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On the meta-ethical status of constructivism: reflections on G.A. Cohen's `Facts and Principles'

Ronzoni, Miriam and Valentini, Laura (2008) On the meta-ethical status of constructivism: reflections on G.A. Cohen's `Facts and Principles'. Politics, Philosophy & Economics, 7 (4). pp. 403-422. ISSN 1470-594X

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Identification Number: 10.1177/1470594X08095751


In his article `Facts and Principles', G.A. Cohen attempts to refute constructivist approaches to justification by showing that, contrary to what their proponents claim, fundamental normative principles are fact-insensitive. We argue that Cohen's `fact-insensitivity thesis' does not provide a successful refutation of constructivism because it pertains to an area of meta-ethics which differs from the one tackled by constructivists. While Cohen's thesis concerns the logical structure of normative principles, constructivists ask how normative principles should be justified. In particular, their claim that justified fundamental normative principles are fact-sensitive follows from a commitment to agnosticism about the existence of objective moral facts. We therefore conclude that, in order to refute constructivism, Cohen would have to address questions of justification, and take a stand on those long-standing meta-ethical debates about the ontological status of moral notions (for example, realism versus anti-realism) with respect to which he himself wants to remain agnostic.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2008 SAGE Publications Ltd.
Divisions: Government
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2015 12:08
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2021 00:27

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