The Role of Perspectives in Ethics

Ethical Perspectives 13 (1):11-30 (2006)
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Abstract

Most modern moral philosophy is what I call ‘Impersonalist.’ It claims, quite plausibly, that the particular identity of the moral agent has nothing to do with the rightness or bestness of a given course of action, with the overriding moral reasons supporting such an action, nor with the moral obligation placed upon the agent to perform it.In addition, the Impersonalist account assumes what I call a Humean model of practical reasoning, whereby perception, deliberation, decision, and action are all logically separate stages.I challenge both the alleged moral irrelevance of the agent and the logical separation of the reasoning stages by invoking Peter Winch’s metaphor of a ‘moral perspective’: my perception andmy deliberation are both shaped by the perspective from within which I experience – and must experience – the world.Different people have different moral perspectives, and so they will consider different moral options as available and different reasons as relevant when considering the same situation. This is relativism, but only a benign form, and I explain why

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Christopher Cowley
University College Dublin

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