The Owl of Minerva

Volume 48, Issue 1/2, 2016/2017

Stuart Toddington
Pages 95-108

The Moral Truth about Normative Constructivism

Kenneth Westphal provides here a masterful evolutionary account of Normative Constructivism in its classical development, which encompasses Hobbes, Hume, Kant and Rousseau, and culminates in Hegel’s vision of Sittlichkeit. In the process of endorsing the comprehensive moral anthropology of the latter, Westphal rejects the essentialist/objectivist rhetoric of Plato’s Euthyphro and invokes Hume’s alternative to Moral Realism, which is articulated in the view that what might appear “artificial” and “conventional” in our understanding of the rules (norms) of Justice does not necessarily imply that these rules are thus arbitrary. Westphal advocates a metaphysically agnostic Normative Constructivism, which separates our claims to what, on the one hand, is deemed to be morally factual, and on the other, is simply morally relevant. Whilst I acknowledge that this separation of claims is not only possible, but necessary, I argue that it is not, in any critically viable sense, consistent with the rejection of moral objectivism.