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How Hume and Kant Reconstruct Natural LawJustifying Strict Objectivity without Debating Moral Realism$
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Kenneth R. Westphal

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198747055

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198747055.001.0001

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Constructivism, Contractarianism, and Basic Obligations

Constructivism, Contractarianism, and Basic Obligations

(p.113) 7 Constructivism, Contractarianism, and Basic Obligations
How Hume and Kant Reconstruct Natural Law

Kenneth R. Westphal

Oxford University Press

Kant’s Natural Law Constructivism affords an illuminating, powerful critique of Gauthier’s exemplary moral contractarianism. Hume’s and Kant’s Natural Law Constructivism is neutral regarding moral realism, but is constructivist about identifying and justifying moral norms. The basic acts relevant to contractarianism or contractualism concern voluntary agreements we make. Using agreement to establish basic norms faces serious difficulties: those highlighted by Socrates’ question to Euthyphro. Natural Law Constructivism avoids these problems by showing how basic moral norms can be identified and justified independently of voluntary agreement. It further shows that an individual’s justification of his or her acts to others, and the justification of the acts of others to any individual, are inseparable aspects of one and the same justificatory reasoning in which voluntary agreement plays no constitutive role.

Keywords:   contractualism, David Gauthier, Euthyphro question, moral constructivism, moral contractarianism, social contract theory, Thomas Scanlon, social contract theory

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