Moral Innocence as Illusion and Inability

Philosophia 43 (2):355-366 (2015)
Authors
Zachary J. Goldberg
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München
Abstract
The concept of moral innocence is frequently referenced in popular culture, ordinary language, literature, religious doctrine, and psychology. The morally innocent are often thought to be morally pure, incapable of wrongdoing, ignorant of morality, resistant to sin, or even saintly. In spite of, or perhaps because of this frequency of use the characterization of moral innocence continues to have varying connotations. As a result, the concept is often used without sufficient heed given to some of its most salient attributes, especially those germane to moral agency and the moral community. In this article I intend to identify these attributes and propose that moral innocence is best defined as an inability to enter the moral community as a result of a trust in moral illusions. The content of the illusions pertains to several factors including one’s role in the moral community, one’s ability to wrong or harm others, the intricacies of one’s moral interaction with others, and the corresponding manifold complexities tangled up with the concepts of good and evil. Maintaining these illusions impedes or even prohibits an appropriate exchange of praise and blame with others. As membership in the moral community requires precisely this ability to engage in such an exchange, moral illusions necessarily give rise to an inability to participate in the moral community
Keywords Moral innocence  Moral community  Moral illusion  Moral imagination  Moral agency  Responsibility
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DOI 10.1007/s11406-014-9580-4
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