Chapter

The Appeal and Limits of Constructivism<sup>1</sup>

T. M. Scanlon

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/9780199609833.003.0013
The Appeal and Limits of               Constructivism1

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Scanlon's chapter seeks to compare constructivism as a position in moral philosophy with constructivist views about mathematics and set theory. In both cases we have a subject matter that raises philosophical difficulties. In both cases it is not clear what grounds our judgments; to what extent their truth is independent of us and how we can discover facts about the subject matter simply by thinking and reasoning about it. In the case of arithmetic and, more tentatively, in the more complex case of set theory, Scanlon urges that we can make significant headway with such questions without engaging in “second-order” metaphysical theorizing but simply by characterising the subject matter in first order terms, that is, with concepts internal to these domains. Such an enterprise might be constructivist if it characterizes its target domain in terms of some constructive procedure. But this constructive procedure will eventually be grounded in foundational judgments whose validity cannot be established by the constructive procedure, but are rather justified by reflective equilibrium where the method of reflective equilibrium is not itself a constructive procedure. Rawls' constructivist account of justice takes justice and Scanlon's own contractualist account of right and wrong are constructivist in a similar way. In the final pages of his chapter, Scanlon raises some doubts as to the possibility of a constructivist account of reasons quite generally.

Keywords: constructivim; morality; mathematics; reflective equilibrium; reasons  

Chapter.  8940 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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