Moral Perception

Moral Perception

Robert Audi
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 194
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  • Book Info
    Moral Perception
    Book Description:

    We can see a theft, hear a lie, and feel a stabbing. These are morally important perceptions. But are they alsomoral 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 Perceptionadvances our understanding of central problems in ethics, moral psychology, epistemology, and the theory of the emotions.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4632-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    A perennial quest of philosophy is to construct an adequate conception of the human person and to frame sound standards for human conduct. In the domain of ethics, standards of interpersonal conduct are central. Ethical conduct is essential for human civilization, and in our globalized world, with its increasing international interdependence, nothing is more important than universal adherence to sound ethical standards. Is there any moral knowledge that can serve as a basis for such standards? That is one of the broad questions motivating this book.

    With the successes and intellectual prominence of modern science, philosophers and many others who...

  6. PART ONE Perception and Moral Knowledge
    • CHAPTER 1 Perception: Sensory, Conceptual, and Cognitive Dimensions
      (pp. 7-29)

      Perception is central in epistemology, and the concept of perception is among the most important in philosophy. No one doubts that perception is essential for human knowledge, and we trust its deliverances. If there is dispute about whether someone pointed a laser beam at an airplane in flight, honest testimony that onesawthe act normally settles the dispute. It is even common for people to go so far as to say that seeing is believing. The prominence of this adage indicates the importance that visual perception is taken to have for grounding belief and knowledge. The sense of touch...

    • CHAPTER 2 Moral Perception: Causal, Phenomenological, and Epistemological Elements
      (pp. 30-50)

      We should begin with clarification of the problem to be addressed. What kind of experience might be thought to constitute moral perception?

      Many philosophers think that moral knowledge is never perceptual and that perception is relevant to ethics only by representing certain non-moral facts. These are the kind that, like the fact that one person clubbed another, can be ascertained without applying or even having moral concepts. Responding to this skeptical view requires both an account of perception and an understanding of the basis on which singular moral judgments are made. Singular moral judgments are of the common kind in...

    • CHAPTER 3 Perception as a Direct Source of Moral Knowledge
      (pp. 51-66)

      Simple perception, whether moral or not, does not entail belief formation, but its non-doxastic character does not in the least preclude its presenting perceivers with much information about the object perceived. That perception does this explains in good part why it can both justify beliefs appropriately connected with its content and ground knowledge about its object. But if, in perceiving an object, we in some way process information—as is widely held among psychologists as well as philosophers—one may wonder whether perception is in some way inferential. Understanding perception requires pursuing this question, and that in turn requires clarifying...

  7. PART TWO Ethical Intuition, Emotional Sensibility, and Moral Judgment
    • CHAPTER 4 Perceptual Grounds, Ethical Disagreement, and Moral Intuitions
      (pp. 69-102)

      The previous chapters outline a theory of perception and explain how that theory enables us to explicate moral perception. I have resisted the temptation to subsume moral perception entirely under the ordinary perception of observable natural properties, but I have brought out important respects in which it is similar to that. Moral perception has, for instance, a causal element. It also exhibits some of the phenomenal elements and the discriminative dependence on its object that go with its causal structure. These characteristics are manifested in different ways in different people and may also be colored by elements of culture and...

    • CHAPTER 5 Moral Perception, Aesthetic Perception, and Intuitive Judgment
      (pp. 103-120)

      The theory of value properly includes aesthetics as well as ethics, but too few contemporary philosophers have adequately explored the bearing of aesthetics on ethics. The connections between the two are especially important for understanding moral perception and moral intuition. There is aesthetic perception, as opposed to mere perception of an aesthetic object, just as there is moral perception, as opposed to mere perception of a moral phenomenon; there is aesthetic intuition, just as there is moral intuition; and, in aesthetics as in ethics, we find aesthetic disagreements that, even more than moral disagreements, challenge the view that normative domains...

    • CHAPTER 6 Emotion and Intuition as Sources of Moral Judgment
      (pp. 121-142)

      Moral perception is possible for virtually any normal person with an elementary mastery of moral concepts. It is common among people with highly discriminative moral sensibilities. It characteristically makes many moral propositions intuitive for the perceiver. It is a major route to moral intuition, and it often yields moral knowledge. But moral perception is by no means the only route to moral intuition or moral knowledge. Reflection is another route. Its subject matter may be concrete, as where a practical decision must be made regarding life support for an accident victim; it may be abstract, as where the topic is...

    • CHAPTER 7 The Place of Emotion and Moral Intuition in Normative Ethics
      (pp. 143-169)

      We now have before us the core of a theory of moral perception and its relation to both intuition and emotion. Many examples have been provided to illustrate all three of these interrelated notions and support a view of their importance in ethics and elsewhere. The theory can be further supported and clarified, however, by considering all three in relation to the kinds of moral judgments central for practical ethics. This will require further discussion of both emotion and intuition, an illustration of how they arise in several moral domains, and a sketch of the place of moral imagination in...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 170-174)

    It is time to recall some major points that have emerged in this book. I have extended a detailed account of perception to the moral domain. Establishing that there is moral perception and that it is, like everyday observation of things around us, genuinely a response to the world supports the objectivity of ethics and the hope of improving cross-cultural understanding and communication. My theory of moral perception takes full account of the causal element in perception but does not require naturalizing moral properties, though, in virtually every detail, it is consistent with doing that if it should be possible....

  9. Index
    (pp. 175-180)