Gastvortrag: Prof. Dr. Neil Roughley (Duisburg-Essen)


EW 145

Peremptory Objective Prescriptions, Naturalistically Understood

Mackie worried that there is no room in a scientific world view for values as conceived by people on the street. In this talk I argue that a restricted version of Mackie’s worry provides a starting point for a promising naturalistic account of a core component of morality. The restricted worry focuses on the everyday understanding of moral obligation as a matter of prescriptions that both express a sense of urgency and are yet independent of any prescribers. The account argues that everyday understanding deploys a stereotypical representation, comparable to everyday stereotypes of chemical elements. Although such stereotypes do not pick out the essence of the entity in question, in the chemical case they are causally regulated by the nature of the property onto which they latch. In the case of moral obligation, the explanatory relations­hip is more complicated. According to the account proposed, the property of moral obligation is constructed by psychological processes that are fundamental to the life form of contemporary humans, processes which also explain the prevalence and appeal of the stereotype. The key features, I claim, are dispositions to a certain form of anger, to what I call “Smithian empathy” and to the search for a standpoint from which to resolve conflict. Understood on this basis, the actions we are morally obligated to perform are actions whose omission would trigger a particular kind of empathic, yet impartial anger.