A third version of constructivism: rethinking Spinoza’s metaethics

Philosophical Studies 172 (10):2565-2574 (2015)
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In this essay, I claim that certain passages in Book IV of Benedict de Spinoza’s Ethics suggest a novel version of what is known as metaethical constructivism. The constructivist interpretation emerges in the course of attempting to resolve a tension between Spinoza’s apparent ethical egoism and some remarks he makes about the efficacy of collaborating with the right partners when attempting to promote our individual self-interest . Though Spinoza maintains that individuals necessarily aim to promote their self-interest, I argue that Spinoza has an atypical conception of self that allows the interests of other people to be partially constitutive of one's own self-interest. In this way, Spinoza can account for the rationality of concern for the interests of others . This interpretation attributes to Spinoza a form of constructivism that differs in important ways from contemporary Humean and Kantian constructivisms and which can in principle be detached from Spinoza’s particular metaphysical commitments in order to yield a third general category of constructivist view . Though my treatment is necessarily brief, it is my hope that it can serve both to motivate a constructivist reading of Spinoza and, perhaps even more crucially, to suggest a Spinozistic variety of constructivism as a live theoretical option in metaethics



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Peter Zuk
Center for Bioethics, Harvard Medical School

Citations of this work

Constructivism in metaethics.Carla Bagnoli - 2017 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Constructivism in metaethics.Carla Bagnoli - 2011 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Mill's Metaethical Non-cognitivism.Peter Zuk - 2018 - Utilitas 30 (3):271-293.
Is Spinoza's Ethics Metaethically Constructivist?Christos Kyriacou - 2022 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 39 (2):131-146.

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References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
The extended mind.Andy Clark & David J. Chalmers - 1998 - Analysis 58 (1):7-19.
The sources of normativity.Christine M. Korsgaard - 1996 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Onora O'Neill.
Kantian constructivism in moral theory.John Rawls - 1930 - Journal of Philosophy 77 (9):515-572.

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