Neo-Kantian constructivism and metaethics

Surgener, Kirk (2012). Neo-Kantian constructivism and metaethics. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.


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Christine Korsgaard has attempted to defend a distinct approach to metaethics – Neo-Kantian Constructivism. Not only does she present a positive case for her own view, she also attacks existing metaethical positions and even the disctinctions that metaethics has traditionally relied on. This thesis is a sustained examination of this position. I consider whether Korsgaard can legitimately claim to be offering a metaethical position at all, providing her with some defence against the scepticism of some metaethicists. I also examine her attacks on traditional metaethical positions (in particular moral realism and expressivism). I argue that her attack on moral realism can be avoided if the realism on offer takes a particular form. In the case of expressivism I claim that Korsgaard’s attack, though not fully developed in her work, motivates an examination of contemporary hybrid-expressivist theories. I argue that these are, as of yet, no advance over their non-hybrid cousins. Finally I examine Korsgaard’s own position, attempting to make it clearer by combining her claims with a framework developed by Crispin Wright for judgement-dependent qualities. This gives Korsgaard her best chance of a distinctive metaethical position. Ultimately, though, the Neo-Kantian approach to morality fails.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, Department of Philosophy
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics


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