The Moral Psychology Handbook offers a comprehensive discussion of how the human mind influences, and is influenced by, human morality. Each chapter is a collaborative effort, covering major issues in moral psychology, written by leading researchers in both philosophy and psychology.
Work on representing women's voices in ethics has produced a vision of moral understanding profoundly subversive of the traditional philosophical conception of moral knowledge. 1 explicate this alternative moral “epistemology,” identify how it challenges the prevailing view, and indicate some of its resources for a liberatory feminist critique of philosophical ethics.
Current frameworks on ethical decision-making process have some limitations. This paper argues that the consideration of moral competencies, understood as moral virtues in the workplace, can enhance our understanding of why moral character contributes to ethical decision-making. After discussing the universal nature of four moral competencies (prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance), we analyse their influence on the various stages of the ethical decision-making process. We conclude by considering the managerial implications of our findings and proposing further research.
The Moral Psychology Handbook offers a survey of contemporary moral psychology, integrating evidence and argument from philosophy and the human sciences. The chapters cover major issues in moral psychology, including moral reasoning, character, moral emotion, positive psychology, moral rules, the neural correlates of ethical judgment, and the attribution of moral responsibility. Each chapter is a collaborative effort, written jointly by leading researchers in the field.
Moral Realism is a systematic defence of the idea that there are objective moral standards. Russ Shafer-Landau argues that there are moral principles that are true independently of what anyone, anywhere, happens to think of them. His central thesis, as well as the many novel supporting arguments used to defend it, will spark much controversy among those concerned with the foundations of ethics.
This book is a systematic and constructive treatment of a number of traditional issues at the foundation of ethics, the possibility and nature of moral knowledge, the relationship between the moral point of view and a scientific or naturalistic world view, the nature of moral value and obligation, and the role of morality in a person's rational life plan. In striking contrast to many traditional authors and to other recent writers in the field, David Brink offers an integrated defense (...) of the objectivity of ethics. (shrink)
To what extent are the subjects of our thoughts and talk real? This is the question of realism. In this book, Justin Clarke-Doane explores arguments for and against moral realism and mathematical realism, how they interact, and what they can tell us about areas of philosophical interest more generally. He argues that, contrary to widespread belief, our mathematical beliefs have no better claim to being self-evident or provable than our moral beliefs. Nor do our mathematical beliefs have better claim to (...) being empirically justified than our moral beliefs. It is also incorrect that reflection on the "genealogy" of our moral beliefs establishes a lack of parity between the cases. In general, if one is a moral antirealist on the basis of epistemological considerations, then one ought to be a mathematical antirealist as well. And, yet, Clarke-Doane shows that moral realism and mathematical realism do not stand or fall together -- and for a surprising reason. Moral questions, insofar as they are practical, are objective in a sense that mathematical questions are not. Moreover, the sense in which they are objective can be explained only by assuming practical anti-realism. One upshot of the discussion is that the concepts of realism and objectivity, which are widely identified, are actually in tension. Another is that the objective questions in the neighborhood of questions of logic, modality, grounding, and nature are practical questions too. Practical philosophy should, therefore, take center stage. (shrink)
Moral luck occurs when factors beyond an agent’s control positively affect how much praise or blame she deserves. Kinds of moral luck are differentiated by the source of lack of control such as the results of her actions, the circumstances in which she finds herself, and the way in which she is constituted. Many philosophers accept the existence of some of these kinds of moral luck but not others, because, in their view, the existence of only some of them would (...) make morality unfair. I, however, argue that this intermediary approach is unstable, because either morality is fair in ways that rule out resultant, circumstantial, and constitutive moral luck (and this leads to moral responsibility skepticism), or morality is unfair in ways that permit the existence of those kinds of moral luck. Thus, such intermediary approaches lack the motivation that their proponents have long taken them to have. In the appendix, I point to ways in which morality is unfair concerning the scope of moral responsibility, moral obligation, moral taint, being a good or bad person, and flourishing. (shrink)
Historical patterns of discrimination seem to present us with conflicts between what morality requires and what we epistemically ought to believe. I will argue that these cases lend support to the following nagging suspicion: that the epistemic standards governing belief are not independent of moral considerations. We can resolve these seeming conflicts by adopting a framework wherein standards of evidence for our beliefs to count as justified can shift according to the moral stakes. On this account, believing a paradigmatically (...) racist belief reflects a failure to not only attend to the epistemic risk of being wrong, but also a failure to attend to the distinctively moral risk of wronging others given what we believe. (shrink)
We can see a theft, hear a lie, and feel a stabbing. These are morally important perceptions. But are they also moral perceptions--distinctively moral responses? In this book, Robert Audi develops an original account of moral perceptions, shows how they figure in human experience, and argues that they provide moral knowledge. He offers a theory of perception as an informative representational relation to objects and events. He describes the experiential elements in perception, illustrates moral perception in relation to everyday observations, (...) and explains how moral perception justifies moral judgments and contributes to objectivity in ethics. -/- Moral perception does not occur in isolation. Intuition and emotion may facilitate it, influence it, and be elicited by it. Audi explores the nature and variety of intuitions and their relation to both moral perception and emotion, providing the broadest and most refined statement to date of his widely discussed intuitionist view in ethics. He also distinguishes several kinds of moral disagreement and assesses the challenge it poses for ethical objectivism. -/- Philosophically argued but interdisciplinary in scope and interest, Moral Perception advances our understanding of central problems in ethics, moral psychology, epistemology, and the theory of the emotions. (shrink)
Moral grandstanding is a pervasive feature of public discourse. Many of us can likely recognize that we have engaged in grandstanding at one time or another. While there is nothing new about the phenomenon of grandstanding, we think that it has not received the philosophical attention it deserves. In this essay, we provide an account of moral grandstanding as the use of public discourse for moral self-promotion. We then show that our account, with support from some standard theses of social (...) psychology, explains the characteristic ways that grandstanding is manifested in public moral discourse. We conclude by arguing that there are good reasons to think that moral grandstanding is typically morally bad and should be avoided. (shrink)
Every year in this country, some 10,000 college and university courses are taught in applied ethics. And many professional organizations now have their own codes of ethics. Yet social science has had little impact upon applied ethics. This book promises to change that trend by illustrating how social science can make a contribution to applied ethics. The text reports psychological studies relevant to applied ethics for many professionals, including accountants, college students and teachers, counselors, dentists, doctors, journalists, nurses, school teachers, (...) athletes, and veterinarians. Each chapter begins with the research base of the cognitive-developmental approach--especially linked to Kohlberg and Rest's Defining Issues Test. Finally, the book summarizes recent research on the following issues: * moral judgment scores within and between professions, * pre- and post-test evaluations of ethics education programs, * moral judgment and moral behavior, * models of professional ethicseducation, and * models for developing new assessment tools. Researchers in different professional fields investigate different questions, develop different research strategies, and report different findings. Typically researchers of one professional field are not aware of research in other fields. An important aim of the present book is to bring this diverse research together so that cross-fertilization can occur and ideas from one field can transfer to another. (shrink)
The fact of moral disagreement when conjoined with Conciliationism, an independently attractive view about the epistemic significance disagreement, seems to entail moral skepticism. This worries those who like Conciliationism, the independently attractive view, but dislike moral skepticism. Others, equally inclined against moral skepticism, think this is a reductio of Conciliationism. I argue that they are both wrong. There is no reductio and nothing to worry about.
Our project in this essay is to showcase nonnaturalistic moral realism’s resources for responding to metaphysical and epistemological objections by taking the view in some new directions. The central thesis we will argue for is that there is a battery of substantive moral propositions that are also nonnaturalistic conceptual truths. We call these propositions the moral fixed points. We will argue that they must find a place in any system of moral norms that applies to beings like us, in worlds (...) similar to our own. By committing themselves to true propositions of these sorts, nonnaturalists can fashion a view that is highly attractive in its own right, and resistant to the most prominent objections that have been pressed against it. (shrink)
This paper identifies human enhancement as one of the most significant areas of bioethical interest in the last twenty years. It discusses in more detail one area, namely moral enhancement, which is generating significant contemporary interest. The author argues that so far from being susceptible to new forms of high tech manipulation, either genetic, chemical, surgical or neurological, the only reliable methods of moral enhancement, either now or for the foreseeable future, are either those that have been in human and (...) animal use for millennia, namely socialization, education and parental supervision or those high tech methods that are general in their application. By that is meant those forms of cognitive enhancement that operate across a wide range of cognitive abilities and do not target specifically ‘ethical’ capacities. The paper analyses the work of some of the leading contemporary advocates of moral enhancement and finds that in so far as they identify moral qualities or moral emotions for enhancement they have little prospect of success. (shrink)
In this major new work, Matthew Kramer seeks to establish two main conclusions. On the one hand, moral requirements are strongly objective. On the other hand, the objectivity of ethics is itself an ethical matter that rests primarily on ethical considerations. Moral realism - the doctrine that morality is indeed objective - is a moral doctrine. Major new volume in our new series _New Directions in Ethics_ Takes on the big picture - defending the objectivity of ethics whilst rejecting (...) the grounds of much of the existing debate between realists and anti-realists Cuts across both ethical theory and metaethics Distinguished by the quality of the scholarship and its ambitious range. (shrink)
P.F. Strawson’s (1962) “Freedom and Resentment” has provoked a wide range of responses, both positive and negative, and an equally wide range of interpretations. In particular, beginning with Gary Watson, some have seen Strawson as suggesting a point about the “order of explanation” concerning moral responsibility: it is not that it is appropriate to hold agents responsible because they are morally responsible, rather, it is ... well, something else. Such claims are often developed in different ways, but one thing remains (...) constant: they meant to be incompatible with libertarian theories of moral responsibility. The overarching theme of this paper is that extant developments of “the reversal” face a dilemma: in order to make the proposals plausibly anti-libertarian, they must be made to be implausible on other grounds. I canvas different attempts to articulate a “Strawsonian reversal”, and argue that none is fit for the purposes for which it is intended. I conclude by suggesting a way of clarifying the intended thesis: an analogy with the concept of funniness. The result: proponents of the “reversal” need to accept the difficult result that if we blamed small children, they would be blameworthy, or instead explain how their view escapes this result, while still being a view on which our blaming practices “fix the facts” of moral responsibility. (shrink)
To have moral worth an action not only needs to conform to the correct normative theory ; it also needs to be motivated in the right way. I argue that morally worthy actions are motivated by the rightness of the action; they are motivated by an agent's concern for doing what's right and her knowledge that her action is morally right. Call this the Rightness Condition. On the Rightness Condition moral motivation involves both a conative and a cognitive element—in particular, (...) it involves moral knowledge. I argue that the Rightness Condition is both necessary and sufficient for moral worth. I also argue that the Rightness Condition gives us an attractive account of actions performed under imperfect epistemic circumstances: by agents who rely on moral testimony or by those who, like Huckleberry Finn, have false moral convictions. (shrink)
This book criticizes the common belief that we are entitled to exploit animals for our benefit because they are not as rational as people. After discussing the moral (in)significance of reason in general, the author proceeds to develop a clear, commonsensical conception of what "animal rights" is about and why everyday morality points toward the liberation of animals as the next logical step in Western moral progress. The book evaluates criticisms of animal rights that have appeared in recent philosophical (...) literature and explains the consequences of animal liberation for our diet, science, and treatment of the environment.The issue of animal rights has become of increasing philosophical and popular importance over the past decade. Morals. Reason, and Animals is the first extensive, second-generation contribution to this debate. Focusing exclusively on the fundamental philosophical issues, Sapontzis both undermines the arguments that have been raised against animal rights and constructs a rebuttal that avoids the pitfalls encountered by earlier defenses. Author note: S. F. Sapontzis is Professor of Philosophy at California State University, Hayward. (shrink)
In fact, it requires two major social institutions--morality and government--working in a coordinated fashion to do so. This is one of the main themes of Hobbes's philosophy that will be developed in this book.
Moral Failure: On the Impossible Demands of Morality asks what happens when the sense that "I must" collides with the realization that "I can't." Bringing together philosophical and empirical work in moral psychology, Lisa Tessman here examines moral requirements that are non-negotiable and that contravene the principle that "ought implies can.".
Moral understanding is a valuable epistemic and moral good. I argue that moral understanding is the ability to know right from wrong. I defend the account against challenges from nonreductionists, such as Alison Hills, who argue that moral understanding is distinct from moral knowledge. Moral understanding, she suggests, is constituted by a set of abilities: to give and follow moral explanations and to draw moral conclusions. I argue that Hills’s account rests on too narrow a conception of moral understanding. Among (...) other things, it cannot account for the importance of first-personal experience for achieving moral understanding. (shrink)
This book provides a rich, systematic, and accessible introduction to moral psychology, aimed at undergraduate philosophy and psychology majors. There are eight chapters, in addition to a short introduction, prospective conclusion, and extensive bibliography. The recipe for each chapter will be: a) to introduce a philosophical topic (e.g., altruism, virtue, preferences, rules) and some prominent positions on it, without assuming prior acquaintance on the part of the reader b) to canvass and explain the relevance of a particular domain of empirical (...) inquiry (e.g., evolutionary psychology, behavioral economics, neuroscience) to the topic c) to argue for some tentative conclusions about the topic d) to suggest further avenues for conceptual and empirical research The guiding theme of the book is that moral philosophy without psychological content is empty, whereas psychological investigation without philosophical insight is blind. Thus, I advocate a holistic approach that pictures moral psychology as a project of collaborative inquiry into the descriptive and normative aspects of the human condition. Ideally, students will come away from (a course built around) the book with the sense that, though philosophy may not be the queen of the sciences, its role is not merely to interpret scientific results. (shrink)
How is feminism changing the way women and men think, feel, and act? Virginia Held explores how feminist theory is changing contemporary views of moral choice. She proposes a comprehensive philosophy of feminist ethics, arguing persuasively for reconceptualizations of the self of relations between the self and others and of images of birth and death, nurturing and violence. Held shows how social, political, and cultural institutions have traditionally been founded upon masculine ideals of morality. She then identifies a distinct (...) feminist morality that moves beyond culturally embedded notions about motherhood and female emotionality. Examining the effects of this alternative moral and ethical system on changing social values, Held discusses its far-reaching implications for altering standards of freedom, democracy, equality, and personal development. Ultimately, she concludes, the culture of feminism could provide a fresh perspective on--even solutions to--contemporary social problems. Feminist Morality makes a vital contribution to the ongoing debate in feminist theory on the importance of motherhood. For philosophers and other readers outside feminist theory, it offers a feminist moral and social critique in clear and accessible terms. (shrink)
We respond to a number of objections raised by John Harris in this journal to our argument that we should pursue genetic and other biological means of morally enhancing human beings (moral bioenhancement). We claim that human beings now have at their disposal means of wiping out life on Earth and that traditional methods of moral education are probably insufficient to achieve the moral enhancement required to ensure that this will not happen. Hence, we argue, moral bioenhancement should be sought (...) and applied. We argue that cognitive enhancement and technological progress raise acute problems because it is easier to harm than to benefit. We address objections to this argument. We also respond to objections that moral bioenhancement: (1) interferes with freedom; (2) cannot be made to target immoral dispositions precisely; (3) is redundant, since cognitive enhancement by itself suffices. (shrink)
In Against Moral Responsibility, Bruce Waller launches a spirited attack on a system that is profoundly entrenched in our society and its institutions, deeply rooted in our emotions, and vigorously defended by philosophers from ancient times to the present. Waller argues that, despite the creative defenses of it by contemporary thinkers, moral responsibility cannot survive in our naturalistic-scientific system. The scientific understanding of human behavior and the causes that shape human character, he contends, leaves no room for moral responsibility. Waller (...) argues that moral responsibility in all its forms--including criminal justice, distributive justice, and all claims of just deserts--is fundamentally unfair and harmful and that its abolition will be liberating and beneficial. What we really want--natural human free will, moral judgments, meaningful human relationships, creative abilities--would survive and flourish without moral responsibility. In the course of his argument, Waller examines the origins of the basic belief in moral responsibility, proposes a naturalistic understanding of free will, offers a detailed argument against moral responsibility and critiques arguments in favor of it, gives a general account of what a world without moral responsibility would look like, and examines the social and psychological aspects of abolishing moral responsibility. Waller not only mounts a vigorous, and philosophically rigorous, attack on the moral responsibility system, but also celebrates the benefits that would result from its total abolition. (shrink)
Are there objective moral truths, i.e. things that are morally right, wrong, good, or bad independently of what anybody thinks about them? To answer this question more and more scholars have recently turned to evidence from psychology, neuroscience, cultural anthropology, and evolutionary biology. This book investigates this novel scientific approach in a comprehensive, empirically-focused, and partly meta-theoretical way. It suggests that while it is possible for the empirical sciences to contribute to the moral realism/anti-realism debate, most arguments that have so (...) far been proposed fail (because they misrepresent, cherry-pick, or overlook the invalidity of (parts of) the available scientific evidence). The book’s main chapters address five prominent science-based arguments for or against the existence of objective moral truths: the argument from moral disagreement, the evolutionary debunking argument, the sentimentalist argument, the presumptive argument, and the projectivist argument. Thomas Pölzler investigates in which sense the underlying empirical hypotheses would have to be true in order for these arguments to work, and then shows how the available scientific evidence fails to support them. Finally, he makes suggestions as to how to test these hypotheses in a more valid way. Moral Reality and the Empirical Sciences is an important contribution to the moral realism/anti-realism debate that will appeal to philosophers and scientists interested in moral psychology and metaethics. (shrink)
There is a long tradition comparing moral knowledge to mathematical knowledge. In this paper, I discuss apparent similarities and differences between knowledge in the two areas, realistically conceived. I argue that many of these are only apparent, while others are less philosophically significant than might be thought. The picture that emerges is surprising. There are definitely differences between epistemological arguments in the two areas. However, these differences, if anything, increase the plausibility of moral realism as compared to mathematical realism. It (...) is hard to see how one might argue, on epistemological grounds, for moral antirealism while maintaining commitment to mathematical realism. But it may be possible to do the opposite. (shrink)
According to moral intuitionism, at least some moral seeming states are justification-conferring. The primary defense of this view currently comes from advocates of the standard account, who take the justification-conferring power of a moral seeming to be determined by its phenomenological credentials alone. However, the standard account is vulnerable to a problem. In brief, the standard account implies that moral knowledge is seriously undermined by those commonplace moral disagreements in which both agents have equally good phenomenological credentials supporting their disputed (...) moral beliefs. However, it is implausible to think that commonplace disagreement seriously undermines moral knowledge, and thus it is implausible to think that the standard account of moral intuitionism is true. (shrink)
In this paper I defend what I call the argument from epistemic reasons against the moral error theory. I argue that the moral error theory entails that there are no epistemic reasons for belief and that this is bad news for the moral error theory since, if there are no epistemic reasons for belief, no one knows anything. If no one knows anything, then no one knows that there is thought when they are thinking, and no one knows that they (...) do not know everything. And it could not be the case that we do not know that there is thought when we believe that there is thought and that we do not know that we do not know everything. I address several objections to the claim that the moral error theory entails that there are no epistemic reasons for belief. It might seem that arguing against the error theory on the grounds that it entails that no one knows anything is just providing a Moorean argument against the moral error theory. I show that even if my argument against the error theory is indeed a Moorean one, it avoids Streumer's, McPherson's and Olson's objections to previous Moorean arguments against the error theory and is a more powerful argument against the error theory than Moore's argument against external world skepticism is against external world skepticism. (shrink)
This book develops a novel multilevel social contract theory that, in contrast to existing theories in the liberal tradition, does not merely assume a restricted form of reasonable moral pluralism, but is tailored to the conditions of deeply morally pluralistic societies which may be populated by liberal moral agents, nonliberal moral agents, and, according to the traditional understanding of morality, nonmoral agents alike. The book draws on the history of the social contract tradition, especially the work of Hobbes, Hume, (...) Kant, Rawls, and Gauthier, as well as on the work of some of the critics of this tradition, such as Sen and Gaus. The two-level contractarian theory holds that morality in its best contractarian version for the conditions of deeply morally pluralistic societies entails Humean, Hobbesian, and Kantian moral properties. The theory defines the minimal behavioral restrictions that are necessary to ensure, compared to violent conflict resolution, mutually beneficial peaceful long-term cooperation in deeply morally pluralistic societies. The theory minimizes the problem of compliance for morally diverse societies by maximally respecting the interests of all members of society. Despite its ideal nature, the theory is, in principle, applicable to the real world and, for the conditions described, most promising for securing mutually beneficial peaceful long-term cooperation in a world in which a fully just society, due to moral diversity, is unattainable. If Rawls’ intention was to carry the traditional social contract argument to a higher level of abstraction, then the two-level contractarian theory brings it back down to earth. (shrink)
We report the results of two studies that examine folk metaethical judgments about the objectivity of morality. We found that participants attributed almost as much objectivity to ethical statements as they did to statements of physical fact and significantly more objectivity to ethical statements than to statements about preferences or tastes. In both studies, younger participants attributed less objectivity to ethical statements than older participants. Females were observed to attribute slightly less objectivity to ethical statements than males, and we (...) found important interactions between attributions of objectivity and other factors, such as how strong participants’ moral opinions were and how much disagreement about the issue they perceived to exist within society. We believe our results have significant implications for debates about the nature of folk morality and about the nature of morality in general. (shrink)
According to the view that there is moral encroachment in epistemology, whether a person has knowledge of p sometimes depends on moral considerations, including moral considerations that do not bear on the truth or likelihood of p. Defenders of moral encroachment face a central challenge: they must explain why the moral considerations they cite, unlike moral bribes for belief, are reasons of the right kind for belief (or withheld belief). This paper distinguishes between a moderate and a radical version of (...) moral encroachment. It shows that, while defenders of moderate moral encroachment are well-placed to meet the central challenge, defenders of radical moral encroachment are not. The problem for radical moral encroachment is that it cannot, without taking on unacceptable costs, forge the right sort of connection between the moral badness of a belief and that belief’s chance of being false. (shrink)
We are often uncertain how to behave morally in complex situations. In this controversial study, Ted Lockhart contends that moral philosophy has failed to address how we make such moral decisions. Adapting decision theory to the task of decision-making under moral uncertainly, he proposes that we should not always act how we feel we ought to act, and that sometimes we should act against what we feel to be morally right. Lockhart also discusses abortion extensively and proposes new ways to (...) deal with the ethical and moral issues which surround it. (shrink)
I argue that wrongdoers may be open to moral blame even if they lacked the capacity to respond to the moral considerations that counted against their behavior. My initial argument turns on the suggestion that even an agent who cannot respond to specific moral considerations may still guide her behavior by her judgments about reasons. I argue that this explanation of a wrongdoer’s behavior can qualify her for blame even if her capacity for moral understanding is impaired. A second argument (...) is based on the observation that even when a blameworthy wrongdoer could have responded to moral considerations, this is often not relevant to her blameworthiness. Finally, I argue against the view that because blame communicates moral demands, only agents who can be reached by such communication are properly blamed. I contend that a person victimized by a wrongdoer with an impaired capacity for moral understanding may protest her victimization in a way that counts as a form of moral blame even though it does not primarily express a moral demand or attempt to initiate moral dialogue. (shrink)
Some argue that humans should enhance their moral capacities by adopting institutions that facilitate morally good motives and behaviour. I have defended a parallel claim: that we could permissibly use biomedical technologies to enhance our moral capacities, for example by attenuating certain counter-moral emotions. John Harris has recently responded to my argument by raising three concerns about the direct modulation of emotions as a means to moral enhancement. He argues that such means will be relatively ineffective in bringing about moral (...) improvements, that direct modulation of emotions would invariably come at an unacceptable cost to our freedom, and that we might end up modulating emotions in ways that actually lead to moral decline. In this article I outline some counter-intuitive potential implications of Harris' claims. I then respond individually to his three concerns, arguing that they license only the very weak conclusion that moral enhancement via direct emotion modulation is sometimes impermissible. However I acknowledge that his third concern might, with further argument, be developed into a more troubling objection to such enhancements. (shrink)
It might be expected that it would suffice for the entry for “moral anti-realism” to contain only some links to other entries in this encyclopedia. It could contain a link to “moral realism” and stipulate the negation of the view there described. Alternatively, it could have links to the entries “anti-realism” and “morality” and could stipulate the conjunction of the materials contained therein. The fact that neither of these approaches would be adequate—and, more strikingly, that following the two procedures (...) would yield substantively non-equivalent results—reveals the contentious and unsettled nature of the topic. -/- “Anti-realism,” “non-realism,” and “irrealism” may for most purposes be treated as synonymous. Occasionally, distinctions have been suggested for local pedagogic reasons (see, e.g., Wright 1988a; Dreier 2004), but no such distinction has generally taken hold. (“Quasi-realism” denotes something very different, to be discussed in the supplement Projectivism and quasi-realism below.) All three terms are to be defined in opposition to realism, but since there is no consensus on how “realism” is to be understood, “anti-realism” fares no better. Crispin Wright (1992: 1) comments that “if there ever was a consensus of understanding about ‘realism’, as a philosophical term of art, it has undoubtedly been fragmented by the pressures exerted by the various debates—so much so that a philosopher who asserts that she is a realist about theoretical science, for example, or ethics, has probably, for most philosophical audiences, accomplished little more than to clear her throat.” This entry doesn't purport to do justice to the intricacy and subtlety of the topic of realism; it should be acknowledged at the outset that the fragmentation of which Wright speaks renders it unlikely that the label “moral anti-realism” even succeeds in picking out a definite position. Yet perhaps we can at least make an advance on clearing our throats. (shrink)
In four new and nine previously published essays, Joseph Heath provides a compelling new framework for thinking about the moral obligations of economic actors. The "market failures" approach to business ethics that he develops provides the basis for a unified theory of business ethics, corporate law, economic regulation, and the welfare state.
What is the difference between right and wrong? This is no easy question to answer, yet we constantly try to make it so, frequently appealing to some hidden cache of cut-and-dried absolutes, whether drawn from God, universal reason, or societal authority. Combining cognitive science with a pragmatist philosophical framework in Morality for Humans: Ethical Understanding from the Perspective of Cognitive Science, Mark Johnson argues that appealing solely to absolute principles and values is not only scientifically unsound but even morally (...) suspect. He shows that the standards for the kinds of people we should be and how we should treat one another—which we often think of as universal—are in fact frequently subject to change. And we should be okay with that. Taking context into consideration, he offers a remarkably nuanced, naturalistic view of ethics that sees us creatively adapt our standards according to given needs, emerging problems, and social interactions. Ethical naturalism is not just a revamped form of relativism. Indeed, Johnson attempts to overcome the absolutist-versus-relativist impasse that has been one of the most intractable problems in the history of philosophy. He does so through a careful and inclusive look at the many ways we reason about right and wrong. Much of our moral thought, he shows, is automatic and intuitive, gut feelings that we follow up and attempt to justify with rational analysis and argument. However, good moral deliberation is not limited merely to intuitive judgments supported after the fact by reasoning. Johnson points out a crucial third element: we imagine how our decisions will play out, how we or the world would change with each action we might take. Plumbing this imaginative dimension of moral reasoning, he provides a psychologically sophisticated view of moral problem solving, one perfectly suited for the embodied, culturally embedded, and ever-developing human creatures that we are. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss various hard cases that an account of moral ignorance should be able to deal with: ancient slave holders, Susan Wolf’s JoJo, psychopaths such as Robert Harris, and finally, moral outliers. All these agents are ignorant, but it is not at all clear that they are blameless on account of their ignorance. I argue that the discussion of this issue in recent literature has missed the complexities of these cases by focusing on the question of epistemic (...) fault. It is not clear that all blameworthy morally ignorant agents have committed an epistemic fault. There are other important issues that pull us in various directions: moral capacity, bad will, and formative circumstances. I argue that bad will is what is crucial, and moral ignorance itself can be a form of bad will. I argue that we should distinguish between two sorts of bad will, and correspondingly, two sorts of blameworthiness. Ordinary blameworthiness, requires moral knowledge, and is based on akratic action. The other kind of blameworthiness, objective blameworthiness, applies when the agent is morally ignorant, and when this indicates bad will. Objective blameworthiness can be undermined by unfortunate formative circumstances. (shrink)
Moral relativism is an important topic in metaethics. It is also widely discussed outside philosophy (for example, by political and religious leaders), and it is controversial among philosophers and nonphilosophers alike. This is perhaps not surprising in view of recent evidence that people's intuitions about moral relativism vary widely. Though many philosophers are quite critical of moral relativism, there are several contemporary philosophers who defend forms of it. These include such prominent figures as Gilbert Harman, Jesse J. Prinz, J. David (...) Velleman and David B. Wong. The term ‘moral relativism’ is understood in a variety of ways. Most often it is associated with an empirical thesis that there are deep and widespread moral disagreements and a metaethical thesis that the truth or justification of moral judgments is not absolute, but relative to the moral standard of some person or group of persons. Sometimes ‘moral relativism’ is connected with a normative position about how we ought to think about or act towards those with whom we morally disagree, most commonly that we should tolerate them. (shrink)
It has often been suggested that people’s ordinary folk understanding of morality involves a rejection of moral relativism and a belief in objective moral truths. The results of six studies call this claim into question. Participants did offer apparently objectivist intuitions when confronted with questions about individuals from their own culture, but they offered increasingly relativist intuitions as they were confronted with questions about individuals from increasingly different cultures or ways of life. In light of these data, the authors (...) hypothesize that people do not have a fixed commitment to moral objectivism but instead tend to adopt different views depending on the degree to which they consider radically different perspectives on moral questions. [NOTE: This is a reprint of Sarkissian et al 2011]. (shrink)
Why is there a felt asymmetry between cases in which agents defer to testifiers for certain moral beliefs, and cases in which agents defer on many other matters? One explanation influential in the literature is that having understanding of a proposition is both in tension with acquiring belief in the proposition by deferring to another's testimony and distinctively important when it comes to moral propositions, as compared with what we might think of as many ‘garden variety’ facts. My project in (...) this paper is to offer a new and more defensible version of this explanation. This will involve re-conceiving understanding as a richer state than it is commonly thought to be, requiring affective and motivational engagement with reasons as well as cognitive facility. I also offer a new explanation of the tension between understanding and deference to testimony. (shrink)
Moral non-cognitivists hope to explain the nature of moral agreement and disagreement as agreement and disagreement in non-cognitive attitudes. In doing so, they take on the task of identifying the relevant attitudes, distinguishing the non-cognitive attitudes corresponding to judgements of moral wrongness, for example, from attitudes involved in aesthetic disapproval or the sports fan’s disapproval of her team’s performance. We begin this paper by showing that there is a simple recipe for generating apparent counterexamples to any informative specification of the (...) moral attitudes. This may appear to be a lethal objection to non-cognitivism, but a similar recipe challenges attempts by non-cognitivism’s competitors to specify the conditions underwriting the contrast between genuine and merely apparent moral disagreement. Because of its generality, this specification problem requires a systematic response, which, we argue, is most easily available for the non-cognitivist. Building on premisses congenial to the non-cognitivist tradition, we make the following claims: (1) In paradigmatic cases, wrongness-judgements constitute a certain complex but functionally unified state, and paradigmatic wrongness-judgements form a functional kind, preserved by homeostatic mechanisms. (2) Because of the practical function of such judgements, we should expect judges’ intuitive understanding of agreement and disagreement to be accommodating, treating states departing from the paradigm in various ways as wrongness-judgements. (3) This explains the intuitive judgements required by the counterexample-generating recipe, and more generally why various kinds of amoralists are seen as making genuine wrongness-judgements. (shrink)
One of the reasons why moral enhancement may be controversial, is because the advantages of moral enhancement may fall upon society rather than on those who are enhanced. If directed at individuals with certain counter-moral traits it may have direct societal benefits by lowering immoral behavior and increasing public safety, but it is not directly clear if this also benefits the individual in question. In this paper, we will discuss what we consider to be moral enhancement, how different means may (...) be used to achieve it and whether the means we employ to reach moral enhancement matter morally. Are certain means to achieve moral enhancement wrong in themselves? Are certain means to achieve moral enhancement better than others, and if so, why? More specifically, we will investigate whether the difference between direct and indirect moral enhancement matters morally. Is it the case that indirect means are morally preferable to direct means of moral enhancement and can we indeed pinpoint relevant intrinsic, moral differences between both? We argue that the distinction between direct and indirect means is indeed morally relevant, but only insofar as it tracks an underlying distinction between active and passive interventions. Although passive interventions can be ethical provided specific safeguards are put in place, these interventions exhibit a greater potential to compromise autonomy and disrupt identity. (shrink)
While philosophers are often concerned with the conditions for moral knowledge or justification, in practice something arguably less demanding is just as, if not more, important – reliably making correct moral judgments. Judges and juries should hand down fair sentences, government officials should decide on just laws, members of ethics committees should make sound recommendations, and so on. We want such agents, more often than not and as often as possible, to make the right decisions. The purpose of this paper (...) is to propose a method of enhancing the moral reliability of such agents. In particular, we advocate for a procedural approach; certain internal processes generally contribute to people’s moral reliability. Building on the early work of Rawls, we identify several particular factors related to moral reasoning that are specific enough to be the target of practical intervention: logical competence, conceptual understanding, empirical competence, openness, empathy and bias. Improving on these processes can in turn make people more morally reliable in a variety of contexts and has implications for recent debates over moral enhancement. (shrink)
The central philosophical challenge of metaethics is to account for the normativity of moral judgment without abandoning or seriously compromising moral realism. In Morality in a Natural World, David Copp defends a version of naturalistic moral realism that can accommodate the normativity of morality. Moral naturalism is often thought to face special metaphysical, epistemological, and semantic problems as well as the difficulty in accounting for normativity. In the ten essays included in this volume, Copp defends solutions to these (...) problems. Three of the essays are new, while seven have previously been published. All of them are concerned with the viability of naturalistic and realistic accounts of the nature of morality, or, more generally, with the viability of naturalistic accounts of reasons. (shrink)