Constructing Coherence

Yonatan Shemmer

in Constructivism in Practical Philosophy

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199609833
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191741913 | DOI:
Constructing Coherence

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Most constructivists believe that the process of norm construction is governed by the principle of practical consistency. The principle of consistency is a thin principle of rationality that prohibits agents from both adopting and rejecting the same goal at the same time. However, according to Yonatan Shemmer, the principle of consistency is too thin to account for the kind of structural restrictions that agents impose on the dynamic process of norm management. To account for these restrictions constructivists must add another principle of rationality — a broad principle of coherence. The broad principle of coherence demands integrity among our goals that goes beyond strict consistency. In his paper, “Constructing Coherence”, Shemmer explains why the principle of consistency is insufficient to account for our habits of norm management, offers an account of the broad principle of coherence and explains how constructivists can justify the normativity of this broad principle by showing that it also can be the object of construction. Shemmer discusses two challenges to his account of the construction of the broad principle of coherence: 1.Since on constructivist views the broad principle of coherence governs the construction of norms, it may be hard to provide a non-circular constructivist account of its normativity. 2.Since the broad principle of coherence governs the construction of norms it must have normative priority over particular newly constructed norms. Shemmer explores ways of justifying that priority without conceding a despotism of our past selves over our future selves.

Keywords: constructivim; normativity; rationality; consistency; coherence; constitution

Chapter.  11153 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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