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Korsgaard, Christine, , . The Sources of Normativity
1996, Cambridge University Press.
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Added by: Chris Howard, Contributed by: Nomy Arpaly

Publisher’s Note: Ethical concepts are, or purport to be, normative. They make claims on us: they command, oblige, recommend, or guide. Or at least when we invoke them, we make claims on one another; but where does their authority over us – or ours over one another – come from? Christine Korsgaard identifies four accounts of the source of normativity that have been advocated by modern moral philosophers: voluntarism, realism, reflective endorsement, and the appeal to autonomy. She traces their history, showing how each developed in response to the prior one and comparing their early versions with those on the contemporary philosophical scene. Kant’s theory that normativity springs from our own autonomy emerges as a synthesis of the other three, and Korsgaard concludes with her own version of the Kantian account. Her discussion is followed by commentary from G. A. Cohen, Raymond Geuss, Thomas Nagel, and Bernard Williams, and a reply by Korsgaard.

Comment: Parts of this book are “must-read” in any metaethics course. Chapter 1 (skipping sections 1.3.1-1.3.4) is an excellent addition to a unit on the authority of morality; chapters 2 and 3 are equally excellent additions to a unit on (Kantian) metaethical constructivism.

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Massimi, Michela, , . Working in a new world: Kuhn, constructivism, and mind-dependence
2015, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 50: 83-89.
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Added by: Jamie Collin, Contributed by:

Abstract: In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn famously advanced the claim that scientists work in a different world after a scientific revolution. Kuhn’s view has been at the center of a philosophical literature that has tried to make sense of his bold claim, by listing Kuhn’s view in good company with other seemingly constructivist proposals. The purpose of this paper is to take some steps towards clarifying what sort of constructivism (if any) is in fact at stake in Kuhn’s view. To this end, I distinguish between two main (albeit not exclusive) notions of mind-dependence: a semantic notion and an ontological one. I point out that Kuhn’s view should be understood as subscribing to a form of semantic mind-dependence, and conclude that semantic mind-dependence does not land us into any worrisome ontological mind-dependence, pace any constructivist reading of Kuhn.

Comment: Useful for undergraduate and postgraduate philosophy of science courses. Helps to clarify key concepts in Kuhn’s work.

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O’Neill, Onora, , . Constructivism vs. Contractualism
2003, Ratio 16(4): 319-331.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

Introduction: Are Constructivism and Contractualism different, and if so how? Seemingly they are not wholly different, and certainly not incompatible, since some writers have described themselves as both. As a first shot one might suggest that contractualists ground ethical or political justification in agreement of some sort, whereas constructivists ground them in some conception of reason. This will not provide any neat separation of the two approaches to justification, since agreement may provide a basis for reasons, and reasoning a way of achieving agreement. In opening up these questions a bit further I shall consider some of the moves John Rawls and Tim Scanlon make in talking about their own methods of ethics, and in particular, some of the connections they draw between their methods and the scope of their accounts of ethical reasoning.

Comment: Would be a good further reading for any teaching that touches on Rawls’s Kantian constructivism in particular.

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Street, Sharon, , . What is Constructivism in Ethics and Metaethics?
2010, Philosophy Compass 5 (5):363-384.
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Added by: Graham Bex-Priestley, Contributed by:

Abstract: Most agree that when it comes to so-called ‘first-order’ normative ethics and political philosophy, constructivist views are a powerful family of positions. When it comes to metaethics, however, there is serious disagreement about what, if anything, constructivism has to contribute. In this paper I argue that constructivist views in ethics include not just a family of substantive normative positions, but also a distinct and highly attractive metaethical view. I argue that the widely accepted ‘proceduralist characterization’ of constructivism in ethics is inadequate, and I propose what I call the ‘practical standpoint characterization’ in its place. I then offer a general taxonomy of constructivist positions in ethics. Since constructivism’s standing as a family of substantive normative positions is relatively uncontested, I devote the remainder of the paper to addressing skeptics’ worries about the distinctiveness of constructivism understood as a metaethical view. I compare and contrast constructivism with three other standard metaethical positions with which it is often confused or mistakenly thought to be compatible: realism; naturalist reductions in terms of an ideal response; and expressivism. In discussing the contrast with expressivism, I explain the sense in which, according to the constructivist, the distinction between substantive normative ethics and metaethics breaks down. I conclude by distinguishing between two importantly different debates about the mind-dependence of value. I argue that a failure to make this distinction is part of what explains why the possibility of constructivism as a metaethical view is often overlooked.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Tiberius, Valerie, , . Constructivism and Wise Judgment
2012, in Lenman, J. and Shemmer, Y. (eds.) Constructivism in Practical Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 195-212.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

Abstract: In this paper I introduce a version of constructivism that relies on a theory of practical wisdom. Wise judgment constructivism is a type of constructivism because it takes correct judgments about what we have “all-in” reason to do to be the result of a process we can follow, where our interest in the results of this process stems from our practical concerns. To fully defend the theory would require a comprehensive account of wisdom, which is not available. Instead, I describe a constructivist methodology for defending an account of wisdom and outline its main features. This gives us enough to see what wise judgment constructivism would look like, why it might be an attractive theory, and how it is different from other versions of constructivism.

Comment: Original and illuminating approach to constructivism. Particularly suited to further or specialised reading.

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