Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (2):489-510 (2021)

Authors
Nir Ben-Moshe
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Abstract
I build on Adam Smith’s account of the impartial spectator in The Theory of Moral Sentiments in order to offer a modest ideal observer theory of moral judgment that is adequate in the following sense: the account specifies the hypothetical conditions that guarantee the authoritativeness of an agent’s (or agents’) responses in constituting the standard in question, and, if an actual agent or an actual community of agents are not under those conditions, their responses are not authoritative in setting this standard. However, in the account that I provide, the hypothetical conditions can themselves be constructed from the psychology and interactions of actual human beings. In other words, facts about the morally appropriate and inappropriate are determined from hypothetical conditions that––while agents in a given society might have yet to attain them––can be constructed from those agents’ shared experiences. Thus, the account offers both an attainable standard of moral judgment and a standard that can transcend the biases of the society which gave rise to it. I also defend the account against three challenges: (a) ideal observer theories do not offer the right kind of motivation to act on the verdicts of the ideal observer; (b) ideal observer theories cannot explain why the idealization in question is well-motivated and not objectionably ad hoc; (c) the standard used in ideal observer theories cannot be defended upon further reflection, because we would need a non-arbitrary, second-order standard to govern our reflection on the first-order standard of moral judgment.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s)
DOI 10.1007/s10677-021-10187-3
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Theory of Moral Sentiments.Adam Smith - 1759 - Dover Publications.
Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
Moral Realism: A Defence.Russ Shafer-Landau - 2003 - Oxford University Press.
Internal and External Reasons.Bernard Williams - 1979 - In Ross Harrison (ed.), Rational Action. Cambridge University Press. pp. 101-113.
Dispositional Theories of Value.Michael Smith, David Lewis & Mark Johnston - 1989 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 63 (1):89-174.

View all 47 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Moral Sentiments of the Ideal Observer.Kurt Wesley Norlin - 1996 - Dissertation, University of California, Irvine
Was Smith A Moral Subjectivist?Kevin Quinn - 2019 - Economic Thought 8 (1):30.
Adam Smith: The Sympathetic Process and the Origin and Function of Conscience.Christel Fricke - 2013 - In Christopher J. Berry, Maria Pia Paganelli & Craig Smith (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Adam Smith. Oxford University Press. pp. 177.
Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic Ethic, and Adam Smith.Harold B. Jones - 2010 - Journal of Business Ethics 95 (1):89 - 96.
On the Practical Impossibility of Being Both Well-Informed and Impartial.Sveinung Sundfør Sivertsen - 2019 - Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics 12 (1):52-72.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2021-05-04

Total views
40 ( #267,964 of 2,448,084 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
40 ( #16,910 of 2,448,084 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes