Kantian Constructivism: Something Old, Something New<sup>1</sup>

Michael Ridge

in Constructivism in Practical Philosophy

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199609833
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191741913 | DOI:
Kantian Constructivism: Something Old,             Something New1

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Ridge asks whether constructivism can be credibly regarded as a position in metaethics which is “at once thoroughgoing…, novel and plausible.” His defence of a negative answer proceeds by examining two recent papers by Christine Korsgaard and Sharon Street respectively. Korsgaard's version of constructivism sees normative concepts not as serving the function of describing reality but rather of helping us solve certain distinctively practical problems. Ridge is doubtful of her claim that this constitutes a genuine alternative to cognitivism and non-cognitivism as this account appears to be consistent with either. He further objects that Korsgaard's constructivism, in seeking to understand normative concepts as referring to solutions to practical problems, fails to provide a full and satisfactory account of such concepts, given that this talk of problems and their solutions is itself already normative”. Ridge now turns to Street according to whom a normative judgement of some agent is true if and only if it is able to withstand scrutiny from the standpoint of that agent's other normative judgement. Ridge's concern is that this leaves it unclear what a normative judgement is. After considering and rejecting some alternatives, Ridge proposes that the most attractive way of understanding normative judgements is as a kind of desire. But on this reading, Ridge doubts if Street's view constitutes a “genuinely new and thoroughgoing approach to metaethics” as opposed to “a form of sophisticated subjectivism” of the sort defended by Bernard Williams and others.

Keywords: constructivim; Christine Korsgaard; Sharon Street; normative content; subjectivism

Chapter.  10970 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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