Held's Experiential Method of Moral Inquiry: Some Questions

Public Affairs Quarterly 24 (3):209-228 (2010)

Marilyn Friedman
Washington University in St. Louis
Virginia Held, in How Terrorism Is Wrong: Morality and Political Violence, proposes a method by which moral theories can be "tested" by moral experience. Building on her previous work, she considers here how to utilize this method in the moral assessment of terrorism. Held's method is morally pluralistic; it encompasses a variety of moral theories and principles, including care ethics. Held's evolving account of how to test moral theories in terms of real-world moral experience remains an important and welcome contribution of hers to moral theory. Anyone who thinks rational intuition is not enough to determine which moral principles are justified, or who distrusts the moral "tests" that involve bizarre hypothetical examples devised by philosophers in armchairs, should consider Held's experiential moral method. If daily lived experience really matters to moral theorizing—and how could it not?—then we need an account of how to interpret our experiences morally, how to "test" moral judgments in terms of those experiences, and how best to revise our moral convictions in light of further experiences
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