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Emotions in Moral Philosophy David Brax, KI and University of Gothenburg.

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Presentation on theme: "Emotions in Moral Philosophy David Brax, KI and University of Gothenburg."— Presentation transcript:

1 Emotions in Moral Philosophy David Brax, KI and University of Gothenburg

2 Moral Philosophy Applied Ethics: particular moral questions Normative ethics : What ought we to do, generally? Meta - ethics : Is there moral knowledge? Are there moral facts? What is the meaning of moral terms? Moral psychology: How do moral faculties work? My stance : Collaborative efforts should focus more on addressing meta-ethical questions, via moral psychology Normative implications and applications : How should we treat people with moral dysfunction?

3 Moral Sentimentalism Moral Sentimentalism (David Hume) Opposed to Rationalism (Immanuel Kant) Moral judgments can ’ t be based on reason alone - emotions are needed In particular: sympathy The more precise role of emotion in morality was and remains unclear

4 Emotion, Morality and Motivation The link goes via motivation: To judge something right involves motivation to act accordingly Emotions respond to, and constitute, certain facts as reasons In order to be moral agents, we must be able to respond to reasons Quite generally: emotions provide evaluative salience. ” Valence ”

5 Diffent Roles for Emotions Projectivism/Subjectivism/Response Dependency: Moral Facts are those that cause certain emotional responses Expressivism: Moral Judgments express certain emotions Mental state theory: Emotional states constitutive moral facts: Emotions are what matters Focus : Emotions play a key role in moral learning/development. And in subsequent behavioral regulation Emotions are our primary source of moral evidence

6 Emotion and Moral Responsibility Emotional dysfunction is associated with anti-social behavior Not restricted to ” passion crimes ” : Emotional dysfunction inhibits the acquisition of moral abilities and moral knowledge A subclass of ” Bad ” people may be blameless due to ignorance, not of consequences, but of their moral significance Ability to recognise that the emotional states of others matter is constitutive of morality. (Psychopaths as ” morally blind ” ) Should they be held morally/legally responsible for this disability? Depends on the function of criminal punishment (retribution, protection, rehabilitation, utility etc.)

7 Summary Moral sentimentalism: Emotions are central to morality, in a couple of ways: 1) Emotions matters - they are constitutive of moral facts 2) Emotions are central to moral knowledge, and to moral functioning If an agent suffers from an emotional dysfunction, then she may lack moral evidence or capacity to assess the moral significance of her actions Information about emotional dysfunction, then, should be considered when assessing moral responsibility, and when determining criminal punishment or treatment

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