Moral Knowledge-Assessment of a Perceptual Paradigm

Dissertation, University of Oxford (United Kingdom) (1988)

Abstract
Available from UMI in association with The British Library. Requires signed TDF. ;The perceptual paradigm of moral epistemology, the main proponent of which is John McDowell, constitutes an attempt to reject scepticism about moral knowledge. The key idea is that when a situation evokes a moral attitude in us this attitude itself can be a genuine awareness of a moral quality. Our attitudes inform us about moral features of the world in a way analogous to the way in which ordinary sense impressions inform us about the sensory properties of the objects surrounding us. ;The adherent of the perceptual paradigm claims that moral properties are real properties of the things to which they are truly ascribed, but he also claims that they are subjective in the sense that for an object to have a moral property is for it to be disposed to elicit a certain response in us. It is argued, by means of an analogy with secondary qualities, that this sort of modest moral realism is coherent. It is also argued that a number of alleged disanalogies between values and secondary qualities, do not serve to undermine the relevant analogy. ;In the second half of the thesis some of objections to moral realism having to do with the relativity of moral judgment are considered. It is argued that disagreements about what is morally right and wrong cause particular difficulties to the perceptual paradigm. To account for critical thinking concerning the relative importance of our various moral concerns the perceptual model needs to be supplemented with a more constructivist model. And in some cases no moral knowledge can be found because of the unavailability of a unique response from the moral point of view
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