Klesis 27:118-154 (2013)

Nicolas Delon
New College of Florida
This article outlines a “descriptive animal ethics” based on the study of people’s intuitions about particular cases, in order to determine which moral theories best comport with those intuitions. I suggest that the latter need not be unreliable since they may be endorsed as considered judgments, and that even if they were, knowing them would still provide relevant information for a complete moral theory concerned with what moral agents can do. I describe a survey in descriptive ethics, discuss the results, and introduce prospective experiments. I then set forth hypotheses and propose a dual model of moral status attribution in terms of both intrinsic and extrinsic properties. I rely on recent empirical research in psychology and experimental philosophy, which I confront with the above results, to support my hypotheses. The model predicts that attributions vary depending on the capacities of entities, their context (including relationships), and the context of the attributor. These facts of descriptive ethics, I conclude, are directly relevant to normative ethics insofar as our cognitive apparatus constrains our ability to act morally. Moreover, they suggest ways to improve moral perception, education, and motivation.
Keywords animal ethics  experimental philosophy  moral psychology  intuition  moral status
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The Two Sources of Moral Standing.Justin Sytsma & Edouard Machery - 2012 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 3 (3):303-324.

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