2. Constructivism in Ethics

Metaethical constructivism defends a ‘practical’ conception of objectivity of moral judgments in contrast to the realist or ‘ontological’ conception of objectivity, understood as an accurate representation of an independent metaphysical order. Because of their objectivist but non-realist committments, constructivists place their theory somewhere in the space ‘between’ moral realism and relativism. Furthermore, they argue that their practical conception of objectivity succeeds in making sense of some features of morality, that is, its universal and overriding authority and its relation to rational agency, which escape rival theories. To this extent, constructivism claims a privileged place in metaethics. Thus far, the debate about the prospects of constructivism as a metaethical theory has been driven by the conviction that the case for or against constructivism depends on its ontological commitments.

Main investigators: Christel Fricke (CSMN/IFIKK), Caj Strandberg (CSMN/IFIKK), Carla Bagnoli (Università degli Studi di Modena/IFIKK).

This project is carried out in close cooperation with The European Network for Practical Reason & Normative Psychology (ENPRNP):

2.1 Kantian Constructivism

Relying on ideas originally explored by Immanuel Kant, we investigate new arguments in support of constructivism which focus on the scope of practical reason, the claims of practical knowledge, knowledge by principles and its defeaters, and take issue with the alleged neutrality of metaethics. One special focus will be on the role of respect and the corresponding feeling of respect for the moral dignity of others and oneself. Furthermore, we inquire into the question whether and to what extent a constructivist reading of Kant is supported by how he himself understood his ethical project.

Main investigators:  Carla Bagnoli (Università degli Studi di Modena/IFIKK), Christel Fricke (CSMN/IFIKK) .


2.2 Smithean Constructivism

Relying on ideas originally developed by Adam Smith, we explore an approach to constructivism along the lines of moral phenomenology, focussing on the responsive sentiments of gratitude and resentment, empathy, and the collective construction of standards for moral judgments that can make justified claims to universal authority. Our assumption is that the most plausible way to defend the objectivity of the moral judgment is practical in kind. Rather than assuming that there are moral facts in the world, the claim is that moral goodness is a relation between persons concerned and their sentiments, the circumstances of their concern, and their particular vulnerabilities.

Main investigator: Christel Fricke (CSMN/IFIKK).


2.3 Constructivism about Reasons

We explore the question whether moral reasons exist independently of us or whether they are somehow a construction of ours, and, if so, what the best constructions of moral reasons should look like. The subproject overlaps with the previous two. The underlying question is whether either the ‘Kantian’ or the ‘Smithian’ account of constructivism should be rather formulated in terms of a construction of ‘reasons’. It is also related to the subproject ‘between internalism and externalism’ (1.1.) which can be seen as a broadly ‘Humean’ constructivist enterprise where an agent’s moral reasons are constructed out of a process of rational deliberation which takes its starting points in her actual subjective states.

Main invesigators:  Carla Bagnoli (Università degli Studi di Modena/IFIKK), Christel Fricke (CSMN/IFIKK), Caj Strandberg (CSMN/IFIKK).

Published May 12, 2016 11:32 AM