In a series of recent papers, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has developed a novel argument against moral intuitionism. I suggest a defense on behalf of the intuitionist against Sinnott-Armstrong’s objections. Rather than focus on the main premises of his argument, I instead examine the way in which Sinnott-Armstrong construes the intuitionistic position. I claim that Sinnott-Armstrong’s understanding of intuitionism is mistaken. In particular, I argue that Sinnott-Armstrong mischaracterizes non-inferentiality as it figures in intuitionism. To the extent that Sinnott-Armstrong’s account of intuitionism (...) has been adopted by others uncritically, intuitionists have cause for concern. I develop an alternative, and more accurate, reading of what is non-inferential about intuitionistic moralknowledge. In light of this alternative reading, certain elements of Sinnott-Armstrong’s case against intuitionism are significantly weakened. But perhaps more importantly, this paper helps clarify what circumspect intuitionists mean when they claim that some moralknowledge is non-inferential. (shrink)
A long-standing tenet of virtue theory is that moral virtue and knowledge are connected in some important way. Julia Driver attacks the traditional assumption that virtue requires knowledge. I argue that the examples of virtues of ignorance Driver offers are not compelling and that the idea that knowledge is required for virtue has been taken to be foundational for virtue theory for good reason. I propose that we understand modesty as involving three conditions: 1) having genuine (...) accomplishments, 2) being aware of the value of these accomplishments, and 3) having a disposition to refrain from putting forward one's accomplishments. When we understand modesty this way, we can properly identify genuine cases of modesty and see how modesty requires knowledge. Something similar can be said about other alleged virtues of ignorance. With the proposal in place, we have no serious reason to think that moral virtue requires ignorance. Additionally, we have good reasons for thinking that acting virtuously requires having good intentions and that a necessary condition of having a virtue is having knowledge. Although some might take these results to be trivial or obviously true, I think the Julia Driver's challenge should not be dismissed out of hand. Even though there are some reasons for thinking that some situations suggest that knowledge and virtue can be separated from one another, close analysis reveals this impression is only surface deep. (shrink)
In this paper I assess the viability of a particularist explanation of moralknowledge. First, I consider two arguments by Sean McKeever and Michael Ridge that purport to show that a generalist, principle-based explanation of practical wisdom—understood as the ability to acquire moralknowledge in a wide range of situations—is superior to a particularist, non-principle-based account. I contend that both arguments are unsuccessful. Then, I propose a particularist-friendly explanation of knowledge of particular moral facts. (...) I argue that when we are careful to keep separate the various explanatory tasks at hand we can see that a particularist-friendly explanation of the fact that (e.g.,) Jane knows that A is morally right might not be so difficult to come by. Moreover, I suggest that a particularist approach to explaining knowledge of particular moral facts may go some way towards discharging the challenge of moral scepticism. (shrink)
This long-awaited book is the first English-language edition of.Simon’s first book, Critique de la connaissance morale (1934). Not only does this work clarify the first stages of Simon’s intellectual career, it is also a major contribution to moral philosophy. A Critique of MoralKnowledge addresses fundamental issues. How does moralknowledge differ from other practical knowledge? What is the relationship between the moral sense, moral philosophy, and cognition in action? Is politics (...) class='Hi'>moral philosophy or simply a neutral technique? This elegant translation will be an important contribution to the conversation on philosophy, politics, religion, and ethics. (shrink)
The second-language teacher education community has become increasingly interested in the moral dimensions of teaching. Herein ELT practitioners? ?moralknowledge base?, as a window into their mental lives, has not received the attention it deserves. The present study was conducted to document likely differences between the frequencies of pedagogical and moral thought units of male and female, experienced and less experienced teachers, and to look deeply into participants? moral thought categories. Forty teachers participated in the (...) project. Data were collected through the use of stimulated recall protocol. The analyses of the data show that there are differences in the number of pedagogical and moral thoughts teachers recall. As to teachers? moralknowledge base, seven moral categories emerged with ?Teachers as Moral Agents? being the most frequently recalled category. Gender and experience were found to affect the order and the frequency of the thought categories teachers produced in different groups. The top thought categories for experienced and less experienced, female and male teachers were identified to be Student Problem, Teachers as Moral Agents, Student Problem and Student Manner respectively. (shrink)
This paper explores the generally overlooked relevance of an important contemporary debate in mainstream epistemology to philosophers working within ethics on questions concerning moralknowledge. It is argued that this debate, between internalists and externalists about the accessibility of epistemic justification, has the potential to be both significantly influenced by, and have a significant impact upon, the study of moralknowledge. The moral sphere provides a particular type of strong evidence in favour of externalism, and (...) mainstream epistemologists might benefit from paying attention to this fact. At the same time, the terrain of moral epistemology (approached as a sub-field of metaethics) needs to be reshaped by the realisation that externalists can steal the thunder of intuitionists when it comes to knowledge constituted by seemingly self-evident beliefs.1. (shrink)
On the face of it, some of our knowledge is of moral facts (for example, that this promise should not be broken in these circumstances), and some of it is of non-moral facts (for example, that the kettle has just boiled). But, some argue, there is reason to believe that we do not, after all, know any moral facts. For example, according to J. L. Mackie, if we had moralknowledge (‘‘if we were aware (...) of [objective values]’’), ‘‘it would have to be by some special faculty of moral perception or intuition, utterly different from our ordinary ways of knowing everything else’’(1977,p.38).But wehavenosuchspecialfaculty.So,wehavenomoralknowledge. Following Mackie, let us distinguish two questions: Q1: Assuming that we have moralknowledge, how do we have it? Q2: Do we in fact have any moralknowledge? In response to the first question, I argue that if we have moralknowledge, we have some of it in the same way we have knowledge of our immediate environment: by perception. Many people think that this answer leads to moral skepticism, because they think that we obviously cannot have moralknowledge by perception. But I will argue that this is incorrect. The plan for the paper is as follows. In Sections 2–4, I work up to my answer to Q1 by considering rivals. In Section 5, I explain what marks my answer to Q1 as a distinctive view, and defend it. In Section 6, I briefly discuss how this answer to Q1 affects what we say in response to Q2. (shrink)
This paper presents a theory of how perception provides a basis for moralknowledge. To do this, the paper sketches a theory of perception, explores the sense in which moral perception may deserve that name, and explains how certain moral properties may be perceptible. It does not presuppose a causal account of moral properties. If, however, they are not causal, how can we perceive, say, injustice? Can it be observable even if injustice is not a (...) causal property? The paper answers these and other questions by developing an account of how moral properties, even if not causal, can figure in perception in a way that grounds moralknowledge. (shrink)
According to some recent arguments, (Joyce in The evolution of morality, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2006; Ruse and Wilson in Conceptual issues in evolutionary biology, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1995; Street in Philos Studies 127: 109–166, 2006) if our moral beliefs are products of natural selection, then we do not have moralknowledge. In defense of this inference, its proponents argue that natural selection is a process that fails to track moral facts. In this paper, I argue that (...) our having moralknowledge is consistent with, (a) the hypothesis that our moral beliefs are products of natural selection, and (b) the claim (or a certain interpretation of the claim) that natural selection fails to track moral facts. I also argue that natural selection is a process that could track moral facts, albeit imperfectly. I do not argue that we do have moralknowledge. I argue instead that Darwinian considerations provide us with no reason to doubt that we do, and with some reasons to suppose that we might. (shrink)
The idea that intuition plays a basic role in moralknowledge and moral philosophy probably began in the eighteenth century. British philosophers such as Anthony Shaftsbury, Francis Hutcheson, Thomas Reid, and later David Hume talk about a “moral sense” that they place in John Locke’s theory of knowledge in terms of Lockean reflexive perceptions, while Richard Price seeks a faculty by which we obtain our ideas of (...) right and wrong. In the twentieth century intuitionism in moral philosophy was revived by the works of G. E. Moore, H. A. Prichard, and W. D. Ross. These philosophers reject Kantian deontological ethics and utilitarianism insisting that intuition is the only source of moralknowledge. Recently, there is a renewed interest in intuition by philosophers doing meta-philosophy by reflecting on what philosophers do, and why they disagree. In this essay we plan to take some of this recent literature on intuition and apply it to moral philosophy. We will proceed by (1) defining a conception of intuition, (2) answering some skeptical challenges, (3) delimiting its target, and (4) arguing that intuition is often a source of moralknowledge. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that John Locke's account of knowledge coupled with his commitments to moral ideas being voluntary constructions of our own minds and to divine voluntarism (moral rules are given by God according to his will) leads to a seriously flawed view of moralknowledge. After explicating Locke's view of moralknowledge, highlighting the specific problems that seem to arise from it, and suggesting some possible Lockean responses, I conclude that (...) the best Locke can do is give us a trivial account of moralknowledge which cannot avoid problems with subjectivity and relativism. (shrink)
Ethical naturalists interpret moralknowledge as analogous to scientific knowledge and not dependent on intuition. For their account to succeed, moral truths must explain observable phenomena, and these explanations (i) must be better than any explanations framed in non-moral terms, (ii) must not rely on ad hoc posits about the causal powers of moral properties, and (iii) must not presuppose the existence of an independent means of awareness of moral truths. No moral (...) explanations satisfy these criteria. (shrink)
This article raises a problem for Cornell varieties of moral realism. According to Cornell moral realists, we can know about moral facts just as we do the empirical facts of the natural sciences. If this is so, it would remove any special mystery that is supposed to attach to our knowledge of objective moral facts. After clarifying the ways in which moralknowledge is to be similar to scientific knowledge, I claim that (...) the analogy fails, but for little-noticed reasons. A preliminary conclusion of the article will be that this positive comparison to scientific knowledge hurts, rather than helps, the realist position. Yet, rather than spell trouble for moral realism altogether, I suggest that the apparent failure of Cornell realist moral epistemology points to a better way forward for moral realism. (shrink)
In this paper, I reveal systematic aspects of the moral epistemology of the Warring States Confucian, Mengzi. Mengzi thinks moralknowledge is 'internally' available to humans because it is acquired through normative dictates built into the human heart-mind (xin). Those dictates are capable of motivating and justifying an agent's normative categorizations. Such dictates are linked to Mengzi's conception of human nature (ren xing) as good. I then interpret Mengzi's difficult discussion of courage and qi in Mengzi 2A: (...) 2 as illuminating the idea of 'internal' justification. The epistemology of courage is intimately related in 2A: 2 to its practice. Finally, I indicate at the end in outline the ways in which Mengzi and Gaozi are engaged in a dispute about moral epistemology that pits each of them against Xunzi and also against Zhuangzi. (shrink)
Sarah McGrath has recently defended a disagreement-based argument for skepticism about moralknowledge. If sound, the argument shows that our beliefs about controversial moral issues do not amount to knowledge. In this paper, I argue that McGrath fails to establish her skeptical conclusion. I defend two main claims. First, the key premise of McGrath’s argument is inadequately supported. Second, there is good reason to think that this premise is false.
Philosophers since ancient times have pondered how we can know whether moral claims are true or false. The first half of the twentieth century witnessed widespread skepticism concerning the possibility of moralknowledge. Indeed, some argued that moral statements lacked cognitive content altogether, because they were not susceptible to empirical verification. The British philosopher A. J. Ayer contends that 'They are pure expressions of feeling and as such do not come under the category of truth and (...) falsehood. They are unverifiable ... because they do not express genuine propositions.' The second half of the twentieth century brought a revival of interest among philosophers in moral and political questions. Whether or not ethics can be founded upon a rational basis continues to preoccupy the philosophical community even now. (shrink)
I develop resources from Hume to account for moralknowledge in the qualified sense developed by Bernard Williams, according to which the proper application of thick ethical terms constitutes moralknowledge. By applying to moral discernment the criteria of the good aesthetic critic, as explained in Hume's “ Of the Standard of Taste ”, we can see how Humean moralknowledge might be possible. For each of these criteria, an analogous trait would contribute (...) to moral discernment. These traits would enable moral judges to distinguish valid from invalid uses of thick moral terms. The deliverances of such judgments constitute mitigated moralknowledge, as opposed to knowledge in the stricter sense that Hume clearly says cannot be had of moral distinctions. This account has the potential to explain how moral judgments may be valid or invalid without appealing to unique operations of the understanding and how moralknowledge might escape the threat, identified by Williams, of reflective destruction. (shrink)
This article begins with a refutation of a common argument for the view that we have no knowledge of objective moral facts. However, This refutation leaves open the possibility of second-Order moral skepticism, The view that we can never tell whether or not we have objective moralknowledge. Two ways of showing that there is such knowledge are then considered and it is argued that even if one is successful, This need not establish that (...) there is a single true morality. (shrink)
Certain critical accounts of conventional research practices in business and the social sciences are explored in this essay. These accounts derive from alternative social paradigms and their underlying assumptions about appropriate social inquiry and knowledge construction. Among these alternative social paradigms, metatheories, mindscapes, or worldviews are social constructionist, critical, feminist, and postmodern or poststructural thinking. Individuals with these assumptions and values for knowledge construction are increasingly challenging conventional scholarship in what has been referred to as paradigm debates or (...) wars. Issues of incommensurability or cross-paradigmatic communication potentials, as well as reflexivity, are raised in terms of moral education and development potentials for applied social science fields. Barriers and suggestions for increased moral development in academic and professional communities are discussed. In particular, moral forums in which participants have enhanced intrapersonal and interpersonal communication skills appear to be needed to surface and share often taken-for-granted assumptions concerning moralknowledge construction. (shrink)
This paper reconstructs what I take to be the central evolutionary debunking argument that underlies recent critiques of moral realism. The argument claims that given the extent of evolutionary influence on our moral faculties, and assuming the truth of moral realism, it would be a massive coincidence were our moral faculties reliable ones. Given this coincidence, any presumptive warrant enjoyed by our moral beliefs is defeated. So if moral realism is true, then we can (...) have no warranted moral beliefs, and hence no moralknowledge. In response, I first develop what is perhaps the most natural reply on behalf of realism namely, that many of our highly presumptively warranted moral beliefs are immune to evolutionary influence and so can be used to assess and eventually resuscitate the epistemic merits of those that have been subject to such influence. I then identify five distinct ways in which the charge of massive coincidence has been understood and defended. I argue that each interpretation is subject to serious worries. If I am right, these putative defeaters are themselves subject to defeat. Thus many of our moral beliefs continue to be highly warranted, even if moral realism is true. (shrink)
It is argued that a wrongheaded model of what a theory of knowledge must satisfy has engendered unjustified skepticism about knowledge and moralknowledge in particular. A contextualist conception of knowledge is sketched and defended and it is then argued that in terms of such an idea of what it is to know something the prospects for moral and political knowledge are significantly improved.
In MoralKnowledge? New Readings in Moral Epistemology, editors Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Mark Timmons bring together eleven specially commissioned essays by distinguished moral philosophers exploring the nature and possibility of moralknowledge. Each essay represents a major position within the exciting field of moral epistemology in which a proponent of the position presents and defends his or her view and locates it vis-a-vis competing views. The authors include established philosophers such as Peter Railton, (...) Robert Audi, Richard Brandt, and Simon Blackburn, as well as newer voices in the field. Topics covered include moral skepticism, moral truth, projectivism, contractarianism, coherentism, feminist views, quasi-realism, and pragmatism. The lively and clear selections do not presuppose specialized knowledge of philosophy, and the philosophical vocabulary used throughout the anthology is uniform, in order to facilitate understanding by those not familiar with the field. The first chapter includes a sustained critical discussion of the major views represented in the following chapters, thereby furnishing beginning students with appropriate background to understand the selections. The volume is further enhanced by an index and an extensive bibliography. An excellent text for undergraduate and graduate courses, MoralKnowledge provides the most up-to-date work on moralknowledge and justification. (shrink)
According to moral intuitionism, moral properties are objective, but our cognitions of them are not always based on premises. In this paper, I develop a novel version of moral intuitionism and argue that this new intuitionism is worthy of closer attention. The intuitionistic theory I propose, while inspired by the early twentieth-century intuitionism of W. D. Ross, avoids the alleged errors of his view. Furthermore, unlike Robert Audi's contemporary formulation of intuitionism, my theory has the resources to (...) account for the noninferential character of particular, as opposed to merely general, moral beliefs. I achieve this result by avoiding the appeal to self-evidence to explain the possibility of noninferential moralknowledge. (shrink)
Kant’s duty of self-knowledge demands that one know one’s heart—the quality of one’s will in relation to duty. Self-knowledge requires that an agent subvert feelings which fuel self-aggrandizing narratives and increase self-conceit; she must adopt the standpoint of the rational agent constrained by the requirements of reason in order to gain information about her moral constitution. This is not I argue, contra Nancy Sherman, in order to assess the moral goodness of her conduct. Insofar as sound (...)moral practice requires moral self-knowledge and moral self-knowledge requires a theoretical commitment to a conception of the moral self, sound moral agency is for Kant crucially tied to theory. Kant plausibly holds that self-knowledge is a protection against moral confusion and self-deception. I conclude that although his account relies too heavily on the awareness of moral law to explain its connection to moral development, it is insightful and important in Kantian ethics. (shrink)
Recent work in ethics and epistemology argues that physical surroundings have normative force. The ideas of 'grounding knowledge' and 'real ethics' provide an important way to understand sense of place. This paper uses this work to argue that there is a moral structure to material culture, and that the existence of this moral structure makes it necessary for us to pay attention to the epistemic import of the physical environments we create and live in. Since environments are (...) thick with moral norms, it is incumbent upon us to figure out what kinds of environments are most conducive to our shared visions of the good life. (shrink)
Kant’s duty of self-knowledge demands that one know one’s heart - the quality of one’s will in relation to duty. Self-knowledge requires that an agent subvert feelings which fuel self-aggrandizing narratives and increase self-conceit; she must adopt the standpoint of the rational agent constrained by the requirements of reason in order to gain information about her moral constitution. This is not I argue, contra Nancy Sherman, in order to assess the moral goodness of her conduct. Insofar (...) as sound moral practice requires moral self-knowledge and moral self-knowledge requires a theoretical commitment to a conception of the moral self, sound moral agency is for Kant crucially tied to theory. Kant plausibly holds that self-knowledge is a protection against moral confusion and self-deception. I conclude that although his account relies too heavily on the awareness of moral law to explain its connection to moral development, it is insightful and important in Kantian ethics. (shrink)
For non-analytic ethical naturalists, externalism about moral motivation is an attractive option: it allows naturalists to embrace a Humean theory of motivation while holding that moral properties are real, natural properties. However, Michael Smith has mounted an important objection to this view. Smith observes that virtuous agents must have non-derivative motivation to pursue specific ends that they believe to be morally right; he then argues that this externalist view ascribes to the virtuous agent only a direct de dicto (...) desire to do what is morally right, but not a direct motivation to be kind, help those in need, et. I first clarify this “fetishism objection”; I then show how the non-analytical naturalist can provide an understanding of virtuous motivation that is immune to this objection. (shrink)
Someone who knew everything about the world’s physical nature could, apparently, suffer from ignorance about various aspects of conscious experience. Someone who knew everything about the world’s physical and mental nature could, apparently, suffer from moral ignorance. Does it follow that there are ways the world is, over and above the way it is physically or psychophysically? This paper defends a negative answer, based on a distinction between knowing the fact that p and knowing that p. This distinction is (...) made intelligible by reference to criterial connections between the possession of moral or phenomenal knowledge, and the satisfaction of cognitively neutral conditions of desire and experiential history. The existence of such connections in the moral case makes for an efficient dissolution of the so-called moral problem. (shrink)
Philosophers have harbored doubts about the possibility of moral expertise since Plato. I argue that irrespective of whether moral experts exist, identifying who those experts are is insurmountable because of the credentials problem: Moral experts have no need to seek out others’ moral expertise, but moral non-experts lack sufficient knowledge to determine whether the advice provided by a putative moral expert in response to complex moral situations is correct and hence whether an (...) individual is a bone fide expert. Traditional accounts of moral expertise require that moral experts give reliably correct moral advice supported by adequate justification, an account which, I argue, is too lean in allowing for the possibility of a moral expert who is motivationally indifferent to her own moral judgments and advice. Yet even if the proposition that a moral expert is an individual who provides reliably correct moral advice supported by adequate justification and is necessarily motivated by that advice exhausts the necessary and sufficient conditions for moral expertise, this proposition cannot function as an applicable criterion for non-experts to use in appraising would-be experts’ claims to expertise. The credentials problem thus remains unanswered. (shrink)
Why have so many philosophers agonised over the possibility of valid arguments from factual premises to moral conclusions? I suggest that they have done so, because of worries over a sceptical argument that has as one of its premises, `All moralknowledge must be non-inferential, or, if inferential, based on valid arguments or strong inductive arguments from factual premises'. I argue that this premise is false.
This monograph provides a critical examination of autonomy in connection to moralknowledge. Drawing on Aristotle’s moral psychology, it is argued that moral judgments aim at knowledge; however, this does not undermine their action-guiding character.
Should we give moral standing to machines? In this paper, I explore the implications of a relational approach to moral standing for thinking about machines, in particular autonomous, intelligent robots. I show how my version of this approach, which focuses on moral relations and on the conditions of possibility of moral status ascription, provides a way to take critical distance from what I call the “standard” approach to thinking about moral status and moral standing, (...) which is based on properties. It does not only overcome epistemological problems with the standard approach, but can also explain how we think about, experience, and act towards machines—including the gap that sometimes occurs between reasoning and experience. I also articulate the non-Cartesian orientation of my “relational” research program and specify the way it contributes to a different paradigm in thinking about moral standing and moralknowledge. (shrink)
I consider here the issue of whether and to what extent moral truths are absolute. My aim is to raise some new considerations in favor of moral relativism: the thesis that some moral statements can vary in truth-value depending on the moral standards at issue.1 2 This paper has three major components. First, I describe a new puzzle concerning the possibility of moralknowledge in light of expert disagreement. I argue that the best solution (...) to this puzzle requires moral relativism. Second, I develop a notion of a moral standard that incorporates recent developments in moral psychology, including work by.. (shrink)
This article provides an elaborate defense of the thesis that we have no reason to think that sin has any direct effects upon our moral cognition. After a few methodological comments and conceptual distinctions, the author treats certain biblical passages on humans' evil hearts, the function of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis 2 and 3, Paul's comments on the moral situation of the Gentiles in Romans 2, and Paul's ideas on the (...) Gentiles' futility of mind as found in Ephesians 4. The most that can be concluded from these passages is that sin has not damaged human moral cognitive faculties to such an extent that they function insufficiently to hold people morally responsible. The author also argues that it is a consequence of sin that humans have knowledge by acquaintance of sin, and that it is only by divine revelation that humans recognize certain morally reprehensible acts, beliefs, and emotions as sinful. Finally, it is briefly argued that we have good reason to think that sin has certain indirect effects upon our moral cognition. (shrink)
Abstract Little is known about the family setting and the role of family education in a setting where ?intimacy and justice are intertwined? (Okin, 1989). Most intriguing is the unique moral and complex relationship between mother?in?law and daughter?in?law: what is the nature of these two women's failure to maintain harmony between themselves even though the literature suggests that they are predominantly care?orientated? The following paper questions whether there is a problematic relationship between Israeli mothers?in?law and their daughters?in?law. It further (...) attempts to examine whether there is an association between selected situational variables (work outside the home, years of marriage), personality variables (moral orientation, depressive mood and general life satisfaction) and the quality of the relationship between mothers?in?law and daughters?in?law. It seems that being cast in the role of the mother?in?law most probably overrides any other situational or personality variable. It created an ongoing asymmetry between the psychological experience of the mothers?in?law and the daughters?in?law, which is being discussed. (shrink)
In this essay, then, I would like to address what I believe are the most compelling epistemic arguments against the notion that literature (and art more broadly) can function as an instrument of education and a source of knowledge.
The aim of this paper is to assess the relationship between anti-physicalist arguments in the philosophy of mind and anti-naturalist arguments in metaethics, and to show how the literature on the mind-body problem can inform metaethics. Among the questions we will consider are: (1) whether a moral parallel of the knowledge argument can be constructed to create trouble for naturalists, (2) the relationship between such a "MoralKnowledge Argument" and the familiar Open Question Argument, and (3) (...) how naturalists can respond to the Moral Twin Earth argument. We will give particular attention to recent arguments in the philosophy of mind that aim to show that anti-physicalist arguments can be defused by acknowledging a distinctive kind of conceptual dualism between the phenomenal and the physical. This tactic for evading anti-physicalist arguments has come to be known as the Phenomenal Concept Strategy. We will propose a metaethical version of this strategy, which we shall call the `Moral Concept Strategy'. We suggest that the Moral Concept Strategy offers the most promising way out of these anti-naturalist arguments, though significant challenges remain. (shrink)
Is it ethical to deceive the individuals who participate in psychological experiments for methodological reasons? We argue against an absolute ban on the use of deception in psychological research. The potential benefits of many psychological experiments involving deception consist in allowing individuals and society to gain morally significant self-knowledge that they could not otherwise gain. Research participants gain individual self-knowledge which can help them improve their autonomous decision-making. The community gains collective self-knowledge that, once shared, can play (...) a role in shaping education, informing policies and in general creating a more efficient and just society. (shrink)
In this article I ask how moral relativism applies to the analysis of responsibility for mass crime. The focus is on the critical reading of two influential relativist attempts to offer a theoretically consistent response to the challenges imposed by extreme criminal practices. First, I explore Gilbert Harman’s analytical effort to conceptualize the reach of moral discourse. According to Harman, mass crime creates a contextually specific relationship to which moral judgments do not apply any more. Second, I (...) analyze the inability thesis, which claims that the agents of mass crime are not able to distinguish between right and wrong. Richard Arneson, Michael Zimmerman and Geoffrey Scarre do not deny the moral wrongness of crime. However, having introduced the claim of authenticity as a specific feature of the inability thesis, they maintain that killers are not responsible. I argue that these positions do not hold. The relativist failure to properly conceptualize responsibility for mass crime follows from the mistaken view of moral autonomy, which then leads to the erroneous explanation of the establishment, authority and justification of moral judgments. (shrink)
This book offers a unified collection of published and unpublished papers by Robert Audi, a renowned defender of the rationalist position in ethics. Taken together, the essays present a vigorous, broadly-based argument in moral epistemology and a related account of reasons for action and their bearing on moral justification and moral character. Part I details Audi's compelling moral epistemology while Part II offers a unique vision of ethical concepts and an account of moral explanation, as (...) well as a powerful model of moral realism. Part III extends this account of moral explanation to moral responsibility for both actions and character and to the relation between virtue and the actions that express it. Part IV elaborates a theory of reasons for action that locates them in relation to three of their traditionally major sources: desire, moral judgment, and value. Clear and illuminating, Audi's introduction outlines and interconnects the self-contained but cumulatively arranged essays. It also places them in relation to classical and contemporary literature, and directs readers to large segments of thematically connected material spread throughout the book. Audi ends with a powerfully synthetic final essay. (shrink)
This article examines the belief among the cultural elites that 'people' should be protected from dangerous knowledge, 'dangerous' in the sense that there are factual statements which may have negative moral and political consequences to society. Such a belief in the negative consequences of dangerous - that is, politically suspicious - knowledge represents an intellectual tradition that goes back to Plato and his famous state-utopian work Republic. This article analyses moral interpretations of statements regarding matters of (...) fact (so-called moral reading), and draws conclusions about the reasons why knowledge can be considered dangerous to 'the people' or to some specific groups in the population, such as children, mothers, students, the sick and dying and the working class. The so-called sociobiology debate, a controversy that started with the publication of the zoologist E.O. Wilson's Sociobiology in 1975, is discussed in this article as a 'case study' of dangerous knowledge. (shrink)
Most commonplace moral failure is not conditioned by evil intentions or the conscious desire to harm or humiliate others. It is more banal and ubiquitous – a form of moral stupidity that gives rise to rationalization, self-deception, failures of due moral consideration, and the evasion of responsibility. A kind of crude, perception-distorting self-absorption, moral stupidity is the cause of many moral missteps; moral development demands the development of self-knowledge as a way out of (...)moral stupidity. Only once aware of the presence or absence of particular desires and beliefs can an agent have authority over them or exercise responsibility for their absence. But what is the connection between self-knowledge and moral development? I argue that accounts (such as Kant's and Richard Moran's) which construe instances of self-knowledge as like the verdicts of a judge cannot explain its potential role in moral development, and claim that it must be conceived of in a way that makes possible a process of self-refinement and self-regulation. Making use of Buddhist moral psychology, I argue that when self-knowledge plays a role in moral development, it includes a quality of attention to one's experience best modeled as the work of the craftsperson, not as judge. (shrink)
Two ideas have dominated ethical thought since the time of Bentham and Kant. One is utilitarianism, the other is an idea of moral agency as self-governance. Utilitarianism says that morality must somehow subserve welfare, self-governance says that it must be graspable directly by individual moral insight. But these ideas seem to war with one another. Can we eliminate the apparent conflict by a careful review of what is plausible in the two ideas? In seeking an answer to this (...) question I examine (1) the implications of welfarism, (2) the nature of moral obligation (3) the nature of our moralknowledge. (shrink)
I seek to answer the question of whether publicly funded higher education ought to aim intrinsically to promote certain kinds of ‘‘blue-sky’’ knowledge, knowledge that is unlikely to result in ‘‘tangible’’ or ‘‘concrete’’ social benefits such as health, wealth and liberty. I approach this question in light of an African moral theory, which contrasts with dominant Western philosophies and has not yet been applied to pedagogical issues. According to this communitarian theory, grounded on salient sub-Saharan beliefs and (...) practices, actions are right insofar as they respect relationships in which people both share a way of life, or identify with one another, and care for others’ quality of life, or are in solidarity with each other. I argue that while considerations of identity and solidarity each provide some reason for a state university to pursue blue-sky knowledge as a final end, they do not provide conclusive reason for it to do so. I abstain from drawing any further conclusion about whether this provides reason to reject the Afro-communitarian moral theory or the intuition that blue-sky knowledge is a proper final end of public higher education. I do point out, however, that the dominant Western moral theories on the face of it do no better than the African one at accounting for this intuition. (shrink)
In Value and Context Alan Thomas articulates and defends the view that human beings do possess moral and political knowledge but it is historically and culturally contextual knowledge in ways that, say, mathematical or chemical knowledge is not. In his exposition of "cognitive contextualism" in ethics and politics he makes wide-ranging use of contemporary work in epistemology, moral philosophy, and political theory.