KantianConstructivism in Ethical Theory. We highlight the unifying theme addressed in the essays, i.e., the question of whether constitutivism is able to fulfill the promise of providing an account of normativity starting from relatively slender assumptions, including the avoidance of realist presuppositions.
In this paper I analyze the tension between realism and antirealism at the basis of Kantianconstructivism. This tension generates a conflictive account of the source of the validity of social norms. On the one hand, the claim to moral objectivity characteristic of Kantian moral theories makes the validity of norms depend on realist assumptions concerning the existence of shared fundamental interests among all rational human beings. I illustrate this claim through a comparison of the approaches of (...) Rawls, Habermas and Scanlon. On the other hand, however, objections to moral realism motivate many Kantian constructivists to endorse the antirealist claim that reasonable agreement is the source of the validity of social norms. After analyzing the difficulties in the latter strategy, I try to show how a balance between the realist and antirealist elements of Kantianconstructivism can be reached by drawing a sharper distinction between the justice and the legitimacy of social norms. (shrink)
Kantian constructivists accord a constitutive, justificatory role to the issue of scope: they typically claim that first-order practical thought depends for its authority on being suitably acceptable within the right scope, or by all relevant others, and some Kantian constructivists, notably Onora O'Neill, hold that our views of the nature and criteria of practical reasoning also depend for their authority on being suitably acceptable within the right scope. The paper considers whether O'Neill-type Kantianconstructivism can coherently (...) accord this key role to the issue of scope while adhering to the universalist, ‘cosmopolitan’ commitments at its core. The paper argues that this is not so. On the one hand, it shows that O'Neill's attempt to ‘fix’ the scope of practical reasoning supposes, rather than establishes, a view of ethical standing and the scope of practical reasoning. On the other hand, the paper argues that Kantianconstructivism should endorse a non-constructivist, perfectionist view of the good to determine that scope. The paper thereby supports the perfectionist conjecture that Kantianconstructivism, in order to defend its universalist commitments, should take refuge in non-constructivist, perfectionist considerations, and that Kantianconstructivism should therefore construe perfectionism as a partial, though uneasy, ally. (shrink)
. This paper questions nearly every major point Christina Lafont makes about “the validity of social norms” and their relation to moral realism and Kantianconstructivism. I distinguish realisms from theories of objective or subjective knowledge, then from cognitivism. Next, I distinguish Kant and constructivism from Rawls' political constructivism. Finally, I propose clues for an alternative theory of moral constructivism.
This thesis provides a restatement of Kantianconstructivism, with the aim of avoiding some of the objections and clearing up some of the ambiguities that have haunted previous versions of the view. I restate Kantianconstructivism as the view that morality’s normativity has its source in the form of second-personal reasoning, a mode of practical reasoning in which we engage when we address demands person-to-person. By advancing a position about the source of moral normativity, Kantian (...)constructivism addresses a metaethical question, albeit one that is distinct from the questions that many traditional metaethical positions, such as moral realism, focus on. Kantianconstructivism has an advantage over competing views of the source of moral normativity when it comes to answering the so-called Normative Question, which I interpret as the question of why we are rationally required to do what we take to be our moral obligation. Kantianconstructivism can answer this question because, unlike its competitors, it does not conceive of practical reason as a receptive faculty that is determined by external inputs. Instead, it regards the very form of second-personal reasoning as grounding the fact that morality is normative, thus explaining morality’s rational authority. Although second-personal reasoning is fundamentally distinct from the merely first-personal mode of reasoning that we must engage in insofar as we are agents, all those agents whom we would ordinarily consider bound by moral obligations seem to engage in it. Indeed, although it involves irreducibly second-personal notions, such as accountability and the authority to address legitimate demands, second-personal reasoning is not to be mistaken for a social practice. Instead, it can be applied to purely self-regarding contexts, such as that of committing oneself to a personal project and thereby holding oneself accountable for pursuing it, as well as to interactions with others. (shrink)
Some commentators have attributed constructivism to Kant at the first-order level; others cast him as a meta-ethical constructivist. Among meta-ethical constructivist interpretations I distinguish between ‘atheistic’ and ‘agnostic’ versions regarding the existence of an independent moral order. Even though these two versions are incompatible, each is linked with central Kantian doctrines, revealing a tension within Kant's own view. Moreover, among interpretations that cast Kant as rejecting substantive realism but embracing procedural realism, some (i.e., those that are ‘constructivist’) face (...) charges of indeterminacy or relativism, while others (practical reasoning views) face ‘daunting rationalism’ objections. I close with some objections to interpreting Kant as a meta-ethical constructivist. (shrink)
Radical constructivists appeal to self-legislation in arguing that rational agents are the ultimate sources of normative authority over themselves. I chart the roots of radical constructivism and argue that its two leading Kantian proponents are unable to defend an account of self-legislation as the fundamental source of practical normativity without this legislation collapsing into a fatal arbitrariness. Christine Korsgaard cannot adequately justify the critical resources which agents use to navigate their practical identities. This leaves her account riven between (...) rigorism and voluntarism, such that it will not escape a paradox that arises when self-legislation is unable to appeal to external normative standards. Onora O'Neill anchors self-legislation more firmly to the self-disciplining structures of reason itself. However, she ultimately fails to defend sufficiently unconditional practical norms which could guide legislation. These endemic problems with radical constructivist models of self-legislation prompt a reconstruction of a neglected realist self-legislative tradition which is exemplified by Christian Wolff. In outlining a rationalist and realist account of self-legislation, I argue that it can also make sense of our ability to overcome anomie and deference in practical action. Thus, I claim that we need not make laws but can make them our own. (shrink)
G. A. Cohen and J. Raz object that Constructivism is incoherent because it crucially deploys unconstructed elements in the structure of justification. This paper offers a response on behalf of constructivism, by reassessing the role of such unconstructed elements. First, it argues that a shared conception of rational agency works as a starting point for the justification, but it does not play a foundational role. Second, it accounts for the unconstructed norms that constrains the activity of construction as (...) constitutive norms. Finally, on this basis, it draws a contrast between constructivist and foundational methods of ethics, such as deontology and teleology. (shrink)
The main focus of this paper ison ways in which Kantian philosophy can informproponents and opponents of constructivismalike. Kant was primarily concerned withreconciling natural and moral law. His approachto this general problematic was to limit andseparate what we can know about things(phenomena) from things as they are inthemselves (noumena), and to identify moralagency with the latter. Revisiting the Kantianproblematic helps to address and resolve longstanding epistemological concerns regardingconstructivism as an educational philosophy inrelation to issues of objectivity andsubjectivity, the limits (...) of theoretical andpractical reason, and the relation betweenhuman experience and the world. It also servesto address ethical concerns regardingliberation from limited self-interests andcontexts conditioned by localised beliefs andinclinations. In light of revisiting theKantian problematic, both Glasersfeld's radicalview of constructivism and Jardine's socialcritique of constructivism are found wanting.Beyond constructivism, Kant's distinctionbetween phenomena and noumena and the limits ofreason that follow from it are brieflyconsidered in terms of Merleau-Ponty's noveldouble-embodied notion of flesh as anontological primitive â as a matter of beingboth in, and of, the world â with an aim tomore intimate connections between epistemologyand ethics. (shrink)
Metaethical constructivism is one of the main movements within contemporary metaethics – especially among those with Kantian inclinations. But both the philosophical coherence and the Kantian pedigree of constructivism are hotly contested. In the first half of this article, I first explore the sense in which Kant's own views might be described as constructivist and then use the resulting understanding as a guide to how we might think about Kantianconstructivism today. Along the way, (...) I hope to suggest that a fairly diverse range of views within contemporary metaethics – including some without any explicit allegiance to Kant – may be thought of as pursuing a version of the resulting strategy. (shrink)
Epistemology, as I understand it, is a branch of philosophy especially concerned with general questions about how we can know various things or at least justify our beliefs about them. It questions what counts as evidence and what are reasonable sources of doubt. Traditionally, episte-mology focuses on pervasive and apparently basic assumptions covering a wide range of claims to knowledge or justified belief rather than very specific, practical puzzles. For example, traditional epistemologists ask “How do we know there are material (...) objects?” and not “How do you know which are the female beetles?” Similarly, moral epistemology, as I understand it, is concerned with general questions about how we can know or justify our beliefs about moral matters. Its focus, again, is on quite general, pervasive, and apparently basic assumptions about what counts as evidence, what are reasonable sources of doubt, and what are the appropriate procedures for justifying particular moral claims. (shrink)
Neo-Kantianconstructivism aspires to respond to moral skepticism by compelling agents to act morally on pain of irrationality. According to Christine Korsgaard, a leading proponent of constructivism, we construct all reasons for action by following correct deliberative procedures. But if we follow these procedures we will find that we only have reasons to act in morally permissible ways. Thus, we can show the skeptic that he is rationally constrained to act morally. Unfortunately, as I argue in my (...) first chapter, this strong response to moral skepticism renders deliberate immoral action unintelligible. This result is problematic since we often do interpret ourselves and others as deliberately choosing to do wrong. I further suggest that this problem follows from central commitments of Korsgaard’s constructivism, so that any adequate account of immoral action must abandon constructivist metaethics in favor of moral realism, a suggestion reinforced by the argument of my second chapter. There, I call attention to Kant’s solution to a similar problem in his own account of morality. I argue that Korsgaard’s constructivist commitments prevent her from embracing Kant’s solution. I proceed in my third chapter to argue that there is a further tension between Korsgaard’s response to moral skepticism and her work in non-ideal theory. In particular, Korsgaard maintains that, when confronted with injustice, the virtuous person may have reason to do what is wrong in the name of morality. She thus relies on the assumption that one can deliberately do wrong. I argue that this assumption undermines the response to skepticism that motivated Korsgaard’s constructivism in the first place. But despite the problems with constructivism, we may worry that moral realism fails to offer an adequate response to moral skepticism. Indeed, Korsgaard rejects realism in part because she believes that realists simply refuse to respond to moral skepticism. I thus conclude by arguing that moral realists can offer adequate responses to moral skepticism. In fact, I believe Korsgaard’s response is no more effective than those suggested by some moral realists. (shrink)
In the second half of this essay, I discuss the robust conception of rationality that lies at the heart of the Kantian version of Rationalist Constructivism – offering some reasons to prefer this conception to the more minimal accounts of rationality associated with Humean views. I then go on to discuss some of the potential metaethical advantages of the resulting form of constructivism.
Se reflexiona sobre las fuentes de la normatividad según el neokantismo contemporáneo que ha dividido a los neokantianos en realistas y constructivistas. Se analiza el kantismo constructivista de Christine Korsgaard, para mostrar sus alcances y limitaciones, y se propone como alternativa fundar la normatividad en la sola idea de libertad, en cuanto valor interno o absoluto no normativo, como la entiende Kant. Esta propuesta que permite esbozar las líneas de un neokantismo que articule los modelos constructivistas y realistas a partir (...) de la sola idea de libertad. The article carries out a reflection on the sources of normativity in contemporary Neo-Kantianism, which has divided Neo-Kantians into realists and constructivists. After analyzing the constructivist Kantianism of Christine Korsgaard, we propose an alternative: that of grounding normativity solely on the idea of freedom, as an internal value or non-normative absolute, as Kant understands it. This proposal makes it possible to outline a Neo-Kantianism that articulates constructivist and realist models on the sole basis of the idea of freedom. (shrink)
El artículo expone la justicia como un problema político desde la perspectiva del filósofo John Rawls. En su desarrollo se señalan las implicaciones del constructivismo kantiano en el constructivismo político rawlsiano. Se discute cómo la conexión entre estos dos tipos de constructivismo, proporciona un procedimiento de construcción, en el que agentes racionalmente autónomos, sujetos a condiciones razonables, elaboran acuerdos sobre principios públicos de justicia para lograr un sistema justo de cooperación que trascienda generacionalmente. Se concluye, mostrando las limitaciones y alcances (...) de esta propuesta en el pensamiento filosófico y político contemporáneo. (shrink)
Introductory essay to the collection "I that is We, We that is I" (ed. by Italo Testa and Luigi Ruggiu, Brill Books, 2016). In this book an international group of philosophers explore the many facets of Hegel’s formula which expresses the recognitive and social structures of human life. The book offers a guiding thread for the reconstruction of crucial motifs of contemporary thought such as the socio-ontological paradigm; the action-theoretical model in moral and social philosophy; the question of naturalism; and (...) the reassessment of the relevance of work and power for our understanding of human life. This collection addresses the shortcomings of Kantian and constructivist normative approaches to social practices and practical rationality it involves. It sheds new light on Hegel’s take on metaphysics and puts into question some presuppositions of the post-metaphysical interpretative paradigm. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Like Kant, the German Idealists, and many neo-Kantian philosophers before him, Nietzsche was persistently concerned with metaphysical questions about the nature of objects. His texts often address questions concerning the existence and non-existence of objects, the relation of objects to human minds, and how different views of objects significantly impact various commitments in many areas of philosophy—not just metaphysics, but also semantics, epistemology, science, logic and mathematics, and even ethics. This book presents a systematic and comprehensive analysis of Nietzsche’s (...) material object metaphysics. Remhof argues that Nietzsche embraces the controversial _constructivist_ view that all concrete objects are socially constructed. Reading Nietzsche as a constructivist, Remhof contends, provides fresh insight into Nietzsche's views on truth, science, naturalism, and nihilism. Remhof investigates how Nietzsche’s view of objects compares with similar views offered by influential American pragmatists, and explores the implications of Nietzsche’s constructivism for debates in contemporary material object metaphysics. _Nietzsche’s Constructivism _is a highly original and timely contribution to the steadily growing literature on Nietzsche’s thought. (shrink)
Some moral claims strike us as objective. It is often argued that this shows morality to be objective. Moral experience – broadly construed – is invoked as the strongest argument for moral realism, the thesis that there are moral facts or properties.See e.g. Jonathan Dancy, “Two conceptions of Moral Realism,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 60 : 167–187. Realists, however, cannot appropriate the argument from moral experience. In fact, constructivists argue that to validate the ways we experience the objectivity of (...) moral claims, realism must be rejected.Christine M. Korsgaard, The Sources of Normativity . There is a general agreement that ethical theory bears the burden of proof of explaining the objective-seeming features of our moral experience.While disputing objectivity, antirealists commit themselves to account for the objectivist pretensions of moral claims. Anti-realists agree with the traditional view that moral experie .. (shrink)
There are at least two basic normative notions: rationality and reasons. The dominant normative account of reasons nowadays, which I call primitive pluralism about reasons, holds that some reasons are normatively basic and there is no underlying normative explanation of them in terms of other normative notions. Kantianconstructivism about reasons, understood as a normative rather than a metaethical view, holds that rationality is the primitive normative notion that picks out which non-normative facts are reasons for what and (...) explains why those normative relations hold. By supposing that there is a plurality of primitive reasons, I argue that primitive pluralism about reasons lacks sufficient normative unity and structure. But Kantianconstructivism about reasons faces a dilemma of its own: Either a conception of rationality is thick enough to capture the reasons of commonsense, in which case it cannot play the explanatory role assigned to it, or a conception of rationality is genuinely explanatory, in which case it is too thin to generate the reasons we recognize in commonsense. The aim of this paper is to suggest that if Kantianconstructivism about reasons were built on a substantive, rather than merely formal, conception of rationality then it would stand a better chance at unifying the particular reasons we would endorse on due reflection. The groundwork I lay in this paper, I explain, is an essential first step in the larger project of developing a version of Kantianconstructivism about reasons that might eventually explain all reasons in terms of rationality. (shrink)
Constructivism in ethics is the view that insofar as there are normative truths, for example, truths about what we ought to do, they are in some sense determined by an idealized process of rational deliberation, choice, or agreement. As a “first-order moral account”--an account of which moral principles are correct-- constructivism is the view that the moral principles we ought to accept or follow are the ones that agents would agree to or endorse were they to engage in (...) a hypothetical or idealized process of rational deliberation. As a “metaethical account” – an account of whether there are any normative truths and, if so, what they are like – constructivism holds that there are normative truths. These truths are not fixed by facts that are independent of the practical standpoint, however characterized; rather, they are constituted by what agents would agree to under some specified conditions of choice. In working to provide a more precise definition of constructivism in metaethics, the focus of this entry, one faces two main difficulties. The first difficulty is that constructivism comes in several varieties, each of which claims a different niche within metaethics, and some claim no space at all. The second difficulty concerns where to place constructivism on the metaethical map in relation to realism and anti-realism. These are terms of art, and it is highly contested which views count as realist and which as antirealist. These two difficulties will be addressed in what follows by focusing on the distinctive questions that constructivist theories are designed to answer. Section §1 defines the scope of constructivism in ethics, in contrast to constructivism in political theory. Sections §§2-5 illustrate the main varieties of metaethical constructivism, which are designed to account for the nature of normative truths and practical reasons. Section §6 presents the main varieties of constructivist accounts of the justification of moral judgments of right and wrong. Section §7 discusses the metaethical status of constructivism, and its distinctive import. (shrink)
We propose a formal representation of objects , those being mathematical or empirical objects. The powerful framework inside which we represent them in a unique and coherent way is grounded, on the formal side, in a logical approach with a direct mathematical semantics in the well-established field of constructive topology, and, on the philosophical side, in a neo-Kantian perspective emphasizing the knowing subject’s role, which is constructive for the mathematical objects and constitutive for the empirical ones.
It is largely agreed that if constructivism contributes anything to meta-ethics it is by proposing that we understand ethical objectivity “in terms of a suitably constructed point of view that all can accept” (Rawls 1980/1999: 307). Constructivists defend this “practical” conception of objectivity in contrast to the realist or “ontological” conception of objectivity, understood as an accurate representation of an independent metaphysical order. Because of their objectivist but not realist commitments, Kantian constructivists place their theory “somewhere in the (...) space between realist and relativist accounts of ethics” (O’Neill 1988: 1). Furthermore, they argue that their practical conception of objectivity succeeds in making sense of certain features of morality, such as its categorical authority and its relation to rational agency, which escape rival theories (Korsgaard 1996b, Korsgaard 2003b). To this extent, constructivism claims a privileged place in meta-ethics. The legitimacy of this claim is widely challenged. Precisely because of its practical conception of objectivity, many – including some constructivists — regard constructivism as a first-order normative theory, rather than as a meta-ethical position, hence not on a par with realism. Some critics object that constructivism fails to offer a distinct meta-ethics because it is structurally incomplete and thus must be combined with a fully-fledged meta-ethics (Hussain and Shah 2006); others argue that it tacitly relies on realism (Timmons 2003; Shafer-Landau 2003; Larmore 2008). Thus far, the debate about the prospects of constructivism as a meta-ethical theory has been driven by the conviction that the case for or against constructivism depends on its ontological commitments. In this chapter, I propose a change in perspective. My aim is to defend constructivism as an objectivist account of practical knowledge. Its defining feature is the claim that practical knowledge is knowledge by principles. Its task is to establish a constitutive relation between knowledge of oneself as a practical subject and knowledge about what one ought to do. By focusing on the issue of practical knowledge I hope to show that the difficulty in situating Kantianconstructivism firmly on the meta-ethical map, along with other meta-ethical theories, reflects ambiguities and oscillations about the practical significance of ethics. Even though the term is ambiguous, I retain the qualification “Kantian” for the constructivist theory I outline, and for two reasons. First, while the theory I outline differs from current agnostic or anti-realist variants, it is closer to its origins, since Kant treats practical reason as a cognitive capacity and takes moral judgments to be objective moral cognitions, which importantly differ from other sorts of rational cognitions because they bind us in the first person. Practical cognitions are common knowledge because they are such that all subjects endowed with rationality can arrive at them by reasoning and find them authoritative. Thus understood, Kantianconstructivism carves a distinct logical space in the meta-ethical debate that other sorts of constructivism fail to identify. This is the second reason for keeping the qualification “Kantian”. On this formulation, constructivism is antagonistic to non-cognitivist theories denying that moral judgments have cognitive contents, because they deny that there is something to be known; but it is also a rival to cognitivist theories denying that knowledge can be practical in itself. How constructivism differs over the realist theories of practical reason is the least understood aspect of this debate. This essay aims to make the case that practical reason is both discursive and emotional. In contrast to foundational and anti-realist accounts of practical reasoning, it attempts to show that the moral feeling of respect plays a cognitive but non-evidential role in the account of the cognitive and practical powers of reason. The argument proceeds as follows. In section 1, I consider some prominent constructivist arguments against the model of applied knowledge and show that they are driven by non-cognitivist assumptions about the practicality of ethics and the legitimacy of epistemological claims. In section 2, I argue that these arguments do not succeed in disposing of the idea of practical knowledge as incoherent, because they trade on an ambiguity regarding the proper object of practical knowledge. To solve this ambiguity, I turn to Anscombe’s contrast between “practical” and “speculative” knowledge as models for understanding action. I thus suggest that Anscombe’s account of practical knowledge as knowledge of oneself as an agent is an important resource for Kantianconstructivism. This finding prompts us to reset the current dispute about the ontological and epistemological commitments of Kantianconstructivism, as illustrated in section 3. While constructivism does not postulate any moral ontology prior to reasoning, it attributes to reasoning the cognitive powers to establish a distinctive relation between the agent and her action. The task of sections 4-7 is to account for the distinctive features of Kantianconstructivism understood as an objectivist account of practical knowledge. In section 4, I argue that in order for reasoning to accomplish its normative tasks, it should be conceived as a self-legislating activity. I respond to some objections to the idea of self-legislation as the form of rational willing by offering a dialogical view of practical reason. In section 5, I propose a non-standard interpretation of Kant’s argument of “the fact of reason” to show that the constructivist account of self-legislation does not build on realism about value, as its detractors claim. The “basis of construction” is the subjective experience of respect for the self-legislative capacity itself. This moral feeling conveys our awareness of rational agency and shows our responsiveness to the demands of practical reason. It is an emotional mode of practical knowledge of oneself as an agent (in the sense specified in section 2), but not as a mode of moral discernment. In section 6, I show how practical knowledge of oneself as an agent relates to practical knowledge about what one ought to do. I thus account for the relation between respect as emotional moral consciousness and respect as a deliberative constraint. Finally, in section 7, I reply to the objection of subjectivism. I explain how the complex sort of objectivity that Kantianconstructivism affords is at the same time more ambitious and more modest than is generally assumed. (shrink)
My project is to reconsider the Kantian conception of practical reason. Some Kantians think that practical reasoning must be more active than theoretical reasoning, on the putative grounds that such reasoning need not contend with what is there anyway, independently of its exercise. Behind that claim stands the thesis that practical reason is essentially efficacious. I accept the efficacy principle, but deny that it underwrites this inference about practical reason. My inquiry takes place against the background of recent (...) class='Hi'>Kantian metaethical debate — each side of which, I argue, correctly points to issues that need to be jointly accommodated in the Kantian account of practical reason. The constructivist points to the essential efficacy of practical reason, while the realist claims that any genuinely cognitive exercise of practical reason owes allegiance to what is there anyway, independently of its exercise. I argue that a Kantian account of respect for persons (“recognition respect”) suggests how the two claims might be jointly accommodated. The result is an empirical moral realism that is itself neutral on the received Kantian metaethical debate. (shrink)
The dissertation defends that the often-assumed link between constructivism and universalism builds on non-constructivist, perfectionist grounds. To this end, I argue that an exemplary form of universalist constructivism – i.e., O’Neill’s Kantianconstructivism – can defend its universalist commitments against an influential particularist form of constructivism – i.e., political liberalism as advanced by Rawls, Macedo, and Larmore – only if it invokes a perfectionist view of the good. (En route, I show why political liberalism is (...) a form of particularism and reconstruct the role of its conception of public justification, its implied contextualism about justified belief, its conceptions of toleration, neutrality, good reasons, and legitimacy, and, not least, its justification-constitutive conception of reasonableness.) Contrary to what is often assumed, then, at the level of a vindication of the very project of a universalist constructivism, universalist constructivists should construe perfectionists not as their opponents, but as partial, though uneasy, allies. (shrink)
Kurt Sylvan's generous discussion of my book, The Domain of Reasons, argues that its account of reason relations would be strengthened if I accepted some version of ‘Kantianconstructivism’, and that that would, moreover, bring me closer to Kant. I argue against both these claims. I do not agree that ‘Kantianconstructivism’, understood in its contemporary sense, would strengthen my account of normativity. Nor do I agree that adopting it would make me more Kantian. On (...) the contrary, I believe that my cognitivist but irrealist account is closer to Kant than is anything that could be called ‘constructivism’ about reason. (shrink)
In this collection of essays, several authors, belonging to different generations and philosophical traditions, discuss ample ethical and metaethical issues together with their relations to questions of applied ethics. The volume provides a wide account of some of the main topics in these fields, thus dealing with nearly everything that human beings hold as valuable. -/- Expert scholars and young researchers contribute to this virtual symposium, reframing the current philosophical debates about the definition and the history of the concept of (...) Naturalism, the different declinations of KantianConstructivism, the functioning of Rational Choice Theory, the complex role played by Neuroscience in redefining the contours of ethical theories and bioethics, the puzzles of Deontic Logic, and the bases of Animal Ethics. -/- Divided into three sections, presented by comprehensive introductions by Sofia Bonicalzi, Leonardo Caffo and Mattia Sorgon, the present collection includes contributions by Martina Belmonte, Michele Borri, Luciana Ceri, Guglielmo Feis, Matteo Grasso, Andrea Lavazza, Sarah Songhorian, and Francesca Vitale. Each author develops a distinctive and independent position, while critically engaging with the central themes of contemporary reflection. -/- This new, major study will benefit moral philosophers, philosophers of science, and scientists concerned with bioethics, while at the same time stimulating and challenging anyone who is curious about the nature and the origins of ethical and metaethical enquiries. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Nietzsche appears to adopt a radical Kantian view of objects called constructivism, which holds that the existence of all objects depends essentially on our practices. This essay provides a new reconstruction of Nietzsche's argument for constructivism and responds to five pressing objections to reading Nietzsche as a constructivist that have not been addressed by commentators defending constructivist interpretations of Nietzsche.
In this essay, I claim that certain passages in Book IV of Benedict de Spinoza’s Ethics suggest a novel version of what is known as metaethical constructivism. The constructivist interpretation emerges in the course of attempting to resolve a tension between Spinoza’s apparent ethical egoism and some remarks he makes about the efficacy of collaborating with the right partners when attempting to promote our individual self-interest . Though Spinoza maintains that individuals necessarily aim to promote their self-interest, I argue (...) that Spinoza has an atypical conception of self that allows the interests of other people to be partially constitutive of one's own self-interest. In this way, Spinoza can account for the rationality of concern for the interests of others . This interpretation attributes to Spinoza a form of constructivism that differs in important ways from contemporary Humean and Kantian constructivisms and which can in principle be detached from Spinoza’s particular metaphysical commitments in order to yield a third general category of constructivist view . Though my treatment is necessarily brief, it is my hope that it can serve both to motivate a constructivist reading of Spinoza and, perhaps even more crucially, to suggest a Spinozistic variety of constructivism as a live theoretical option in metaethics. (shrink)