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Constructivism and Practical Reason: On Intersubjectivity, Abstraction, and Judgment

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The article offers an account of the constructivist methodology in ethics and political philosophy as 1) deriving from an agnostic moral ontology and 2) proposing intersubjective justifiability as the criterion of justification for normative principles. It then asks whether constructivism, conceived in this way, can respond to the challenge of “content skepticism about practical reason”, namely whether it can provide sufficiently precise normative guidance whilst remaining faithful to its methodological commitment. The paper critically examines to alternative way of meeting this challenge, namely John Rawls's original position and O'Neill's Kantian constructivism, analyses what is problematic about both, and endorses a third, possibly intermediate model. Within such a model, the basic features of the original position are accepted, but in a flexible and heuristic manner, thereby accommodating some of O'Neill's concerns.

Affiliations: 1: Max Weber Programme, European University Institute, Fiesole, Italy;, Email:


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