Rawls on Kantian Constructivism

Nathaniel Jezzi


John Rawls’s 1980 Dewey Lectures are widely acknowledged to represent the locus classicus for contemporary discussions of moral constructivism. Nevertheless, few published works have engaged with the significant interpretive challenges one finds in these lectures, and those that have fail to offer a satisfactory reading of the view that Rawls presents there or the place the lectures occupy in the development of Rawls's thinking. Indeed, there is a surprising lack of consensus about how best to interpret the constructivism of these lectures. In this paper, I argue that the constructivism presented in the Dewey Lectures is best understood as involving the view that moral truth is correspondence with procedurally-determined, stance-dependent facts. Employing Rawls’s discussion of rational intuitionism as a foil, I defend this reading against textual discrepancies from within the lectures, as well as those one finds across Rawls’s other works. In addition to settling interpretive disputes, I draw out the ways in which this understanding of Kantian constructivism fits within the broader comparative project in ‘moral theory’ that Rawls inherits from Sidgwick.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15173/jhap.v4i8.2700

Nathaniel Jezzi
Lafayette College
United States