A communicative conception of moral appraisal

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (3):267 - 278 (2007)
Abstract
I argue that our acts of moral appraisal should be communicative. Praise and blame should communicate, to the appraised, information about their status and competences as moral agents; that they are recognised by the appraiser as a competent moral agent, and thus a legitimate candidate for appraisal. I argue for this thesis by drawing on empirical data about factors that can affect motivation. On the basis of such data, I formulate a constraint, and argue that two prominent models of moral appraisal – a consequentialist model and Wallace’s ‘evaluative response’ model – violate this constraint. The model that I propose – the communicative conception of appraisal – does not violate this constraint. This conception, I argue, can provide a fuller picture of the role of appraisals in deepening agents’ commitment to moral norms. On this model, praise and blame has not only an evaluative component, but also communicates to the agent competence affirming information.
Keywords Blame  Consequentialism  Communicative  Empirical  Motivation  Moral psychology  Praise  Wallace
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