Constructivism and the Argument from Autonomy

Robert Stern

in Constructivism in Practical Philosophy

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199609833
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191741913 | DOI:
Constructivism and the Argument from             Autonomy

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One central objection to value realism that has motivated the development of constructivist views is the objection from autonomy. According to this objection an order of independent values threatens the autonomy of agents. In his paper, “Constructivism and the argument from autonomy”, Robert Stern sets out to evaluate the details of this argument. He identifies three versions of the argument: first the claim, inspired by Kant, that in following moral principles we are determined by our inclination (e.g. our inclination to pursue perfection); second, Rorty's position that any order of independent facts — moral or not — is a threat to human autonomy; and third, the view that the obligatoriness of values is a threat to autonomy. Stern believes that the third version of the argument is the one to which realists will have the hardest time responding. In particular Stern argues that realists cannot defend their view by claiming that the constructivist notion of obligatoriness is incoherent. Failing to establish a challenge for constructivists, realists will try to defend the claim that the obligatoriness imposed by an independent order of values does not threaten autonomy. Stern suggests realists can help themselves to a Kantian solution: obligatoriness, on one understanding of Kant's view, is not imposed by any obligating entity that limits our autonomy, nor is it an objective property of values. Rather obligation is the name we give to the tension that imperfect, passion-driven, agents like ourselves experience when confronted with objective moral reality.

Keywords: constructivism; normativity; autonomy; realism; obligation; agency

Chapter.  10703 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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