Expanding the Moral Repertoire: Oughts, Ideals, and Appraisals

Presented at the Moral Responsibility and Self-Knowledge Workshop at Nanyang Technological University, 2016 Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society & Mind Society, 2016 SSPP, 2016 Central APA, the Conference on Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Moral Responsibility at Utah Valley University, and the Universities of Michigan, Cambridge, Leeds, Depauw, Carnegie Mellon, and Kentucky.

Philosophers have overwhelmingly focused on blame, resentment (along with other reactive attitudes), and punishment. However, I argue for the existence of other important forms of moral criticism that have hitherto gone overlooked. I introduce a new category of what I call “non-appraising responses” as opposed to “appraisal-based” responses like blame and resentment, and provide both moral-theoretical and psychological arguments for this distinction. I argue that two distinct domains of morality (Ought vs. Ideal), along with two distinct psychological systems of motivation (Approach vs. Avoidance), call for these different types of moral criticism. Non-appraising responses set aside the appraisal function of blame in favor of its communicative and exhortative functions. This makes them appropriate responses to an agent’s failing on a particular occasion to carry out some action that would contribute to carrying out an imperfect duty, unlike blame, which is only appropriate for wholesale violations of imperfect and perfect duties.

For a full draft, please email me at robin.zheng(at)yale-nus.edu.sg.


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