Constructivism about Normativity: Some Pitfalls

R. Jay Wallace

in Constructivism in Practical Philosophy

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199609833
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191741913 | DOI:
Constructivism about Normativity: Some             Pitfalls

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In his paper, “Constructivism about Normativity: Some Pitfalls”, Jay Wallace considers three pitfalls that a constructivist should beware of. The first is psychologism. Constructivistsoften justify fundamental norms by appeal to their constitutive relation to agency. It would be mistake, says Wallace to understand that relation as a form of psychological necessity, since then we could ask by what right does such necessity govern the will? The second is bootstrapping. Constructivists claim that our activity of deliberation commits us to comply with certain principles. Being committed in this way involves having an attitude that is at once both a disposition to comply with it and a normative endorsement of the principle. But a normative endorsement might be mistaken, to insist otherwise is to bootstrap our potentially fallible normative endorsements into normativity. The constructivist has a ready reply for at least one version of the bootstrapping objection. She can explain local error in normative endorsement by appeal to the possible gap between our actual endorsing attitudes and the endorsing attitudes we would have had if we were fully rational. But this reply leads us to the third pitfall: the gap between actual endorsing attitudes and fully rational ones is generated by some normative principle of rationality. The only way to justify this principle is to claim that it is a principle we are already actually committed to. But this kind of justification undermines the constructivist's ability to explain the possibility of local error.

Keywords: constructivism; normativity; expressivism; psychologism; deliberation

Chapter.  11752 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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