O'Neill, Onora, and . Constructivism vs. Contractualism

2003, Ratio 16(4): 319-331.

Introduction: Are Constructivism and Contractualism different, and if so how? Seemingly they are not wholly different, and certainly not incompatible, since some writers have described themselves as both. As a first shot one might suggest that contractualists ground ethical or political justification in agreement of some sort, whereas constructivists ground them in some conception of reason. This will not provide any neat separation of the two approaches to justification, since agreement may provide a basis for reasons, and reasoning a way of achieving agreement. In opening up these questions a bit further I shall consider some of the moves John Rawls and Tim Scanlon make in talking about their own methods of ethics, and in particular, some of the connections they draw between their methods and the scope of their accounts of ethical reasoning.

Comment: Would be a good further reading for any teaching that touches on Rawls's Kantian constructivism in particular.