There has been a good deal of interest in moral sentimentalism in recent years, but most of that interest has been exclusively either in meta-ethical questions or in normative issues about caring or benevolence. The present book seeks to offer a systematically unified picture of both sorts of topics by making central use of the notion of empathy. The hope is that such an approach will give sentimentalism a "second chance" against the ethical rationalism that has typically dominated (...) the landscape of ethical theory. (shrink)
For ambitious metaphysical neo-sentimentalists, all normative facts are grounded in fitting attitudes, where fittingness is understood in naturalistic terms. In this paper, I offer a neo-sentimentalist account of blameworthiness in terms of the reactive attitudes of a morally authoritative subject I label a Nagelian Imp. I also argue that moral impermissibility is indirectly linked to blameworthiness: roughly, an act is morally impermissible if and only if and because it is not *possible* in the circumstances to adopt a plan of performing (...) it without meriting blame, assuming the agent is rational, informed, and meets the conditions of accountability. (shrink)
Recent work by emotion researchers indicates that emotions have a multi-level structure. Sophisticated sentimentalists should take note of this work—for it better enables them to defend a substantive role for emotion in moral cognition. Contra the rationalist criticisms of May 2018, emotions are not only able to carry morally relevant information but can also substantially influence moral judgment and reasoning.
In a way reminiscent of Hume's approach in the Treatise, a reviving moral sentimentalism can use the notion of empathy to ground both its normative account of moral obligation and its metaethical account of moral language. A virtuous person is empathically caring about others and expresses such feeling/motivation in her actions. But the judgment that something is right or good is also based in empathy, and the sentimentalist can espouse a form of moral realism by making use of a (...) Kripkean reference-fixer theory of the role of feelings of approval and disapproval in moral judgment. (shrink)
Within the debate on the epistemology of aesthetic appreciation, it has a long tradition, and is still very common, to endorse the sentimentalist view that our aesthetic evaluations are rationally grounded on, or even constituted by, certain of our emotional responses to the objects concerned. Such a view faces, however, the serious challenge to satisfactorily deal with the seeming possibility of faultless disagreement among emotionally based and epistemically appropriate verdicts. I will argue that the sentimentalist approach to aesthetic epistemology cannot (...) accept and accommodate this possibility without thereby undermining the assumed capacity of emotions to justify corresponding aesthetic evaluations – that is, without undermining the very sentimentalist idea at the core of its account. And I will also try to show that sentimentalists can hope to deny the possibility of faultless disagreement only by giving up the further view that aesthetic assessments are intersubjective – a view which is almost as traditional and widely held in aesthetics as sentimentalism, and which is indeed often enough combined with the latter. My ultimate conclusion is therefore that this popular combination of views should better be avoided: either sentimentalism or intersubjectivism has to make way. (shrink)
It is sometimes said that certain hard moral choices constitute tragic moral dilemmas in which no available course of action is justifiable, and so the agent is blameworthy whatever she chooses. This paper criticizes a certain approach to the debate about moral dilemmas and considers the metaethical implications of the criticisms. The approach in question has been taken by many advocates as well as opponents of moral dilemmas who believe that analysing the emotional response of the agent is the key (...) to the debate about moral dilemmas. The metaethical position this approach is most naturally associated with is sentimentalism. Sentimentalists claim that evaluation, and in particular moral evaluation, crucially depends on human sentiment. This paper is not concerned with the question whether moral dilemmas exist, but rather with emotion-based arguments used on both sides of the debate. The first aim of the paper is to show that emotion-based arguments by friends or foes of moral dilemmas cannot garner support from sentimentalism. The second aim is to show that this constitutes a serious problem for sentimentalism. (shrink)
Epistemic Sentimentalism is the view that emotional experiences such as fear and guilt are a source of immediate justification for evaluative beliefs. For example, guilt can sometimes immediately justify a subject’s belief that they have done something wrong. In this paper I focus on a family of objections to Epistemic Sentimentalism that all take as a premise the claim that emotions possess a normative property that is apparently antithetical to it: epistemic reason-responsiveness, i.e., emotions have evidential bases and (...) justifications can be demanded of them. I respond to these objections whilst granting that emotions are reason-responsive. This is not only dialectically significant vis-à-vis the prospects for Epistemic Sentimentalism, but also supports a broader claim about the compatibility of a mental item’s being reason-responsive and its being a generative source of epistemic justification. (shrink)
Neo-sentimentalism is the view that to judge that something has an evaluative property is to judge that some affective or emotional response is appropriate with respect to it. The difficulty in assessing neo-sentimentalism is that it allows for radically different versions. My aim is to spell out what I take to be its most plausible version. I distinguish between a normative version, which takes the concept of appropriateness to be normative, and a descriptive version, which claims that appropriateness (...) in emotions is a matter of correspondence to evaluative facts. I argue that the latter version can satisfy the normativity requirement that follows from Moore’s Open Question Argument, that it is superior to the former with respect to the explanatory role of values, and with respect to the Wrong Kind of Reason Objection. Finally, I argue that the circularity that is involved is not vicious: understood epistemically, neo-sentimentalism remains instructive. (shrink)
Sentimentalism, the idea that the emotions or sentiments are crucial to moral judgment, has a long and distinguished history. Throughout this history, sentimentalists have often viewed themselves as offering a more naturalistically respectable account of moral judgment. In this paper, I’ll argue that they have not been naturalistic enough. The early, simple versions of sentimentalism met with decisive objections. The contemporary sentimentalist accounts successfully dodge these objections, but only by promoting an account of moral judgment that is far (...) too complex to be a plausible account of moral judgment on the ground. I argue that recent evidence on moral judgment indicates that emotional responses do indeed play a key role in everyday moral judgment. However, the emotions themselves are only one part of moral judgment; internally represented rules make an independent contribution to moral judgment. This account of moral judgment is grounded in the empirical evidence, but it can also handle a cluster of desiderata that concern philosophical sentimentalists. If emotions and rules do make independent contributions to moral judgment, this raises a puzzle. For our rules tend to be well coordinated with our emotions. In the final section, I’ll argue that this coordination can be partly explained by appealing to the role of cultural evolution in the history of norms. (shrink)
In this paper, we argue that Samuel Pufendorf's works on natural law contain a sentimentalist theory of morality that is Smithian in its moral psychology. Pufendorf's account of how ordinary people make moral judgements and come to act sociably is surprisingly similar to Smith's. Both thinkers maintain that the human desire for esteem, manifested by resentment and gratitude, informs people of the content of central moral norms and can motivate them to act accordingly. Finally, we suggest that given Pufendorf's theory (...) of socially imposed moral entities, he has all the resources for a sentimentalist theory of morality. (shrink)
Sentimentalism comes in many varieties: explanatory sentimentalism, judgment sentimentalism, metaphysical sentimentalism, and epistemic sentimentalism. This encyclopedia entry gives an overview of the positions and main arguments pro and con.
According to moral sentimentalism, there are close connections between moral truths and moral emotions. Emotions largely form our moral attitudes. They contribute to our answerability to moral obligations. We take them as authoritative in guiding moral judgement. This role is difficult to understand if one accepts a full-blown moral realism, according to which moral truths are completely independent of our emotional response to them. Hence it is tempting to claim that moral truths depend on our emotional responses. I outline (...) a problem for this view: we are adamant that, if our moral sentiments were different, things would be the same, morally speaking. Moral truth does not seem to counterfactually depend on moral sentiments. I show how this independence can be reconciled with the role of moral sentiments in guiding our moral outlook. I draw on Yablo’s distinction between response-dependent and response-enabled properties. I propose that moral truths are response-enabled: their supervenience base does not include anything about our emotions. Hence they do not counterfactually depend on changes in our emotional response. However, their factual supervenience base being naturally ineligible, it is ultimately our response that enables them to play their role as an independent moral compass. (shrink)
Michael Slote argues that emotion is involved in all human thought and action on conceptual grounds, rather than merely being causally connected with other aspects of the mind. Such a sentimentalist view of the mind provides solutions to important problems about belief and action that other approaches fail to address.
When making moral judgments, people are typically guided by a plurality of moral rules. These rules owe their existence to human emotions but are not simply equivalent to those emotions. And people’s moral judgments ought to be guided by a plurality of emotion-based rules. The view just stated combines three positions on moral judgment:  moral sentimentalism, which holds that sentiments play an essential role in moral judgment,1  descriptive moral pluralism, which holds that commonsense moral judgment is guided (...) by a plurality of moral rules2, and  prescriptive moral pluralism, which holds that moral judgment ought to be guided by a plurality of moral rules. In what follows, we will argue for all three positions. We will not present a comprehensive case for these positions nor address many of the arguments philosophers have developed against them. What we will try to show is that recent psychological work supports sentimentalist pluralism in both its descriptive and prescriptive forms. (shrink)
In Regard for Reason in the Moral Mind, Joshua May argues successfully that many claims about the causal influence of affect on moral judgment are overblown. But the findings he cites are compatible with many of the key arguments of philosophical sentimentalists. His account of rationalism, in turn, relies on an overly broad notion of inference, and leaves open crucial questions about how we reason to moral conclusions.
Some have attempted to explain why it appears that action based on deferential moral belief lacks moral worth by appealing to claims about an attitude that is difficult to acquire through testimony, which theorists have called “moral understanding”. I argue that this state is at least partly non-cognitive. I begin by employing case-driven judgments to undermine the assumption that I argue is responsible for the strangeness of deferential moral belief: the assumption that if an agent knows that some fact gives (...) them a moral reason to act in some way, then they’re in a position to act that way for the moral reason given by that fact. I then argue that cases from non-moral epistemology concerning properly-based belief give us independent reason to reject this assumption and conclude by sketching a Davidson-inspired account of normative reasons that explains why acting for moral reasons requires the right non-cognitive state, which is worth calling a kind of moral understanding. (shrink)
Moral sentimentalism can be understood as a metaethical theory, a normative theory, or some combination of the two. Metaethical sentimentalism emphasizes the role of affect in the proper psychology of moral judgment, while normative sentimentalism emphasizes the centrality of warm emotions to the phenomena of which these judgments properly approve. Neither form of sentimentalism necessarily implies a commitment to virtue ethics, but both have an elective affinity with it. The classical metaethical sentimentalists of the Scottish Enlightenment—such (...) as David Hume and Adam Smith—were all, to a greater or lesser extent, also virtue theorists. The connection is even stronger in the case of Enlightenment philosophers who were also normative sentimentalists , as with Frances Hutcheson. For Hutcheson, virtue simply is a habit of acting from the warm motive of universal benevolence. Today, neo-sentimentalist metaethicists such as Allan Gibbard, Justin D’Arms and Daniel Jacobson generally remain agnostic on the question of whether virtue ethics is superior to its deontological and consequentialist competitors. Michael Slote, however, has developed a comprehensive theory of sentimentalist care ethics in an unambiguously virtue-centered form. (shrink)
Moral sentimentalism holds that moral sentiment is the source of moral judgment and moral motivation. It contrasts with rationalism, which puts reason in place of sentiment. Sentimentalism goes hand in hand with a virtue theoretic approach in normative ethics. In the version of sentimentalism defended here, the chief moral sentiment is empathic concern. The chaper argues that moral goodness consists in empathic concern for others. Moreover, it argues that the reference of moral terms is fixed by actual (...) empathic reactions, and not by reactions to merely possible circumstances. (shrink)
The subject of this paper is sentimentalism. In broad terms this is the view that value concepts, moral concepts, practical reasons—some or all of these—can be analysed in terms of feeling, sentiment or emotion. More specifically, the paper discusses the following theses: (i) there are reasons to feel (‘evaluative’ reasons) that are not reducible to practical or epistemic reasons (ii) value is analysable in terms of these reasons to feel. (iii) all practical reasons are in one way or another (...) grounded in evaluative reasons. (i) and (ii) are accepted while (iii) is rejected. (shrink)
Neo-sentmentalism is the view that to judge that something has an evaluative property is to judge that some affective or emotional response is appropriate with respect to it. The difficulty in assessing neo-sentimentalism is that it allows for radically different versions. My aim is to spell out what I take to be its most plausible version. I distinguish between a normative version, which takes the concepts of appropriateness to be normative, and a descriptive version, which claims that appropriateness in (...) emotions is a matter of correspondence to evaluative facts. I argue that the latter version can satisfy the normativity requirement that follows from Moore's Open Question Argument, that it is superior to the former with respect to the explanatory role of values, and with respect to the Wrong Kind of Reason Objection. Finally, I argue that the circularity that is involved is not vicious: understood epistemically, neo-sentimentalism remains instructive. (shrink)
Epistemic Perceptualists claim that emotions are sources of immediate defeasible justification for evaluative propositions that can sometimes ground undefeated immediately justified evaluative beliefs. For example, fear can constitute the justificatory ground for a belief that some object or event is dangerous. Despite its attractiveness, the view is apparently vulnerable to several objections. In this paper, I provide a limited defence of Epistemic Perceptualism by responding to a family of objections which all take as a premise a popular and attractive view (...) in value theory – Neo-Sentimentalism – according to which values are analysed in terms of fitting emotions. (shrink)
Moral rationalism is the view that morality originates in reason alone. It is often contrasted with moral sentimentalism, which is the view that the origin of morality lies at least partly in sentiment. The eighteenth century saw pitched philosophical battles between rationalists and sentimentalists, and the issue continues to fuel disputes among moral philosophers today.
‘Sentimentalism’ is an old-fashioned name for the philosophical suggestion that moral or evaluative concepts or properties depend somehow upon human sentiments. This general idea has proven attractive to a number of contemporary philosophers with little else in common. Yet most sentimentalists say very little about the nature of the sentiments to which they appeal, and many seem prepared to enlist almost any object-directed pleasant or unpleasant state of mind as a sentiment. Furthermore, because battles between sentimentalism and its (...) rivals have tended to be joined over large issues about realism and antirealism, or cognitivism and noncognitivism, some attractive reasons for adopting sentimentalism which are to some extent independent of these issues have been largely ignored in metaethical discussion. This paper aims to motivate sentimentalism, but also to circumscribe its ambitions by rendering explicit some tacit assumptions in moral psychology on which I think the most promising sentimentalism depends. I begin (in section one) by sketching the kind of sentimentalism that I want to defend. Then, in sections two and three, I articulate two positive arguments for a sentimentalist understanding of certain evaluative concepts. The arguments I consider have their origins in the writings of various other authors, I think, but neither they nor their consequences have been clearly articulated before. In section four, I explore just what the sentiments would have to be like in order to play the role required of them in the arguments I develop. I will suggest that these arguments supply a highly specific ‘job description’ for the states to which sentimentalism appeals. Hence, sentimentalists who want to use these arguments, or ones like them, cannot be as casual about what they mean by ‘sentiments’ as many have tended to be. I then investigate a category of ‘natural emotions’ that meets that job description rather nicely, and offer some reasons for doubting that more inclusive categories of.... (shrink)
Jesse Prinz and Shaun Nichols have argued that within metaethics, sentimentalism is the theory that best accords with empirical facts about human moral psychology. Recent findings in experimental moral psychology, they argue, indicate that emotions are psychologically central to our moral concepts. One way of testing the empirical adequacy of sentimentalism is by looking at research on environmental values. A classic problem in environmental ethics is providing an account of the intrinsic value of nonhuman entities, which is often (...) thought to be inconsistent with sentimentalism. However, no supporters of sentimentalist accounts of environmental values have evaluated the empirical adequacy of their claims. The relevant evidence falls under two broad categories: responses to nature itself and moral evaluations of environmental behaviors. The evidence indicates that both valuing and disvaluing nature are ultimately grounded in emotions. (shrink)
This essay first introduces the moral sense theories of Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, and Adam Smith, and clarifies important differences between them. It then examines whether moral judgment based on the moral sense or moral sentiments varies according to one's metaphysical beliefs. For this, the essay mainly applies those theories to such issues as stem cell research, abortion, and active euthanasia. In all three theories, false religious beliefs can distort moral judgment. In Hutcheson's theory, answers to stem cell research, abortion, (...) and active euthanasia do not change according to the spectator's metaphysical beliefs. Yet answers to those issues can change according to the agent's metaphysical beliefs. Hume's theory cannot provide answers to stem cell research and abortion where the embryo or fetus is the receiver (the one affected by the agent's action) and to active euthanasia where the patient is unconscious. It may provide answers to abortion where the pregnant woman is the receiver and to active euthanasia where the patient is conscious. Yet the answers can vary depending on the woman's or the patient's metaphysical beliefs. Smith's theory can provide answers to stem cell research, abortion, and active euthanasia. But the answers can vary depending on the agent's metaphysical beliefs. These show that the moral sense or moral sentiments in those theories alone cannot identify appropriate morals. (shrink)
Unlike traditional sentimentalists, sophisticated sentimentalists don’t think that the main linguistic function of evaluative terms is simply to express emotional responses. Instead, they contend that to predicate an evaluative term to an object is to judge that a particular emotion is justified toward that object. I will raise a fundamental difficulty for the sophisticated sentimentalists’ attempt to provide a credible account of the meaning of our most important evaluative terms. A more careful examination of the relations between the affective and (...) the reflective elements characteristic of our evaluative thinking will suggest that the emotions play a less central role in an account of the meaning of evaluative terms than sentimentalists have assumed. (shrink)
One of the most significant disputes in early modern philosophy was between the moral rationalists and the moral sentimentalists. The moral rationalists — such as Ralph Cudworth, Samuel Clarke and John Balguy — held that morality originated in reason alone. The moral sentimentalists — such as Anthony Ashley Cooper, the third Earl of Shaftesbury, Francis Hutcheson and David Hume — held that morality originated at least partly in sentiment. In addition to arguments, the rationalists and sentimentalists developed rich analogies. The (...) most significant analogy the rationalists developed was between morality and mathematics. The most significant analogy the sentimentalists developed was between morality and beauty. These two analogies illustrate well the main ideas, underlying insights, and accounts of moral phenomenology the two positions have to offer. An examination of the two analogies will thus serve as a useful introduction to the debate between moral rationalism and moral sentimentalism as a whole. (shrink)
This essay draws on Adam Smith’s moral sentimentalism to critique primatologist Frans de Waal’s gradualist theory of human morality. De Waal has spent his career arguing for continuity between primate behavior and human morality, proposing that empathy is a primary moral building block evident in primate behavior. Smith’s moral sentimentalism—with its emphasis on the role of sympathy in moral virtue—provides the philosophical framework for de Waal’s understanding of morality. Smith’s notion of sympathy and the imagination involved in sympathy (...) is qualitatively different from animal sympathy. I argue that Smithian sympathy includes the ability to represent propositional attitudes and take into account multiple perspectives which are then synthesized into a singular impartial perspective. Furthermore, Smithian moral judgment requires the capacity for emotion regulation and moral self-cultivation, or the ability to shape and control one’s reactive attitudes. Taken together, these capacities far outstrip the capacities of animals, disrupting de Waal’s gradualism. (shrink)
By founding morality on the particular sentiments of approbation and disapprobation, Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Hume, and Smith implied that the nature of moral judgment was far more intuitive and accessible than their rationalist predecessors and contemporaries would, or at least easily could, allow. And yet, these ‘Sentimentalists’ faced the longstanding belief that the human affective psyche is a veritable labyrinth – an obstacle to practical morality if not something literally brutish in us. The Scottish Sentimentalists thus implicitly tasked themselves with distinguishing (...) and locating the particular sentiments of approbation and disapprobation in the human psyche. In this paper, I argue that this task led Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Hume, and Smith to adopt a remarkable thesis when it came to the nature of the moral sentiments, namely, that the sentiments of moral approbation and disapprobation are peculiar – somehow radically unlike other sentiments. (shrink)
This chapter focuses on sentimentalism – the view that morality is based on sentiment – in particular, the sentiment of sympathy. Sentimentalism was historically articulated in opposition to two positions: Hobbesian egoism, in which morality is based on self-interest; and Moral Rationalism, which held that morality is based on reason alone. The Sentimentalists challenged both views, arguing that there is more to what motivates human beings than simple self-interest and that reason alone is insufficient to motivate our actions, (...) including our moral actions. The philosophies of Anthony Ashley Cooper, the Third Earl of Shaftesbury, Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, and Adam Smith are considered. The discussion then turns to sympathy, moral realism, moral virtue, and psychological realism. (shrink)
Examining the moral sense theories of Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, and Adam Smith from the perspective of the is-ought problem, this essay shows that the moral sense or moral sentiments in those theories alone cannot identify appropriate morals. According to one interpretation, Hume's or Smith's theory is just a description of human nature. In this case, it does not answer the question of how we ought to live. According to another interpretation, it has some normative implications. In this case, it (...) draws normative claims from human nature. Anyway, the sentiments of anger, resentment, vengeance, superiority, sympathy, and benevolence show that drawing norms from human nature is sometimes morally problematic. The changeability of the moral sense and moral sentiments in Hume's and Smith's theories supports this idea. Hutcheson's theory is morally more appropriate because it bases morality on disinterested benevolence. Yet disinterested benevolence is not enough for morality. There are no sentiments the presence of which alone makes any action moral. (shrink)
This paper argues for a novel sentimentalist realist metaethical theory, according to which moral wrongness is analyzed in terms of the sentiments one has most reason to have. As opposed to standard sentimentalist views, the theory does not employ sentiments that are had in response to morally wrong action, but rather sentiments that antecedently dispose people to refrain from immoral behavior, specifically the sentiments of compassion and respect.
Elizabeth Anscombe is an Aristotelian, but her insights allow one to make a better case for moral sentimentalism. The sentimentalist tradition emphasizes both the empathic and the active sides of compassion, benevolence, and other such sentiments, but hasn’t previously allowed us to see how these two aspects of the moral sentiments necessarily work together. However, Anscombe’s idea that one cannot simply desire a saucer of mud allows the sentimentalist to argue that compassion, e.g., as a motive cannot exist all (...) on its own but requires empathic feeling. It can also be argued that empathy doesn’t merely lead to compassionate motivation but entails it. The two sides of compassion are necessarily tied together, and the paper ends by showing us how we might more deeply understand such a moral sentiment and others in terms of the traditional Chinese idea of the necessary complementarity of yin and yang. (shrink)
Broadly construed, moral sentimentalism is the position that human emotions or sentiments play a crucial role in our best normative or descriptive accounts of moral value or judgments thereof. In this paper, I introduce and sketch a defense of a new form of moral sentimentalism I call “Transcendental Sentimentalism”. According to transcendental sentimentalism, having a sentimental response to an object is a necessary condition of the possibility of a subject counting as having non-inferential evaluative knowledge about (...) that object. In unpacking each component of this position, I argue that it is both distinct from and more explanatorily attractive than the other approaches to explaining the relationship between emotion and moral thought, including what Kauppinen (2014, forthcoming) calls epistemological sentimentalism and explanatory sentimentalism. I conclude by offering a sketch of what I take to be the most promising strategy for demonstrating the truth of transcendental sentimentalism, suggesting an original form of transcendental argument. If successful, this form of argument would establish transcendental sentimentalism by demonstrating that not having a sentimental response to x disqualifies (in the normative sense) a person from counting as having non-inferential evaluative knowledge of x. (shrink)
This discussion explores the moral psychology and metaethics of Michael Slote's Moral Sentimentalism. I argue that his account of empathy has an important lacuna, because the sense in which an empathizer feels the same feeling that his target feels requires explanation, and the most promising candidates are unavailable to Slote. I then argue that the (highly original) theory of moral approval and disapproval that Slote develops in his book is implausible, both phenomenologically and for the role it accords to (...) empathy. Finally, I suggest that these problems in moral psychology undermine Slote's metaethical argument for identifying rightness and wrongness with agential warmth and coldness in action. (shrink)
The paper connects two central ethical views, both with a rich tradition, sentimentalism and contractualism. From the former, it also borrows the response-dependentist metaphysics. The idea of combining the two has been sketched before, but not systematically and explicitly; for instance, in various comments on classical authors, especially on Kant and elsewhere, most prominently in Habermas. Here is the kernel of the present proposal. Our initial practical intuitions are emotion-based and the values, when detected, are response-dependent. This is the (...) starting point borrowed from sentimentalism. These intuitions get improved by reflection, and by dialogue that crucially involves perspective taking. If all goes well, this results in insights, in particular into principles that all rational parties can agree about in a kind of “contract.” This brings two traditions, the one of David Hume and Adam Smith, and the other of Kant, together. The resulting theory would be a kind of sentimentalist, response-dependentist contractualism. (shrink)
Philosophers and psychologists often claim that moral agency is connected with the ability to feel, understand, and deploy moral emotions. In this chapter, I investigate the nature of these emotions and their connection with moral agency. First, I examine the degree to which these emotional capacities are innate and/or ‘basic’ in a philosophically important sense. I examine three senses in which an emotion might be basic: developmental, compositional, and phylogenetic. After considering the evidence for basic emotion, I conclude that emotions (...) are not basic in a philosophically important sense. Emotions, I argue, are best understood as socially constructed concepts. I then investigate whether these emotions are necessary for moral agency. In order to do this I examine the philosophical and psychological literature on psychopathy and autism (two conditions defined in terms of empathic and emotional deficits). Persons with psychopathy appear incapable of distinguishing moral from non-moral norms. Additionally, while persons with autism often struggle to develop their empathic capacities, they are capable of understanding and deploying moral emotions like guilt and shame. I conclude that, in line with the conceptual act theories of emotion, that only contagion-based empathy is necessary for the acquisition of moral concepts. (shrink)
ABSTRACTFor obvious reasons sentimentalists have been hesitant to offer accounts of moral reasons for action: the whole idea at least initially smacks of rationalist notions of morality. But the sentimentalist can seek to reduce practical to sentimentalist considerations and that is what the present paper attempts to do. Prudential reasons can be identified with the normal emotional/motivational responses people feel in situations that threaten them or offer them opportunities to attain what they need. And in the most basic cases altruistic/moral (...) reasons involve the empathic transfer of one person’s prudential reasons and emotions to another person or persons who can help them. Practical/moral reasons for self-sacrifice also depend on empathic transfer and can vary in strength with the strength of the transfer. (shrink)
This essay shows that a moral sense or moral sentiments alone cannot identify appropriate morals. To this end, the essay analyzes three defenses of Francis Hutcheson's, David Hume's, and Adam Smith's moral sense theories against the relativism charge that a moral sense or moral sentiments vary across people, societies, cultures, or times. The first defense is the claim that there is a universal moral sense or universal moral sentiments. However, even if they exist, a moral sense or moral sentiments alone (...) cannot identify appropriate morals. The second defense is to adopt a general viewpoint theory, which identifies moral principles by taking a general viewpoint. But it needs to employ reason, and even if not, it does not guarantee that we identify appropriate morals. The third defense is to adopt an ideal observer theory, which draws moral principles from sentimental reactions of an ideal observer. Yet it still does not show that a moral sense or moral sentiments alone can identify appropriate morals. (shrink)
This paper examines how Western humanitarianism has attempted to work through its simultaneous commitment to individualized moral universalism and ambivalence about substantive global egalitarianism via what is identified as humanitarian sentimentalism, namely an ensemble of narrative and visual mechanisms designed to cultivate charitable moral sentiments among Euro-American publics toward victims of humanitarian crises in the global South. After briefly discussing how the aforementioned ambivalence is rooted in the founding philosophical principles of humanitarianism, the paper examines the visual economy of (...) humanitarian sentimentalism, constituted through four iconographic tropes found in the history of Western representation of humanitarian emergencies and injustices (personification, massification, rescue, and care), each of which aims to trigger sentimentalizing responses on the part of viewers. Hence, it is argued that if the Western humanitarian movement's dependence on visually based sentimentalism has been effective in generating a sense of concern for distant others, such concern has not been converted into a more radical and egalitarian set of political practices of global solidarity, which would aim structurally to transform the current world order in an egalitarian manner to tackle the systemic sources of humanitarian crises. (shrink)