Some contemporary philosophers, notably B. Williams and S. Wolf, argue that moral perfection is not just an unsustainable ideal, but also an unreasonable one in that it thwarts and demotes all the various elements that contribute to personal well-being. More importantly, moral perfection seems to imply the denial of an identifiable personal self; hence the paradox of moral perfection. I argue that this alleged paradox arises because of a misunderstanding of the role of moral ideals, of their overridingness, and of (...) the way they relate to well-being. (shrink)
A standard way to explain the connection between ethical claims and motivation is to say that these claims express motivational attitudes. Unless this connection is taken to be merely a matter of contingent psychological regularity, it may seem that there are only two options for understanding it. We can either treat ethical claims as expressing propositions that one cannot believe without being at least somewhat motivated (subjectivism), or we can treat ethical claims as nonpropositional and as having their semantic content (...) constituted by the motivational attitudes they express (noncognitivism). In this paper, we argue that there is another option, which can be recognized once we see that there is no need to build the expression relation between ethical claims and motivational states of mind into the semantic content of ethical claims. (shrink)
Consider orthodox motivational judgment internalism: necessarily, A’s sincere moral judgment that he or she ought to φ motivates A to φ. Such principles fail because they cannot accommodate the amoralist, or one who renders moral judgments without any corresponding motivation. The orthodox alternative, externalism, posits only contingent relations between moral judgment and motivation. In response I first revive conceptual internalism by offering some modifications on the amoralist case to show that certain community-wide motivational failures are not conceptually possible. Second, I (...) introduce a theory of moral motivation that supplements the intuitive responses to different amoralist cases. According to moral judgment purposivism (MJP), in rough approximation, a purpose of moral judgments is to motivate corresponding behaviors such that a mental state without this purpose is not a moral judgment. MJP is consistent with conceptual desiderata, provides an illuminating analysis of amoralist cases, and offers a step forward in the internalist-externalist debates. (shrink)
Standard motivational internalism is the claim that by a priori or conceptual necessity, a psychological state is a moral opinion only if it is suitably related to moral motivation. Many philosophers, the authors of this paper included, have assumed that this claim is supported by intuitions to the effect that amoralists?people not suitably related to such motivation?lack moral opinions proper. In this paper we argue that this assumption is mistaken, seeming plausible only because defenders of standard internalism have failed to (...) consider the possibility that our own actual moral practice as a whole is one where moral opinions fail to motivate in the relevant way. To show this, we present a cynical hypothesis according to which the tendency for people to act in accordance with their moral opinions ultimately stems from a desire to appear moral. This hypothesis is most likely false, but we argue, on both intuitive and methodological grounds, that it is conceptually possible that it correctly describes our actual moral opinions. If correct, this refutes standard motivational internalism. Further, we propose an explanation of why many have seemingly internalist intuitions. Such intuitions, we argue, stem from the fact that standard amoralist cases allow (or even suggest) that we apprehend the putative moral opinions of amoralists as radically different from how we understand actual paradigmatic moral opinions. Given this, it is reasonable to understand them as not being moral opinions proper. However, since these intuitions rest on substantial a posteriori assumptions about actual moral opinions, they provide no substantial a priori constraints on theories of moral judgment. (shrink)
Joseph Raz has argued that the problem of the amoralist is misconceived. In this paper, I present three interpretations of what his argument is. None of these interpretations yields an argument that we are in a position to accept.
David Shoemaker argues from (A) psychopaths’ emotional deficiency, to (B) their insensitivity to moral reasons, to (C) their lack of criminal responsibility. This response observes three important ambiguities in this argument, involving the interpretation of (1) psychopaths’ emotional deficit, (2) their insensitivity to reasons, and (3) their moral judgements. Resolving these ambiguities presents Shoemaker with a dilemma: his argument either equivocates or it is falsified by the empirical evidence. An alternative perspective on psychopaths’ moral and criminal responsibility is proposed.
In this thesis I want to take a look at the extreme ends of the moral spectrum. Specifically, I am going to examine the very extremes of the moral spectrum, namely the amoralist and the moral saint. I want to take a look at the justifications we have for the intuitions people commonly hold about these two opposites; the intuition being that both an amoralist and a moral saint are undesirable ideals. In examining both cases, I aim to answer the (...) central question of my thesis: can the commonly held intuitions about both the amoralist and the moral saint be justified? (shrink)
It is sometimes observed that the debate between internalists and externalists about moral motivation seems to have reached a deadlock. There are those who do, and those who don’t, recognize the intuitive possibility of amoralists: i.e. people having moral opinions without being motivated to act accordingly. This makes Sigrun Svavarsdóttir’s methodological objection to internalism especially interesting, since it promises to break the deadlock through building a case against internalism (construed as a conceptual thesis), not on such intuitions, but on a (...) methodological principle for empirical investigations. According to the objection, internalists incur the burden of argument, since they have to exclude certain explanations of the (verbal and non-verbal) behavior of apparent amoralists, while externalists don’t. In this paper I argue that the objection fails: the principle for empirical investigations is plausible, but Svavarsdóttir’s application of it to internalism is not. Once we clearly distinguish between the conceptual and the empirical aspects of the internalist and externalist explanations of apparent amoralists, we see that these views incur an equal burden of explanation. I end the paper with a positive suggestion to the effect that there is a third alternative, a view that involves accepting neither internalism nor externalism, which does not incur an explanatory burden of the relevant sort. (shrink)
James Griffin asks how, and how much, we can improve our ethical standards not lift our behaviour closer to our standards but refine the standards themselves. To give an answer to this question it is necessary to answer most of the questions of ethics. So Value Judgement includes discussion of what a good life is like, where the boundaries of the `natural world' come, how values relate to that world, how great human capacitiesthe ones important to ethicsare, and where moral (...) norms come from. -/- Throughout the book the question of what philosophy can contribute to ethics repeatedly arises. Philosophical traditions, such as most forms of utilitarianism and deontology and virtue ethics, are, Griffin contends, too ambitious. Ethics cannot be what philosophers in those traditions expect it to be because agents cannot be what their philosophies need them to be. -/- This clear, compelling, and original account of ethics will be of interest to anyone concerned with thinking about values: not only philosophers but legal, political, and economic theorists as well. L. (shrink)
Consider the claim that openmindedness is an epistemic virtue, the claim that true belief is epistemically valuable, and the claim that one epistemically ought to cleave to one’s evidence. These are examples of what I’ll call “epistemic discourse.” In this paper I’ll propose and defend a view called “convention-relativism about epistemic discourse.” In particular, I’ll argue that convention-relativismis superior to its main rival, expressivism about epistemic discourse. Expressivism and conventionalism both jibe with anti-realism about epistemic normativity, which is motivated by (...) appeal to philosophical naturalism (§1). Convention-relativism says that epistemic discourse describes how things stands relative to a conventional set of “epistemic” values; such discourse is akin to normative discourse relative to the conventional rules of a club (§2). I defend conventionalism by appeal to a “reverse open question argument,” which says, pace expressivism, that epistemic discourse leaves the relevant normative questions open (§3). (shrink)
It seems to many that moral opinions must make a difference to what we’re motivated to do, at least in suitable conditions. For others, it seems that it is possible to have genuine moral opinions that make no motivational difference. Both sides – internalists and externalists about moral motivation – can tell persuasive stories of actual and hypothetical cases. My proposal for a kind of reconciliation is to distinguish between two kinds of psychological states with moral content. There are both (...) moral thoughts or opinions that intrinsically motivate, and moral thoughts or opinions that don’t. The thoughts that intrinsically motivate are moral intuitions – spontaneous and compelling non-doxastic appearances of right or wrong that both attract assent and incline us to act or react. I argue that there is good reason to think that these intuitions, but not moral judgments, are constituted by manifestations of moral sentiments. The moral thoughts that do not intrinsically motivate are moral beliefs, which are in themselves as inert as any ordinary beliefs. Thus, roughly, internalism is true about intuitions and externalism is true about beliefs or judgments. (shrink)
Psychopaths have long been of interest to moral philosophers, since a careful examination of their peculiar deficiencies may reveal what features are normally critical to the development of moral agency. What underlies the psychopath's amoralism? A common and plausible answer to this question is that the psychopath lacks empathy. Lack of empathy is also claimed to be a critical impairment in autism, yet it is not at all clear that autistic individuals share the psychopath's amoralism. How is empathy characterized in (...) the literature, and how crucial is empathy, so described, to moral understanding and agency? I argue that an examination of moral thinking in high-functioning autistic people supports a Kantian rather than a Humean account of moral agency. (shrink)
Children, even very young children, distinguish moral from conventional transgressions, inasmuch as they hold that the former, but not the latter, would still be wrong if there was no rule prohibiting them. Many people have taken this finding as evidence that morality is objective, and therefore universal. I argue that reflection on the phenomenon of imaginative resistance will lead us to question these claims. If a concept applies in virtue of the obtaining of a set of more basic facts, then (...) it is authority independent, and we therefore resist the attempts of authorities to claim that it does not apply. Thus, the moral/conventional distinction is a product of imaginative resistance to claims that a concept does not apply when its supervenience base is in place (or vice versa). All we can rightfully conclude from the fact that children are disposed to make the moral/conventional distinction is that our moral concepts belong to the class of authority-independent concepts. Though the set of basic facts in virtue of which an authority-independent concept obtains must be objective, the concept itself might be conventional, inasmuch as we could easily draw its boundaries wider or narrower, or fail to have a concept that corresponds to these properties at all. (shrink)
Cases involving amoralists who no longer care about the institution of morality, together with cases of depression, listlessness, and exhaustion, have posed trouble in recent years for standard formulations of motivational internalism. In response, though, internalists have been willing to adopt narrower versions of the thesis which restrict it just to the motivational lives of those agents who are said to be in some way normal, practically rational, or virtuous. My goal in this paper is to offer a new set (...) of counterexamples to motivational internalism, examples which are effective both against traditional formulations of the thesis as well as against many of these more recent restricted proposals. (shrink)
Much of the literature in contemporary analytic metaethics has grown rather stale – the range of possible positions seems to have been exhaustively delineated, and most of the important arguments on all sides have been clearly articulated and evaluated. In order to advance discussion in this area, I examine more fundamental issues about the nature of agency. In my view, the heart of what it is to exhibit intentional agency in the world is to identify with the relevant components of (...) practical reasoning from the first person perspective. Chapter one attempts to arrive at sufficient conditions for desire identification by examining the structure of instrumental practical reasoning. But it turns out that this story about identification cannot be told until we first have available a separate account of norm identification. The best way of developing this latter account is by understanding the phenomenon of first person volitional impossibility. With the resources in hand from the first two chapters, we can articulate sufficient conditions in chapter three for desire, norm, and action identification, as well as critically evaluate rival hierarchical views. Finally, chapter four is devoted to a preliminary consideration of our sense of our own wills as free. (shrink)
The primary goal of this essay is to clarify the concept of psychopathy and distinguish it from other, related, concepts. We contend that the paradigmatic trait of psychopathy is a propensity to violence that is accompanied by a lack of conscience. We also argue that conceptual clarity on this point is important for devising empirical criteria for identifying psychopaths. We also argue that a full theory of psychopathy will require one to utilize theories and assumptions that pertain to central issues (...) in meta-ethics. (shrink)
This paper develops an empirical argument that the rejection of moral objectivity leaves important features of moral judgment intact. In each of five reported experiments, a number of participants endorsed a nonobjectivist claim about a canonical moral violation. In four of these experiments, participants were also given a standard measure of moral judgment, the moral/conventional task. In all four studies, participants who respond as nonobjectivists about canonical moral violations still treat such violations in typical ways on the moral/conventional task. In (...) particular, participants who give moral nonobjectivist responses still draw a clear distinction between canonical moral and conventional violations. Thus there is some reason to think that many of the central characteristics of moral judgment are preserved in the absence of a commitment to moral objectivity. (shrink)
The principal aim of this essay is to explore aspects of the phenomenon of moral conversation at work in ascriptions of responsibility. A corollary aim will be to understand the variety of freedom we regard as foundational to ascriptions of responsibility. To ascribe responsibility to a person is to judge that the person is accountable for her behavior. Accountability demands that a person be a moral interlocutor; being a moral interlocutor requires that a person is alert to moral reasons in (...) favor of or against the behavior in question and requires that a person is a discursive partner. So understood, ascriptions of responsibility may be characterized as resting on some version of a contractualist theory of morality, where one mark of fitness for membership in the community of moral agents is an ability to adjust one’s behavior in keeping with norms that others could not reasonably reject. (shrink)
One of the most prevalent and influential assumptions in metaethics is that our conception of the relation between moral language and motivation provides strong support to internalism about moral judgments. In the present paper, I argue that this supposition is unfounded. Our responses to the type of thought experiments that internalists employ do not lend confirmation to this view to the extent they are assumed to do. In particular, they are as readily explained by an externalist view according to which (...) there is a pragmatic and standardized connection between moral utterances and motivation. The pragmatic account I propose states that a person’s utterance of a sentence according to which she ought to ϕ conveys two things: the sentence expresses, in virtue of its conventional meaning, the belief that she ought to ϕ, and her utterance carries a generalized conversational implicature to the effect that she is motivated to ϕ. This view also makes it possible to defend cognitivism against a well-known internalist argument. (shrink)
The main aim of this thesis is to defend moral realism. In chapter 1, I argue that moral realism is best understood as the view that (1) moral sentences have truth-value (cognitivism), (2) there are moral properties that make some moral sentences true (success-theory), and (3) moral properties are not reducible to non-moral properties (non-reductionism). Realism is contrasted with non-cognitivism, error-theory and reductionism, which, in brief, deny (1), (2) and (3), respectively. In the introductory chapter, it is also argued that (...) there are some prima facie reasons to assume that non-cognitivism and error-theory are erroneous. In chapters 2 and 3, I suggest that the two main forms of reductionism, analytic and synthetic reductionism, are mistaken. In chapter 4, I argue that the considerations in the previous chapters in relation to non-cognitivism, error-theory and reductionism provide support to moral realism. It is also suggested that these considerations make it plausible to hypothesise that moral properties depend on non-moral properties in a way I refer to as ‘the realist formula’. The realist formula confirms moral realism since it implies that moral properties are not reducible to non-moral properties. In chapters 5, 6 and 7, I argue that moral realism, much owing to the realist formula, is able to explain significant meta-ethical issues regarding moral disagreement, moral reason and moral motivation. Among other things, externalism concerning moral motivation is defended. The explanatory value of moral realism in relation to these meta-ethical issues is taken to suggest that this view is preferable to non-cognitivism, error-theory and reductionism. Some of the meta-ethical issues discussed in these chapters, particularly moral disagreement and motivation, have been thought to provide support to non-cognitivism and error-theory. I maintain that since realism, unlike reductionism, is able to counter these arguments, it justifies us in upholding the view that moral sentences have truth-value and the view that there are moral properties. In chapter 8, various objections against realism with regard to the dependence of moral properties on non-moral properties are responded to. In chapter 9, I consider an influential argument to the effect that moral properties are not involved in causal explanations. I maintain that this argument fails and that it therefore is reasonable to assume that moral properties are natural properties. However, the discussions in chapters 8 and 9 also suggest that moral realism might face problems that cannot be thoroughly discussed in this thesis. (shrink)
In the metaethical debate on moral internalism and externalism, appeal is constantly made to people’s intuitions about the connection between moral judgments and motivation. However, internalists and externalists disagree considerably about their content. In this paper, we present an empirical study of laymen’s intuitions about this connection. We found that they lend surprisingly little support to the most celebrated versions of internalism, which provide reasons to be skeptical of the evidential basis for these views.
In his book Moralna spoznaja Baccarini argues that, with respect to the individual reasoning about morality, the method of reflective equilibrium is the appropriate method of moral reasoning. The starting point of my argument is Baccarini’s refutation of Hare’s view. As I see it, one of Baccarini’s central arguments against Hare consists in claiming that Hare’s approach to the amoralist objection weakens the deductive model of moral reasoning. I argue that the amoralist objection also posses a threat to the method (...) of reflective equilibrium. At the end of the paper, I consider another view of moral reasoning which, in my view, is better suited to deal with the amoralist objection. (shrink)
The impact moral judgments have on our deliberations and actions seems to vary a great deal. Moral judgments play a large part in the lives of some people, who are apt not only to make them, but also to be guided by them in the sense that they tend to pursue what they judge to be of moral value, and shun what they judge to be of moral disvalue. But it seems unrealistic to claim that moral judgments play a pervasive (...) role in the lives of all or even most people. There are considerable variations in how strong a tendency people have to think in moral terms, and in how such thoughts affect their decisions and actions. For every moral hero who single- mindedly pursues moral values, there are thousands of less com- mitted people who only do so when it does not cost them too much in material comfort, personal relations, or social standing. And of course, what counts as too much varies from person to person. On top of such variations, there are those who consistently display mor- al indifference-people who concede, for example, that certain investment policies have morally problematic consequences, but who can readily and without compunction ignore that in their busi- ness decisions. There even seem to be moral subversives, people who intentionally and knowingly pursue what they acknourledge to be morally u~ong or bad, and do so for that very reason. (shrink)
In this paper, I challenge a well-known argument for the view that “Why be moral?” is a pseudo-question. I do so by refuting a component of that argument, a component that is not only crucial to the argument but important in its own right. That component concerns the status of moral reasons in replies to “Why be moral?”; consequently, this paper concerns reasons and rationality no less than it concerns morality. The work I devote to those topics shows not only (...) that the argument I address is unsound, but that the conclusion of that argument is false. “Why be moral?” is no pseudo-question. (shrink)
David Hume jest powszechnie uważany za prekursora metaetycznego nonkognitywizmu, a jego filozofia moralności jest traktowana jako klasyczny przykład motywacyjnego internalizmu. W artykule omawiam poglądy Hume'a na problem motywacji do działania moralnego odwołując się do cnót naturalnych i sztucznych. Dochodzę do wniosku, że choć Hume może być traktowany jako nonkognitywista, to jest to nonkognitywizm bardzo różny od współczesnych wersji tego stanowiska. Główna różnica polega na tym, że Hume nie uważał, by poczucie powinności z konieczności motywowało do działania.
Artykuł poświęcony jest omówieniu i krytyce stanowiska motywacyjnego internalizmu przekonań, które głosi, że przekonania moralne z konieczności motywują do działania. Teza ta odróżniona zostaje od innych stanowisk metaetycznych, które czasami także określa się jako "internalizm". Pokazany zostaje też związek powyższej tezy z ważnymi sporami metaetycznymi. Zasadnicza część artykułu poświęcona jest przedstawieniu pewnego typu argumentów odwołujących się do przypadków indyferentyzmu moralnego, które wymierzone są w tak rozumianą tezę internalizmu.