Chapter

Constructing Protagorean Objectivity<sup>1</sup>

Aaron James

in Constructivism in Practical Philosophy

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199609833
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191741913 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199609833.003.0004
Constructing Protagorean Objectivity1

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In “Constructing Protagorean Objectivity”, Aaron James defends an objectivist form of constructivism, which hinges on two central views. First, that ideal reasoners will converge on the content of substantive norms; The second consists of three claims: a. that constructivists are capable of accounting for the legitimacy of a demand to justify the norms of rationality, b. that by doing so they will not fall prey to skeptical arguments and c. that constructivists are capable of satisfying the demand to justify the norms of rationality. According to James, constructivists cannot assure us of the truth of the first view a priori — its truth depends on the persistence of disagreement between reasoners about substantive norms. However, the truth of the second view can be established by constructivists by appeal to constitutive arguments. A constitutive argument is an argument to the effect that there are norms internal to a certain activity — norms constitutive of that activity — and that those who fail to comply with those norms thereby fail to engage in the activity. James suggests we should focus on the activity of making reasoned judgments about how we ought to act and on the norms constitutive of that activity. Once we focus on the activity of making reasoned judgments we realize that we cannot understand ourselves and others as reasoning unless we comply with certain norms of reasoning. It is this realization that provides us with an answer — intellectualist and objectivist — to the demand to justify our norms of reasoning.

Keywords: constructivism; skepticism; reasoning; rationality; normativity

Chapter.  10459 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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