Ethical phenomenology and metaethics

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 6 (3):241-264 (2003)
In recent times, comments have been made and arguments advanced in support of metaethical positions based on the phenomenology of ethical experience – in other words, the feel that accompanies our ethical experiences. In this paper I cast doubt on whether ethical phenomenology supports metaethical positions to any great extent and try to tease out what is involved in giving a phenomenological argument. I consider three such positions: independent moral realism (IMR), another type of moral realism – sensibility theory – and noncognitivism. Phenomenological arguments have been used in support of the first two positions, but my general claim is that ethical phenomenology supports no metaethical position over any other.I discuss two types of phenomenological argument that might be offered in support of different types of moral realism, although I couch my debate in terms of IMR. The first argument asserts that ethical properties are not experienced in the way that rivals to IMR say we experience them. Against this I claim that it is odd to think that one could experience ethical properties as any metaethical theory characterizes them. The second argument is more complicated: the general thought is that an adequate metaethical theory should not distort our ethical experience unduly. I consider one aspect of our ethical experience – that there is some ethical authority to which our judgements answer – in order to illustrate this idea. I discuss why IMRealists might think that this phenomenon supports their position. Against them I claim that other metaethical positions might be able to accommodate the phenomenon of ethical authority. Even if they cannot, then, secondly, I argue that there are other aspects of our ethical experience that sit more naturally with other metaethical positions. Hence, one cannot argue that ethical phenomenology as a whole supports one theory over any others.
Keywords ethical features  ethical phenomenology  feel  IMR  noncognitivism  sensibility theory
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DOI 10.1023/A:1026012823909
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Richard Joyce (2009). Is Moral Projectivism Empirically Tractable? Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 12 (1):53 - 75.

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