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Our Call: The Constitutive Importance of the People's Judgment

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image of Journal of Moral Philosophy

It is often debated whether what we ought, politically, to do is determined by standards that are independent of any actual political process or whether, by contrast, judgments reached in actual democratic processes have constitutive importance in determining what we should do. This paper argues that this is not an exclusive disjunction and that, consistently with there being independent standards, constitutively authoritative judgments can enter into the truth-conditions pertaining to claims about what we ought, politically, to do. The crucial objection to constitutive judgment is that it involves an unacceptable form of bootstrapping, according to which reasons arise out of nothing. To circumvent this objection, the paper deploys John Broome's notion of a wide-scope 'normative requirement'. Normative requirements affect what ought to be done without altering the balance of reasons and defuse the bootstrapping objection by blocking the derivation of all-things-considered conclusions. To show that politics involves constitutive authority of this kind, the paper defends two illustrative normative requirements applicable to the political process that give constitutive roles to political judgments of various kinds. Throughout, the discussion is enlivened by comparisons to the judgments of a baseball umpire, which have been illuminatingly discussed by Robert Brandom.


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