Constitutivism without Normative Thresholds
Constitutivist accounts in metaethics explain the normative standards in a domain by appealing to the constitutive features of its members. The success of these accounts turns on whether they can explain the connection between normative standards and the nature of individuals they authoritatively govern. Many such explanations presuppose that any member of a norm-governed kind must minimally satisfy the norms governing its kind. I call this the Threshold Commitment, and argue that constitutivists should reject it. First, it requires constitutivists to restrict the scope of their explanatory ambitions, because it is not plausibly true of social kinds. Second, despite the frequent reliance on physical artifacts in constitutivists’ illustrations of the Threshold Commitment, it counter-intuitively entails that physical artifacts can cease to exist without being physically destroyed. Third, it misconstrues the normative force of authoritative norms on very defective kind-members because it locates this force not in the norm, but in the threat of non-existence. Fortunately, constitutivism can be decoupled from the Threshold Commitment, and I close by sketching a promising alternative account.
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