Contemporary comedy audiences are accused by some comedians of being too morally sensitive to appreciate humor. To get closer to an idea of what this means, I will first briefly present the argument over audience sensitivity as found in the non-philosophical literature. Second, I then turn to the philosophical literature and begin from the idea that “funny” is a response-dependent property. I present a criticism of this response-dependence account of “funny” based in the claim that funniness is not de- termined (...) by what normal audiences actually laugh at, but by what merits laughter. Third, I argue that excessive or deficient moral sensitivity distorts audience receptivity to humor. Fourth, I turn to candidates for ideally sensitive audiences. I conclude by returning to the particular cases of supposed oversensitivity or undersensitivity to jokes to see how we might judge them. (shrink)
Many people accept, at least implicitly, what I call the asymmetry claim: the view that moral realism is more defensible than aesthetic realism. This article challenges the asymmetry claim. I argue that it is surprisingly hard to find points of contrast between the two domains that could justify their very different treatment with respect to realism. I consider five potentially promising ways to do this, and I argue that all of them fail. If I am right, those who accept the (...) asymmetry claim have a significant burden of proof. (shrink)
Metaethical constructivism is the view that insofar as there are normative truths, they are not fixed by normative facts that are independent of what rational agents would agree to under some specified conditions of choice. The appeal of this view lies in the promise to explain how normative truths are objective and independent of our actual judgments, while also binding and authoritative for us. -/- Constructivism comes in several varieties, some of which claim a place within metaethics while others claim (...) no place within it at all. In fact, constructivism is sometimes defended as a normative theory about the justification of moral principles. Normative constructivism is the view that the moral principles we ought to accept are the ones that agents would agree to or endorse were they to engage in a hypothetical or idealized process of rational deliberation. -/- Metaethical constructivist theories aim to account for the nature of normative truths and practical reasons. They bear a problematic relation to traditional classifications of metaethical theories. In particular, there are disagreements about how to situate constructivism in the realism/antirealism debate. These disagreements are rooted in further differences about the definition of metaethics, the relation between normative and metaethical claims, and the purported methods pertinent and specific to metaethical inquiry. The question of how to classify metaethical constructivism will be addressed in what follows by focusing on the distinctive questions that constructivist theories have been designed to answer. Section 1 explains the origin and motivation of constructivism. Sections 2–4 examine the main varieties of metaethical constructivism. Section 5 illustrates related constructivist views, some of which are not proposed as metaethical accounts of all normative truths, but only of moral truths. Sections 6 and 7 review several debates about the problems, promise and prospects of metaethical constructivism. (shrink)
I argue that Schopenhauer’s views on the foundations of morality challenge the widely-held belief that moral realism requires cognitivism about moral judgments. Schopenhauer’s core metaethical view consists of two claims: that moral worth is attributed to actions based in compassion, and that compassion, in contrast to egoism, arises from deep metaphysical insight into the non-distinctness of beings. These claims, I argue, are sufficient for moral realism, but are compatible with either cognitivism or non-cognitivism. While Schopenhauer’s views of moral judgment are (...) not obviously consistent, I show how various passages suggest a form of non-cognitivism. This non-cognitivism, I claim, is compatible with moral realism. (shrink)
In this essay, I distinguish two different epistemological strategies an anti-realist might pursue in developing an "evolutionary debunking" of moral realism. Then I argue that a moral realist can resist both of these strategies by calling into question the epistemological presuppositions on which they rest. Nonetheless, I conclude that these arguments point to a legitimate source of dissatisfaction about many forms of moral realism. I conclude by discussing the way forward that these conclusions indicate.
This paper argues for a novel sentimentalist realist metaethical theory, according to which moral wrongness is analyzed in terms of the sentiments one has most reason to have. As opposed to standard sentimentalist views, the theory does not employ sentiments that are had in response to morally wrong action, but rather sentiments that antecedently dispose people to refrain from immoral behavior, specifically the sentiments of compassion and respect.
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that Francis Hutcheson’s moral sense theory offers a satisfactory account of moral perception. I introduce Hutcheson’s work in §1 and indicate why the existence of a sixth sense is not implausible. I provide a summary of Robert Cowan and Robert Audi’s respective theories of evaluative perception in §2, identifying three problematic objections: the Directness Objection to Cowan’s ethical perception and the aesthetic and perceptual model objections to Audi’s moral perception. §3 examines Hutcheson’s (...) moral sense theory, focusing on his discussion of benevolence, the desire for the happiness of others. I deal with the unresolved issues in Hutcheson’s account by recourse to Charles Darwin’s evolutionary perspective on the moral sense in §4, arguing for the moral sense as the second-order faculty for judging benevolence. I return, in §5, to the objections, showing that moral sense theory solves all three problems and therefore offers a satisfactory account of moral perception. (shrink)
This note explores how ideal subjectivism in metanormative theory can help solve two important problems for Fitting Attitude analyses of value. The wrong-kind-of-reason problem is that there may be sufficient reason for attitude Y even if the object is not Y-able. The many-kinds-of-fittingness problem is that the same attitude can be fitting in many ways. Ideal subjectivism addresses both by maintaining that an attitude is W-ly fitting if and only if endorsed by any W-ly ideal subject. A subject is W-ly (...) ideal when the most robust way of avoiding W-type practical problems is deferring to her endorsement. (shrink)
Sentimentalism comes in many varieties: explanatory sentimentalism, judgment sentimentalism, metaphysical sentimentalism, and epistemic sentimentalism. This encyclopedia entry gives an overview of the positions and main arguments pro and con.
In his Treatise of Human Nature Hume makes clear that it is his aim to make moral philosophy more scientific and properly grounded on experience and observation. The “experimental” approach to philosophy, Hume warns his readers, is “abstruse,” “abstract” and “speculative” in nature. It depends on careful and exact reasoning that foregoes the path of an “easy” philosophy, which relies on a more direct appeal to our passions and sentiments . Hume justifies this approach by way of an analogy concerning (...) the relevance of anatomy to painting. “The anatomist,” he says, “ought never to emulate the painter.” At the same time, the painter cannot afford to ignore the anatomist: An anatomist [...] is admirably fitted to give advice to a painter ... We must have an exact knowledge of the parts, their situation and connexion, before we can design with any elegance or correctness. And thus the most abstruse speculations concerning human nature, however cold and uninteresting, become subservient to practical morality; and may render this latter science more correct in its precepts, and more persuasive in its exhortations. As these remarks suggest, Hume’s anatomy of virtue is not without its own practical aims and objectives. It is advanced with a view to identifying and carefully delineating the true foundations of morality in human nature and correcting our practices in light of this. With this improvement in our understanding of the nature and basis of virtue, we can better appreciate the way in which virtue secures happiness for ourselves and others and may also avoid the distortions and corruptions of morality by religious superstition. (shrink)
This chapter sketches four forms of realism ascribed to four great historical figures that provide an important set of determinate versions of moral realism. Plato provides a picture according to which moral facts exist in a non-concrete realm of abstract universal properties. Aristotle provides a picture according to which moral facts exist as concrete facts in the world. Hume provides a picture according to which moral facts have their basis in universal human sentiments. Kant provides a picture according to which (...) moral facts are simply truths of universal reason. It is argued that the revolution in our understanding of metaphysical explanations that occurred between Aristotle and Hume has important consequences for realist views. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that moral projectivism cannot be coherently fix the content of our moral responses. To this purpose, I develop a number of arguments against moral dispositionalism and, in this context, I challenge both David Lewis' dispositionalist account of colour and Chistine Korsgaard's procedural realism.
Response-dispositional accounts of value defend a biconditional in which the possession of an evaluative property is said to covary with the disposition to cause a certain response. In contrast, a fitting-attitude account of the same property would claim that it is such as to merit or make fitting that same response. This paper argues that even for secondary qualities, response-dispositional accounts are inadequate; we need to import a normative notion such as appropriateness even into accounts of such descriptive properties as (...) redness. A preliminary conclusion is that the normativity that appears in fitting-attitude accounts of evaluative properties need not have anything to do with the evaluative nature of those properties. It may appear there because evaluative properties—or at least thosefor which fitting-attitude accounts are plausible—really are so much like secondary qualities that it might well be appropriate to think of them as a subclass of secondary qualities. In the second half of the paper I discuss the views of three of the philosophers who have been most influential in discussions of response-featuring accounts of evaluative notions and who explicitly distinguish response-dispositional accounts of value from fittingattitude accounts: John McDowell, Simon Blackburn, and Crispin Wright. I highlight some of the theoretical temptations that can be associated with the assumption that the response-dispositional/fitting-attitude distinction parallels the secondary quality/evaluative property distinction. (shrink)
Sensibility theorists such as John McDowell have argued that once we appreciate certain similarities between moral values and secondary qualities, a new meta-ethical position might emerge, one that avoids the alleged difficulties with moral intuitionism and non-cognitivism. The aim of this paper is to examine the meta-ethical prospects of this secondary-quality analogy. Of particular concern will be the extent to which McDowell’s comparison of values to secondary qualities supports a viewpoint unique from that of the moral intuitionist. Once we disentangle (...) the various metaphysical and epistemological strands of McDowell’s analogy, McDowell’s position might appear closer to moral intuitionism than initially supposed. This discussion will also help clarify the intended meaning of the secondary-quality analogy, as well as its significance for ethics more generally. (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)
I argue that Greene’s research, although fascinating for many reasons, doesn’t undermine deontological moral philosophy. This is because both sentimentalist and rationalist moral epistemologies, applied to deontological value, predict exactly the data Greene has found. My discussion proceeds in three steps. In the first section I summarize Greene’s brief against deontology. In the second section I draw on standard accounts of moral emotions to suggest that there are ‘deontological emotions’ made rational by appearances of ‘deontological value.’ Finally, I outline a (...) modest but realist intuitionist account of moral intuitions that connects deontological emotion to putative deontological value in a way that predicts Greene’s findings. (shrink)
_Arguing about Metaethics_ collects together some of the most exciting contemporary work in metaethics in one handy volume. In it, many of the most influential philosophers in the field discuss key questions in metaethics: Do moral properties exist? If they do, how do they fit into the world as science conceives it? If they don’t exist, then how should we understand moral thought and language? What is the relation between moral judgement and motivation? As well as these questions, this volume (...) discusses a wide range of issues including moral objectivity, truth and moral judgements, moral psychology, thick evaluative concepts and moral relativism. The editors provide lucid introductions to each of the eleven themed sections in which they show how the debate lies and outline the arguments of the papers. _Arguing about Metaethics_ is an ideal resource text for students at upper undergraduate or postgraduate level. (shrink)
This dissertation explores an analogy between moral properties and color. Some philosophers claim that moral properties and secondary qualities are similar: both kinds of property are essentially tied to human sensibility, and we seem confronted in our experiences of both kinds of property with something the existence of which is independent of those experiences. Such similarities suggest that the correct analysis of color concepts is a proper model for the correct analysis of moral properties. A particular understanding of this analogy (...) supports moral realism. ;First, we are justified in accepting Qualified Dispositionalism, or . According to , ascription of a color to an object is true in virtue of a disposition of that object to appear in an area of the visual field having a certain property. is a better match with the folk theory of color than is any other prominent philosophical theory of color. also accounts for certain scientific facts about color. Therefore, is true. ;Second, an analogous conception of moral properties is correct. According to the Dispositional Theory of Value or , an object possesses a certain moral property just in case it merits a certain motivational response in appropriately receptive beings. accounts for three essential features of ethical discourse and practice: values provide reasons for action, reasons for action motivate, and values motivate; the moral cannot be reduced to the non-moral; moral judgments have truth values. No other prominent metaethical theory accounts for all three features. Therefore, is true. ;Colors conceived as dispositions are objective since an object's possession of such a property is independent both of the existence of beings like us and of our knowledge of such properties. Realism regarding color is therefore correct. Because moral properties are also dispositional properties, moral properties are also objective. An object's possession of a moral property is independent both of our existence of beings like us and of our knowledge of such properties. Hence, realism regarding moral properties is also correct. (shrink)
Hartmann's axiology is intuitionist like that of Max Scheler and acknowledges ,like Scheler's a hierarchy of ideal values. The two also agree that the primary intuitive consciousness of axiotic traits is emotional. Values themselves are ideal entities entailing laws regarding what ought to be and what ought to be done. The requirements about what ought to be are more likely to come into prominence or exigence for the emotional sense of what is of value when real, temporal things are not (...) as they ought to be or when the way they ought to be is under threat. The human consciousness of time is able to enlarge the sense of what might be of positive value or of negative value, making possible that human beings function as agents, for it also gives rise to awareness of reliably repeatable sequences and of potential means for affecting the chances for such goods and evils. Agents have very limited but nevertheless creative and spontaneous ability to affect, to predetermine the course of events for better or for worse. With no such ability, with no power to predestine no temporal entity however automotive can be other than inert. Inertia, not immobility is spontaneity's opposite. It cannot be clearly conceived that a spontaneous and omnipotent entity, however sublime that may otherwise be thought, might co-exist with another spontaneous entity however severely limited. A moral agent whether a morally good or a morally evil one cannot be such a creature.Ni. (shrink)
Sensibility theory claims that, for any object x, x is good/right if and only if x is such as to make a certain sentiment appropriate. A realist position, sensibility theory claims conceptual and explanatory advantages over alternative metaethical theories. Sensibility theory, while revealing, presents a problem of its own: its central thesis involves an explanatory circularity. Here, a Mencius-Hume solution to that problem is offered.
We typically assume that the standard for what is beautiful lies in the eye of the beholder. Yet this is not the case when we consider morality; what we deem morally good is not usually a matter of opinion. Such thoughts push us toward being realists about moral properties, but a cogent theory of moral realism has long been an elusive philosophical goal. Paul Bloomfield here offers a rigorous defense of moral realism, developing an ontology for morality that models the (...) property of being morally good on the property of being physically healthy. The model is assembled systematically; it first presents the metaphysics of healthiness and goodness, then explains our epistemic access to properties such as these, adds a complementary analysis of the semantics and syntax of moral discourse, and finishes with a discussion of how we become motivated to act morally. Bloomfield closely attends to the traditional challenges facing moral realism, and the discussion nimbly ranges from modern medical theory to ancient theories of virtue, and from animal navigation to the nature of normativity. Maintaining a highly readable style throughout, Moral Reality yields one of the most compelling theories of moral realism to date and will appeal to philosophers working on issues in metaphysics or moral philosophy. (shrink)
The article begins by surveying defences of moral realism and noting the revival of an ontology of ‘moral properties’. Such a position tends either to invite accusations of espousing metaphysically ‘queer’ properties, or to fall back on a weak (e.g. externalist) version of moral realism. Norman attempts to find a way through these difficulties by exploring the idea of ‘moral vision’, suggesting that this is best understood not as the intuiting of special moral properties but as a matter of ‘seeing (...) patterns’ in our lives and experiences. Such an account of moral vision can explain how it can be both cognitive and action‐guiding. (shrink)
Many philosophers have thought that colours or flavours or values are in some way less objective than shape or mass or motion. This paper explores the approach to capturing this thought that is based on the idea of ‘ response-dependence ’. First, it is argued that the conceptions of response-dependence developed by Mark Johnston, Philip Pettit and Crispin Wright fail to capture this thought adequately. Then, the rest of the paper proposes an alternative conception, based in part on Kit Fine's (...) notion of " essence ", which looks more likely to succeed in capturing the thought adequately. (shrink)
Review of Nicholas Capaldi, Hume's Place in Moral Philosophy -/- In Hume’s Place in Moral Philosophy Professor Capaldi attempts “to construct a coherent account of Hume’s moral philosophy both with an eye to those issueswhich have persistently vexed his readers and commentators and with the intent of underscoring those novel and challenging aspects of his moral philosophy which ...remain unnoticed or unappreciated” (p.xi).Capaldi’s project falls into three distinct, but related, parts. First, he provides a “brief sketch of the intellectual milieu (...) in which Hume was writing”. Many of the misunderstandings of Hume’s philosophy, Capaldi suggests, “are largely the result of failing to see the specific issues and opponents Hume had in mind” (p. 28 - cp. p. 93). O n this matter Capaldi’s overall view is that Hume’s moral thought may be interpreted as an effort to incorporate “Hutcheson’s moral philosophy and teachings into a more fundamental framework which can only be described as Newtonian” (p.21). Throughout this work Capaldi is particularly at pains to emphasise Hume’s (supposed) antagonism to Hobbes’s “selfish system” of morals (e.g. pp. 5-9, 13, 23, 198-99, 209-10, 292, 298, 301). Second, Capaldi cites four “major issues within moral philosophy” which structure his own interpretation of various specific aspects of Hume’s moral thought. The four issues are: (i) the existence of a “moral domain”; (ii) the nature of our “access” to this domain; (iii) the relationship between “moral apprehension” and “moral motivation”; and, finally, (iv) the relationship between “moral motivation” and “non-moral motivation” (p. 2). It is largely within this framework that Capaldi discusses the familiar issues concerning moral obligation, moral judgement, sympathy, moral sentiment, and justice. Third, Capaldi’s principal concern in this study is to present an account or description of Hume’s ‘Copernican Revolution in Philosophy’. This “revolution" is described in terms of the shift from the ‘Ithink’ to the ‘WeDo’ perspective (see esp.pp.21-7 andCh. 8).This feature of Hume’s philosophical thought has, Capaldi claims, been insufficiently understood and this has resulted in both unnecessary misunderstanding and misplaced criticism of Hume’s moral thought.... (shrink)
J.L. Mackie insists that ordinary evaluative thought presents itself as a matter of sensitivity to aspects of the world. And this phenomenological thesis seems correct. When one or another variety of philosophical non-cognitivism claims to capture the truth about what the experience of value is like, or (in a familiar surrogate for phenomenology) about what we mean by our evaluative language, the claim is never based on careful attention to the lived character of evaluative thought or discourse. The idea is, (...) rather, that the very concept of the cognitive or factual rules out the possibility of an undiluted representation of how things are, enjoying, nevertheless, the internal relation to 'attitudes' or the will that would be needed to count as evaluative. On this view the phenomenology of value would involve a mere incoherence, if it were as Mackie says--a possibility that then tends (naturally enough) not to be so much as entertained. But, as Mackie sees, there is no satisfactory justification for supposing that the factual is, by definition, attitudinatively and motivationally neutral. This clears away the only obstacle to accepting his phenomenological claim; and the upshot is that non-cognitivism must offer to correct the phenomenology of value, rather than give an account of it. -/- In Machie's view the correction is called for. In this paper I want to suggest that he attributes an unmerited plausibility to this thesis, by giving a false picture of what one is committed to if one resists it. (shrink)