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Constructivism in Practical Philosophy$
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James Lenman and Yonatan Shemmer

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199609833

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199609833.001.0001

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The Appeal and Limits of Constructivism 1

The Appeal and Limits of Constructivism 1

(p.226) The Appeal and Limits of Constructivism1
Constructivism in Practical Philosophy

T. M. Scanlon

Oxford University Press

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  

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