The Phenomenology of Moral Normativity

Routledge (2011)
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Abstract

The topic of this book is a fundamental philosophical question: why should I be moral? Philosophers have long been concerned with the legitimacy of morality's claim on us, especially with morality's ostensible aim to motivate certain actions of all persons unconditionally. While the problem of moral normativity - that is, the justification of the binding force of moral claims - has received extensive treatment analytic moral theory, little attention has been paid to the potential contribution that phenomenology might make to this central debate in metaethics. -/- In The Phenomenology of Moral Normativity, William H. Smith takes up the question of morality's legitimacy anew, drawing contemporary moral philosophers, particularly Christine Korsgaard and Stephen Darwall, into conversation with present-day phenomenologists like John Drummond and the phenomenological philosophy of Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and Emmanuel Levinas. -/- The results of this juxtaposition are surprising: utilizing a two-part account of moral normativity, Smith contends that the ground of morality itself is second-personal, rooted in the ethical demand intrinsic to other persons, while the ground for particular moral-obligations is first-personal, rooted in the subject's avowal or endorsement of certain moral norms within a concrete historical situation. Thus, Smith argues that phenomenological analysis allows us to make sense of an idea that has long held intuitive appeal, but that modern moral philosophy has been unable to render satisfactorily, namely, that the normative source of valid moral claims is simply other persons and what we owe to them.

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William Smith
Rice University

Citations of this work

The Phenomenology of Moral Normativity.William Hosmer Smith - 2017 - Comparative and Continental Philosophy 9 (3):274-279.
Can Phenomenology Ground Moral Normativity?Matthew Rellihan - 2017 - Comparative and Continental Philosophy 9 (3):285-290.
A Brief Defense of the Third Person Perspective in Moral Philosophy.Therese Scarpelli Cory - 2017 - Comparative and Continental Philosophy 9 (3):279-283.

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