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)
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, being in an emotional state about 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 an emotion about x disqualifies (in the normative sense) a person from counting as having non-inferential evaluative knowledge of x. (shrink)
This essay examines the recent Planet of the Apes films through the lens of recent research in primatology. The films lend imaginary support to primatologist Frans de Waal’s evolutionary moral sentimentalism; however, the movies also show that truly moral motions outstrip the cognitive capacities of the great apes. The abstract moral principles employed by the ape community in the movie require the ability to understand and apply a common underlying explanation to perceptually disparate situations; in contrast, recent research in (...) comparative psychology demonstrates that the great apes lack this capacity. Since the capacity for abstraction is required on even the most basic version of moral sentimentalism—Shaun Nichols’ sentimental rules account—the lack of the capacity for abstraction reveals a qualitative distinction between primate social behavior and human morality. (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)
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)
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)
In a series of important papers, Justin D’Arms and Daniel Jacobson argue that all extant neo-sentimentalists are guilty of a conflation error that they call the moralistic fallacy. One commits the moralistic fallacy when one infers from the fact that it would be morally wrong to experience an affective attitude—e.g., it would be wrong to be amused—that the attitude does not fit its object—e.g., that it is not funny. Such inferences, they argue, conflate the appropriateness conditions of attitudinal responses with (...) the fittingness conditions of the associated evaluative properties. Further, they argue that moral considerations are irrelevant for determining if amusement fits its object. We agree that a strong moralizing of humor is wrongheaded and that jokes can be quite funny even in cases where we have a compelling moral reason to not be amused. However, we argue that pace D’Arms and Jacobson moral considerations can be relevant for property ascription. On our view, in order for a joke to be funny, a properly sensitive agent must take herself to have a contributory reason to be amused, and in some cases that she lacks such a reason is best explained by appeal to moral considerations. We use this constraint as the basis of what we call our modest proposal for a modest sentimentalism. (shrink)
In this response I raise a number of problems for Michael Slote's normative and metaethical sentimentalism. The first is that his agent–based account of rightness needs be qualified in order to be plausible; any such qualification, however, leaves Slote's normative ethics in tension with his metaethical views. The second is that an agent–based ethics of empathic caring will indeed struggle to capture our common–sense understanding of deontological constraints, and that appeal to the notion of causal immediacy will be of (...) little help here. Finally, it seems to me that Slote's metaethical account will turn out to be much less externalist than he suspects. (shrink)
: Moral cognition research has in part been taken to be a problem for moral sentimentalists, who claim that emotions are sensitive to moral information. In particular, Joshua Greene can be understood to provide an argument against moral sentimentalism on the basis of neuropsychological evidence. In his argument he claims that emotions are an unreliable source of moral insight. However, the argument boils down to circular claims: Rationalistic factors are assumed to be the only morally relevant factors; Emotions are (...) not sensitive to these factors; Thus, Moral Sentimentalism is false, because only rationalistic factors are justified. While this circularity makes so-called sourcing-arguments fallacious if applied against moral sentimentalism, moral cognition research has much to contribute. Indeed, moral cognition research will be instrumental for clarifying the sentimentalist position, shedding light on the mental mechanics underlying emotional moral processing. After all, evidence from moral cognition points to substantial involvement of affective processes in human moral cognizing and their embodied nature; thus, challenging long held beliefs about morality. Keywords : Moral Cognition; Moral Sentimentalism; Emotions; Embodied Cognition; Moral Brain Emozioni, Esperimenti e il cervello morale. L’errore degli argomenti basati sulla cognizione morale contro il sentimentalismo morale Riassunto: Si è spesso ritenuto che la ricerca nell’ambito della cognizione morale costituisse, almeno in parte, un problema per il sentimentalismo morale, il quale sostiene che le emozioni sono sensibili all’informazione morale. In particolare, si può pensare che Joshua Greene abbia portato un argomento contro il sentimentalismo morale basato su evidenza neuropsicologica. Secondo il suo argomento le emozioni non costituiscono una fonte affidabile di comprensione morale. E tuttavia questo argomento fa leva su una circolarità: gli unici fattori qualificati come moralmente rilevanti sono quelli razionali; le emozioni non sono sensibili a questi fattori; pertanto, considerato che solo i fattori razionali sono giustificati, il sentimentalismo morale è falso. Tale circolarità rende fallaci i cosiddetti argomenti sorgente, laddove questi siano applicati al sentimentalismo morale. Al contempo, la ricerca sulla cognizione morale ha molto da dire su questo argomento perché può contribuire a chiarire la posizione sentimentalista, gettando luce sulla meccanica mentale sottostante i processi morali che fanno leva su emozioni. Anzi questa prospettiva di ricerca evidenzia che i processi di carattere affettivo sono coinvolti in maniera sostanziale nella cognizione morale umana e hanno una natura incarnata; in questo modo essa mette in discussione convinzioni di vecchia data sulla morale. Parole chiave : Cognizione morale; Sentimentalismo morale; Emozioni; Cognizione incarnata; Cervello morale. (shrink)
Moral sentimentalism has seen a tremendous rise in popularity in recent years within contemporary meta-ethical theory, since it promises to delineate the normative domain in a naturalistically unobjectionable manner. After showing that both Michael Slote and Jesse Prinz’s sentimentalist positions fall short of fulfilling this promise, this essay argues that contemporary sentimentalists are advised to take their clues from Adam Smith rather than David Hume. While Hume was absolutely right in emphasizing the importance of empathy in the moral context, (...) his official description of the mechanisms of empathy as articulated in the Treatise falls fundamentally short for this purpose. Adam Smith’s conception of empathy, a conception that in fact is closer to some of Hume’ remarks in the Enquiry rather than the Treatise, as essentially involving perspective taking and his appeal to the impartial spectator perspective proves to be more fertile. Only in this manner do sentimentalists have any hope of accounting for the intersubjective normative and obligatory dimension of moral judgments. (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.
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)
Mill’s aim in chapter 3 of Utilitarianism is to show that his revisionary moral theory can preserve the kind of authority typically and traditionally associated with moral demands. One of his main targets is the idea that if people come to believe that morality is rooted in human sentiment then they will feel less bound by moral obligation. Chapter 3 emphasizes two claims: (1) The main motivation to ethical action comes from feelings and not from beliefs and (2) Ethical feelings (...) are highly malleable. I provide a critical examination of Mill’s use of these claims to support his argument that Utilitarianism can preserve morality’s authority. I show how the two claims, intended to form a significant rebuttal to the worry about Utilitarianism, can in fact be combined to raise powerful skeptical concerns. I explain how Mill evades the skepticism, and why contemporary philosophers who lack Millian optimism about human nature find it harder to avoid the skeptical outcome. (shrink)
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)
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.
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)
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)
‘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)
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)
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)
In the Essays on the Active Powers of Man V. 7, Thomas Reid seeks to show “[t]hat moral approbation implies a real judgment,” contrasting this thesis with the view that moral approbation is no more than a feeling. Unfortunately, his criticism of moral sentimentalism systematically conflates two different metaethical views: non-cognitivism about moral thought and subjectivism about moral properties. However, if we properly disentangle the various parts of Reid's discussion, we can isolate pertinent arguments against each of these views. (...) Some of these arguments, such as the argument from disagreement and the argument from implausible counterfactuals against subjectivism, or the transparency argument against non-cognitivism, still have important roles to play in contemporary metaethics. (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)
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)
The Cambridge Platonists were a group of religious thinkers who attended and taught at Cambridge from the 1640s until the 1660s. The four most important of them were Benjamin Whichcote, John Smith, Ralph Cudworth, and Henry More. The most prominent sentimentalist moral philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment – Hutcheson, Hume, and Adam Smith – knew of the works of the Cambridge Platonists. But the Scottish sentimentalists typically referred to the Cambridge Platonists only briefly and in passing. The surface of Hutcheson, (...) Hume, and Smith's texts can give the impression that the Cambridge Platonists were fairly distant intellectual relatives of the Scottish sentimentalists – great great-uncles, perhaps, and uncles of a decidedly foreign ilk. But this surface appearance is deceiving. There were deeply significant philosophical connections between the Cambridge Platonists and the Scottish sentimentalists, even if the Scottish sentimentalists themselves did not always make it perfectly explicit. (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.
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)
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)
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)
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.
Critical reflection on the available neuropsychological evidence suggests that the roles of emotion and reason in moral judgment may not be distinct. This casts significant doubt on our current understanding of moral judgment, and therefore also on all philosophical theories based on that understanding. Most notably, it raises doubts about both sentimentalism and rationalism, which historically have often been treated as exclusive and exhaustive theories regarding the nature of moral concepts. As an alternative, I endorse pluralism with regard to (...) the emotional and rational nature of moral concepts. (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.
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 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)
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 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)
The view that some evaluative concepts are identical to some affective concepts naturally falls out of neo-sentimentalism, but it is unstable. This paper argues for a view of evaluative concepts that is neo-sentimentalist in spirit but which eschews the identity claim. If we adopt a Peacockean view of concepts, then we should think of some evaluative concepts as having possession conditions that are affective in some way. I argue that the best version of this thought claims that possessing those (...) concepts requires being rationally compelled to form evaluative beliefs in response to certain emotions. (shrink)
I present two challenges to the theory of moral sentimentalism that Michael Slote defends in his book. The first challenge aims to show that there are cases in which we empathize with an agent and yet judge her actions to be morally wrong. If such cases are plausible, then we have good reason to doubt Slote's claim that moral judgments are an affective attitude of warmth or chill and, thus, are purely sentiments. The second challenge is more of a (...) suggestion. At the end of my paper, I suggest that perhaps one important role that empathy plays in our moral phenomenology is to mitigate the scope of our moral judgments. If this is right, it tells not only against Slote's account but against moral sentimentalist approaches more broadly. (shrink)
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)
Resumen Los filósofos sentimentalistas escoceses David Hume y Adam Smith proponen dos estrategias distintas para restringir las tendencias egoístas de la naturaleza humana. A pesar de las evidentes similitudes de sus propuestas morales, Smith encuentra dentro del ser humano la capacidad para transformar sus pasiones parciales y aspirar hacia ideales de perfección. El sentimentalismo de Hume, en cambio, no permite la autotransformación de la persona, y debe apoyarse en convenciones sociales para manipular y redirigir los impulsos egoístas desde fuera. Ambos (...) logran su objetivo. Pero mientras Hume se conforma con una moral funcional para la vida social, Smith abre una nueva dimensión de desarrollo para el ser humano.The Scottish sentimentalist philosophers David Hume and Adam Smith suggest different strategies for restricting and accommodating human selfish tendencies. In spite of the obvious similarities of their moral proposals, Smith finds within the human being the capacity to transform his partial passions and to aspire to ideals of perfection. In contrast, Hume's sentimentalism does not allow for self-transformation, and must rely on social conventions to manipulate and redirect selfish impulses from without. Both attempts achieve their goal. However, while for Hume peaceful social interaction seems to be the only aim of morality; for Smith morality also opens a new dimension of development for the human being. (shrink)
In this dissertation, the author compares early Confucian ethics with some forms of moral sentimentalism. The ethical views of two Confucian moralists, Kongzi and Mengzi are compared with Michael Slote's agent-based moral sentimentalist virtue ethics and Nel Noddings' feminine relational ethics of caring; the Confucian ethicist Xunzi's theory is compared with David Hume's classical version of moral sentimentalism. Through argumentation and theoretical reconstruction, the author attempts to establish that Kongzi and Mengzi's ethical accounts are agent-based while Xunzi's is (...) agent-prior; Kongzi's notion of shu, Mengzi's concept of ceyin zhi xin, and Xunzi's idea of "inner constitution" represent different forms of empathy. The author proposes the notion of relational virtue to reconcile the virtue ethical conception of caring with the relational ethical conception of caring. Through these comparisons and the reconciliation the author emphasizes the common ground Confucian ethics shares with the moral sentimentalist tradition. This work as the whole, therefore, represents a radical departure from traditional comparative studies that tend to emphasize the affinity between early Confucian ethics and the ancient Greek tradition. (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 paper revisits Richard Price’s Review of the Principal Questions in Morals. Price was a defender of rationalism about ethics and he anticipated many views and arguments that became influential as the metaethical and ethical debates evolved over the later centuries. The paper explores and assesses Price’s arguments in favour of rationalism and against sentimentalism, with a view to how they bear on the modern metaethical debate.
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)
Of the many objections moral rationalists have raised against moral sentimentalism, none has been more long-lived and central than the claim that sentimentalism cannot accommodate the non-consequentialist aspects of our moral thinking. John Balguy raised an early version of the non-consequentialist objection just two years after Francis Hutcheson published the first systematic development of moral sentimentalism. As Balguy understood it, Hutcheson's sentimentalism implied that what makes an action virtuous is its effects, such as the advantages or (...) pleasures it produces. According to Balguy, however, what we actually think makes an action virtuous is an intrinsic quality it possesses, which is independent of any .. (shrink)