Moral Conviction

Journal of Applied Philosophy 28 (4):381-395 (2011)
Abstract
We often praise people who stand by their convictions in the face of adversity and practice what they preach. However, strong moral convictions can also motivate atrocious acts. Two significant questions here are (1) whether conviction itself — taken as a mode of belief — has any distinctive value, or whether all the value of conviction derives from its substantive content, and (2) how conviction can be made responsible in a way that mitigates the risks of falling into dogmatism, fanaticism, and other vices. In response to the first question, I suggest that conviction has instrumental value that derives from its relationship to integrity and courage. On the second question, I articulate the roles that reflection, discourse (engagement with others), and humility must play in the dialectical process of maintaining responsible convictions
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