This paper discusses the interrelations between three aspects of human emotions: their intentionality, their expressivity and their moral significance. It distinguishes three kinds of philosophical views of emotions: the cognitivist (classically held by the Stoics), the emotivist which reduces emotions to non-intentional bodily sensations and physiological states, and the moral phenomenologist, the latter being held by Annette Baier, whose work is the focus of the discussion. Her view, which represents an original development of ideas found in Descartes and Hume, avoids (...) the reductionism of congitivist and emotivist accounts. The paper gives special attention to her notion of 'deep' objects of emotions and to her account of the expressivity of emotions, arguing that while the first is problematic, the second is a significant contribution to our understanding of the role of emotions in our moral lives. (shrink)
In this paper, I use an example from the history of philosophy to show how independently defining each side of a pair of contrary predicates is apt to lead to contradiction. In the Euthyphro, piety is defined as that which is loved by some of the gods while impiety is defined as that which is hated by some of the gods. Socrates points out that since the gods harbor contrary sentiments, some things are both pious and impious. But “pious” and (...) “impious” are contrary predicates; they cannot simultaneously characterize the same thing. Euthyphro changes his definition, but the problem of recognizing emotional ambivalence is only side-stepped. I go on to show how contemporary philosophers run into a similar problem. According to Prinz, something is good if and only if we harbor positive sentiments towards it and bad if and only if we harbor negative sentiments towards it. Thus, if we are ambivalent towards something (if we harbor both positive and negative sentiments towards it), then it is both good and bad. Like “pious” and “impious”, “good” and “bad” are contraries. Next, according to the fitting-attitude theory first elaborated by Brentano and favored by contemporary meta-ethicists like Blackburn, Brandt, Ewing, Garcia, Gibbard, McDowell, and Wiggins, something is good if and only if it is a fitting (appropriate) object of approbation, and something is bad if and only if it is a fitting (appropriate) object of disapprobation. I argue that moral ambivalence is sometimes appropriate, i.e., that the correct response to some things is to both love and hate them. Hence, according to the fitting-attitudes theory, some things are both good and bad. I conclude by discussing a variety of ways in which the problem of ambivalence may be solved, suggesting that attitudes of approbation and disapprobation be further individuated by the reasons for them. (shrink)
So-called evolutionary error theorists, such as Michael Ruse and Richard Joyce, have argued that naturalistic accounts of the moral sentiments lead us to adopt an error theory approach to morality. Roughly, the argument is that an appreciation of the etiology of those sentiments undermines any reason to think that they track moral truth and, furthermore, undermines any reason to think that moral truth actually exists. I argue that this approach offers us a false dichotomy between error theory and some form (...) of moral realism. While accepting the presuppositions of the evolutionary error theorist, I argue that contract-based approaches to morality can be sensitive to those presuppositions while still vindicating morality. Invoking Stephen Darwall’s distinction between contractualism and contractarianism, I go on to offer an evolutionary-based contractarianism. (shrink)
Emotivist, or non-descriptivist metaethical theories hold that value-statements do not function by describing special value-facts, but are the mere expressions of naturalistically describable motivational states of (valuing) agents. Non-descriptivism has typically been combined with the claim that value-statements are non-cognitive: they are not the manifestations of genuine belief states. However, all the linguistic, logical and phenomenological evidence indicates that value-statements are cognitive. Non-descriptivism then has a problem. Horgan and Timmons propose to solve it by boldly combining a non-descriptivist thesis about (...) value with the claim that value-judgements are after all cognitive. Although possessing many attractive features, I argue that their framework fails to deliver the promised results; it suffers from a certain internal incoherence about the concept of content and mis-characterizes the descriptive/non-descriptive content distinction required by nondescriptivism. (shrink)
Empirical research paints a dismal portrayal of the role of reason in morality. It suggests that reason plays no substantive role in how we make moral judgments or are motivated to act on them. This paper explores how it is that an empirically oriented philosopher, committed to methodological naturalism, ought to respond to the skeptical challenge presented by this research. While many think taking this challenge seriously requires revising, sometimes dramatically, how we think about moral agency, this paper will defend (...) the opposite reaction. Contrary to what recent discussions lead us to expect, practical reason is not simply a philosophical fiction lacking empirical roots. Empirical research does not exclude the possibility that practical reason can play a substantive role; rather, there is evidence that it can help us both to determine our first personal moral judgments and to motivate us to act on them. (shrink)
The present essay offers a sketch of a philosophy of value, what I shall here refer to as ‘ethical instrumentalism.’ My primary aim is to say just what this view involves and what its commitments are. In the course of doing so, I find it necessary to distinguish this view from another with which it shares a common basis and which, in reference to its most influential proponent, I refer to as ‘Humeanism.’ A second, more general, aim is to make (...) plausible the idea that, given the common basis, ethical instrumentalism provides a more compelling picture of the philosophy of value than Humeanism does. (shrink)
Emotivists hold that moral opinions are wishes and desires, and that the function of moral language is to “express” such states. But if moral opinions were but wishes or desires, why would we see certain opinions as inconsistent with, or following from other opinions? And why should our reasoning include complex opinions such as the opinion that a person ought to be blamed only if he has done something wrong? Indeed, why would we think that anything is conditional on his (...) doing something wrong unless “doing something wrong” signifies a real kind of action? -/- Many have believed, and seemingly on good grounds, that these questions lack good answers, and that emotivism is doomed for that very reason. What I will argue, however, is that once emotivism is recognized for what it is, namely an empirical theory about the psychological nature of moral opinions, and once we relate it to a general theory of human reasoning, moral reasoning and intuitions of inconsistency and consequence are only to be expected. Recent objections to earlier emotivist or “expressivist” accounts can thus be met, and the phenomena of inconsistency and consequence fully embraced by emotivists. (shrink)
Simon Blackburn puts forward a compelling and original philosophy of human motivation and morality. Why do we behave as we do? Can we improve? Is our ethics at war with our passions, or is it an upshot of those passions? Blackburn seeks the answers to such questions in an exploration of the nature of moral emotions and the structures of human motivation. He develops a naturalistic ethics, which integrates our understanding of ethics with the rest of our understanding of the (...) world we live in. His theory does not debunk the ethical by reducing it to the non-ethical, and it banishes the spectres of scepticism and relativism that have haunted recent moral philosophy. Ruling Passions reveals how ethics can maintain its authority even though it is rooted in the very emotions and motivations that it exists to control. (shrink)
This paper explores the significance of Adam Smith's ideas for defending non-cognitivist theories of aesthetic appreciation of nature. Objections to non-cognitivism argue that the exercise of emotion and imagination in aesthetic judgement potentially sentimentalizes and trivializes nature. I argue that although directed at moral judgement, Smith's views also find a place in addressing this problem. First, sympathetic imagination may afford a deeper and more sensitive type of aesthetic engagement. Second, in taking up the position of the impartial spectator, aesthetic judgements (...) may originate in a type of self-regulated response where we stand outside ourselves to check those overly humanizing tendencies which might lead to a failure in appreciating nature as nature. (shrink)
This book is a penetrating study of the theory of mind and morality that Hume developed in his Treatise of Human Nature and other writings. Hume rejects any conception of moral beliefs and moral truths. He understands morality in terms of distinctive desires and other sentiments that arise through the correction of sympathy. Hume's theory presents a powerful challenge to recent cognitivist theories of moral judgement, Bricke argues, and suggests significant limitations to recent conventionalist and contractarian accounts of morality's content.
Adviser: Professor Stefan Baumrin In the first chapter I introduce the distinction between metaethics and normative ethics and argue that metaethics, properly conceived, is a part of cognitive science. For example, the debate between rationalism and sentimentalism can be informed by recent empirical work in psychology and the neurosciences. In the second chapter I argue that the traditional view that one’s theory of semantics determines what one’s theory of justification must be is mistaken. Though it has been the case that (...) there are ‘typical’ combinations of semantic and justificational theories this is by no means forced on one. In the third chapter I examine two current kinds of expressivism; that of Blackburn and Copp. Each gives us an example of different combinations of semantic and justificatory theory. In Blackburn’s case he combines a use theory of meaning with a classic emotivist theory of justification, In Copp’s case it is a neo-Gricean philosophy of language with a realist’s theory of justification. I find both of these wanting as they ultimately collapse into relativistic subjectivism. In the fourth and fifth chapter I turn to developing Emotive Realism. The basic idea behind this view is that when someone says ‘x is wrong/right’ that person has (a) expressed a moral emotion about x and at the same time (b) expressed the belief that the emotion in (a) is the correct one to have. The belief expressed in (b) will be true or false depending on one’s theory of justification. In the fourth chapter I argue that we need separate semantic theories for thoughts and sentences. In the fifth chapter I fill in the details of Emotive Realism as I see it. (shrink)
Mill’s aim in chapter 3 of Utilitarianism is to show that his revisionary moral theory can preserve the kind of authority typically and traditionally associated with moral demands. One of his main targets is the idea that if people come to believe that morality is rooted in human sentiment then they will feel less bound by moral obligation. Chapter 3 emphasizes two claims: (1) The main motivation to ethical action comes from feelings and not from beliefs and (2) Ethical feelings (...) are highly malleable. I provide a critical examination of Mill’s use of these claims to support his argument that Utilitarianism can preserve morality’s authority. I show how the two claims, intended to form a significant rebuttal to the worry about Utilitarianism, can in fact be combined to raise powerful skeptical concerns. I explain how Mill evades the skepticism, and why contemporary philosophers who lack Millian optimism about human nature find it harder to avoid the skeptical outcome. (shrink)
The idea that moral imperatives are categorical is commonly used to support internalist claims about moral judgment. I argue that the categorical quality of moral requirements shows at most that moral motivation need not flow from a background desire to be moral. It does not show that moral judgments can motivate by themselves, or that amoralism is impossible.
Jonathan Haidt ( 2001 ) advances the 'Social Intuitionist' account of moral judgment , which he presents as an alternative to rationalist accounts of moral judgment , hitherto dominant in psychology. Here I consider Haidt's anti-rationalism and the debate that it has provoked in moral psychology , as well as some anti-rationalist philosophical claims that Haidt and others have grounded in the empirical work of Haidt and his collaborators. I will argue that although the case for anti-rationalism in moral psychology (...) based on the work of Haidt and his collaborators is plausible , a decisive case has yet to be made. It will require further experimental evidence before a decisive case could be made. My assessment of anti-rationalist philosophical arguments that are grounded in the empirical work of Haidt and his collaborators is much more negative than this. I will argue that this body of empirical work is a very unpromising basis for such arguments. (shrink)
David Hume endorses three claims that are difficult to reconcile: (1) sympathy with those in distress is sufficient to produce compassion towards their plight, (2) adopting the general point of view often requires us to sympathize with the pain and suffering of distant strangers, but (3) our care and concern is limited to those in our close circle. Hume manages to resolve this tension, however, by distinguishing two types of sympathy. We feel compassion towards those around us because associative sympathy (...) causes us to mirror their pain and suffering, but our ability to enter into the afflictions of those remote from us involves cognitive sympathy and merely requires us to reflect upon how we would feel in their shoes. This hybrid theory of sympathy receives support from recent work on affective mirroring and cognitive pretense. Hume’s account should appeal to contemporary researchers, therefore, who are interested in the nature of moral imagination. (shrink)
Empirical research in the field of moral cognition is increasingly being used to draw conclusions in philosophical moral psychology, in particular regarding sentimentalist and rationalist accounts of moral judgment. This paper calls for a reassessment of both the empirical and philosophical conclusions being drawn from the moral cognition research. It is proposed that moral decision making is best understood as a species of Kahneman and Frederick's dual-process model of decision making. According to this model, emotional intuition-generating processes and reflective processes (...) operate in an integrated way in moral deliberation, and metacognition is assigned an essential role in the monitoring and shaping of moral intuitions. In combination with observations from philosophical moral psychology, this proposal cautions against endorsing simple sentimentalism or rejecting rationalist accounts on the basis of the moral cognition research. (shrink)
Examine it in all lights and see if you can find that matter of fact…which you call vice…The vice entirely escapes you, as long as you consider the object. You can never find it until you turn your reflection into your own breast, and find a sentiment of disapprobation, which arises in you, toward that action. (Hume, 1978, pp. 468-9).
This discussion explores the moral psychology and metaethics of Michael Slote's Moral Sentimentalism. I argue that his account of empathy has an important lacuna, because the sense in which an empathizer feels the same feeling that his target feels requires explanation, and the most promising candidates are unavailable to Slote. I then argue that the (highly original) theory of moral approval and disapproval that Slote develops in his book is implausible, both phenomenologically and for the role it accords to empathy. (...) Finally, I suggest that these problems in moral psychology undermine Slote's metaethical argument for identifying rightness and wrongness with agential warmth and coldness in action. (shrink)
“Sentiment” is a term of art, intended to refer to object-directed, irruptive states, that occur in relatively transient bouts involving positive or negative affect, and that typically involve a distinctive motivational profile. Not all the states normally called “emotions” are sentiments in the sense just characterized. And all the terms for sentiments are sometimes used in English to refer to longer lasting attitudes. But this discussion is concerned with boutish affective states, not standing attitudes. That poses some challenges that will (...) be my focus here. Rational sentimentalism is a cousin of fitting attitude theories of value, but other fitting attitude theories appeal to attitudes that are widely assumed to be governable by certain kinds of judgments. The basic challenge is this: are these boutish sentiments the sorts of things that we can and do regulate in the ways that are required for treating ‘shameful’, ‘funny’, ‘disgusting’ and the like as values? In what follows I briefly sketch some necessary conditions on treating something as a value, from which it emerges that treating sentimental values as values requires regulating the sentiments for fittingness. The rest of the paper is devoted to two ways of understanding how such regulation might work. I argue first that sentiments are susceptible to regulation by evaluative judgment, though perhaps not in quite the same way that philosophers have thought “judgment-sensitive attitudes” are regulated by judgment. I then suggest more tentatively that sentiments are also susceptible to regulation for fittingness in a different way: by educating sensibilities. (shrink)
‘Sentimentalism’ is an old-fashioned name for the philosophical suggestion that moral or evaluative concepts or properties depend somehow upon human sentiments. This general idea has proven attractive to a number of contemporary philosophers with little else in common. Yet most sentimentalists say very little about the nature of the sentiments to which they appeal, and many seem prepared to enlist almost any object-directed pleasant or unpleasant state of mind as a sentiment. Furthermore, because battles between sentimentalism and its rivals have (...) tended to be joined over large issues about realism and antirealism, or cognitivism and noncognitivism, some attractive reasons for adopting sentimentalism which are to some extent independent of these issues have been largely ignored in metaethical discussion. This paper aims to motivate sentimentalism, but also to circumscribe its ambitions by rendering explicit some tacit assumptions in moral psychology on which I think the most promising sentimentalism depends. I begin (in section one) by sketching the kind of sentimentalism that I want to defend. Then, in sections two and three, I articulate two positive arguments for a sentimentalist understanding of certain evaluative concepts. The arguments I consider have their origins in the writings of various other authors, I think, but neither they nor their consequences have been clearly articulated before. In section four, I explore just what the sentiments would have to be like in order to play the role required of them in the arguments I develop. I will suggest that these arguments supply a highly specific ‘job description’ for the states to which sentimentalism appeals. Hence, sentimentalists who want to use these arguments, or ones like them, cannot be as casual about what they mean by ‘sentiments’ as many have tended to be. I then investigate a category of ‘natural emotions’ that meets that job description rather nicely, and offer some reasons for doubting that more inclusive categories of.... (shrink)
In this paper, I present a general profile of individuals with psychopathy, autism, and acquired sociopathy as well as look specifically at the abilities of these individuals with respect to the moral domain. These individuals are individually and collectively interesting because of their significant affective and social impairments. I argue that none of these individuals should be considered full moral agents based on a proposed account of moral agency consisting of the following two necessary conditions: (1) the capacity for moral (...) judgment and (2) the capacity for moral motivation. Since each of these groups of individuals fails to satisfy the criteria in a different way, these arguments help to distinguish three primary ways in which emotion contributes to moral motivation. I conclude with a suggested general implication of this discussion for related debates in moral theory. (shrink)
Emotions can be the subject of moral judgments; they can also constitute the basis for moral judgments. The apparent circularity which arises if we accept both of these claims is the central topic of this paper: how can emotions be both judge and party in the moral court? The answer I offer regards all emotions as potentially relevant to ethics, rather than singling out a privileged set of moral emotions. It relies on taking a moderate position both on the question (...) of the naturalness of emotions and on that of their objectivity as revealers of value: emotions are neither simply natural nor socially constructed, and they apprehend objective values, but those values are multidimensional and relative to human realities. The axiological position I defend jettisons the usual foundations for ethical judgments, and grounds these judgments instead on a rationally informed reflective equilibrium of comprehensive emotional attitudes, tempered with a dose of irony. (shrink)