What’s wrong with Constructivist Readings of Kant?

In Ricardo Gutierrez Aguilar (ed.), The Philosophy of Kant. New York: pp. 165-186 (2019)
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Kantian ethics today is dominated followers of Rawls, many of them his former students. Following Rawls they interpret Kant as a moral constructivist who defines the good in terms of the reasonable. Such readings give priority to the first formulation of the categorical imperative and argue that the other two formulations are (ontologically or definitionally) dependent upon it. In contrast the aim of my paper will be to show that Kant should be interpreted firstly as a moral idealist and secondly as, it least in a certain sense a particularist who takes morality to involve the exercise of recognitional capacities rather than following principles or rules. In claiming that Kant is a moral idealist we won’t mean to imply that he is an anti-realist, indeed we believe that he is a realist. Instead, by ‘moral idealism’ it is meant the position that maintains that to be moral is to instantiate an ideal. And so understood moral idealism can be seen as offering an alternative to both constructivism and utilitarianism.

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Lucas Thorpe
Bogazici University


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