MORAL PHILOSOPHY AND MORAL PSYCHOLOGY
“Human Morality, Naturalism, and Accommodation: Reflections on David Wong’s Natural Moralities,” in Yang Xiao and Yong Huang (ed.), Moral Relativism and Chinese Philosophy: David Wong and His Critics (Albany: SUNY Press, 2014): 33-47
David Wong’s important book Natural Moralities sees morality as fundamentally about regulating behavior within human groups. I argue that such a conception cannot capture the generally accepted feature of morality that it must apply to all human beings as human beings; and that Wong’s evolutionism and “naturalism” get in the way of his recognition of “humanity” as a central moral concept.
“Benevolence,” International Encyclopedia of Ethics (ed. Hugh LaFollette) (Wiley-Blackwell, on-line, 2013)(13 pp)
Benevolence, a sentiment involving concern for the good of others, differs from other moral motives to promote others’ good, such as Kant’s duty of beneficence, Iris Murdoch’s “seeing,” and the Confucian tradition’s ren. I discuss Butler's and Hume's views on benevolence, and compare benevolence to “care,” whose object is more strongly individualized. Nietzsche, Freud, Anna Freud, and Max Scheler recognize distorted and defective forms of benevolence that possess diminished moral value or none at all. Benevolence, in something like ordinary parlance, is too robust for certain very minimal sorts of responsiveness to the plight of others, and is too insubstantial for other sorts.
“Caring and Moral Philosophy,” for Robert Lake (ed.), Dear Nel: Opening the Circles of Care (Letters to Nel Noddings) (Teachers College Press, 2012): 66-69
I describe coming to Noddings’s work through encounters with Simone Weil and Iris Murdoch, and the difficulty of locating that tradition within philosophical ethics in the Anglo-American tradition in which I had been educated. I still believe that many of the insights of Caring (from 1984) have not been fully taken up in contemporary mainstream ethics, although feminist ethics has largely done so. I discuss the importance of the caring relationship, not merely caring as a sentiment or virtue, and the type of good specific to that relationship.
“Visual Metaphors in Iris Murdoch’s Moral Philosophy,” in Justin Broackes (ed.), Iris Murdoch, Philosopher (Oxford University Press, 2012): 303-319
Visual metaphors—attention, perception, seeing, looking, and vision—play a central role in Murdoch’s moral philosophy and moral psychology. I distinguish three different phenomena that Murdoch fails consistently to mark: (1) a conscious and successful perception of moral reality; (2) a focused act of attention that contributes to structuring the world of value as seen by an individual agent, but which can be distorted so that it is not focused on moral reality; (3) the habitual and unselfconscious way of taking in the world around us that has been structured by various forces, including but not limited to (1) and (2). In her account of why people fail to grasp moral reality, Murdoch privileges individual psychological obstacles (illusion, fantasy, self-centered distortion) but neglects social forms of obstacles—stereotypes about race- or class-based groups, for example—that also contribute to (3) and that distort moral perception. Ironically, Murdoch’s famous example of a mother-in-law not “seeing” her daughter-in-law entirely depends on recognizing class as a source of moral perceptual distortion, yet Murdoch does not recognize this.
“Empathy and Empirical Psychology: A Critique of Shaun Nichols,” in Morality and the Emotions (ed. Carla Bagnoli) (Oxford University Press, 2011): 170-193
Nichols’s view of empathy (in Sentimental Rules) in light of experimental moral psychology suffers from several deficiencies, including (1) It operates with an impoverished view of the altruistic emotions (empathy, sympathy, concern, compassion, etc.) as mere short-term, affective states of mind, lacking any essential connection to intentionality, perception, cognition, and expressiveness; and (2) Nichols fails to keep in focus the moral distinction between two very different kinds of emotional response to the distress and suffering of others—other-directed, altruistic, emotions that have moral value, and self-directed emotional responses, such as personal distress, that do not.
Without in any way denying that moral philosophy is strengthened by knowledge of empirical psychology, I suggest that the failures of Nichols’s argument are partly due to his misuse of particular empirical results and findings, and possibly in part to a weakened commitment to the distinctive contribution the humanistic methods of philosophy make to our understanding of the moral enterprise.
“Racial Virtues” in R. Walker and P.J. Ivanhoe (eds.), Working Virtue (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 2007)
“Stereotypes and Stereotyping: A Moral Analysis,” Philosophical Papers, (ed. Ward Jones), vol. 33, #3 (November 2004): 251-289
Stereotypes are false or misleading generalizations about groups, generally widely shared in a society, and held in a manner resistant, but not totally, to counterevidence. Stereotypes shape the stereotyper’s perception of stereotyped groups, seeing the stereotypic characteristics when they are not present, and generally homogenizing the group. The association between the group and the given characteristic involved in a stereotype often involves a cognitive investment weaker than that of belief.The cognitive distortions involved in stereotyping lead to various forms of moral distortion, to which moral philosophers have paid nsufficient attention. Some of these are common to all stereotypes—failing to see members of the stereotyped groups as individuals, moral distancing, failing to see subgroup diversity within the group. Other moral distortions vary with the stereotype. Some attribute a much more damaging or stigmatizing characteristic (e.g. being violent) than others (e.g. being good at basketball). But the latter must also be viewed in their wider historical and social context to appreciate their overall negative and positive dimensions. The popular film The Passion of the Christ illustrates this point in its portrayal and Jews and Romans.
“Personal Relationships,” in Blackwell’s Companion to Applied Ethics (ed. Christopher Heath Wellman and R. G. Frey) (Oxford: Blackwell’s, 2003): 512-524
"Against Deflating Particularity," Margaret Little and Brad Hooker (eds.), Moral Particularism, Oxford University Press, 2000
"Altruism and Benevolence," Encyclopedic Dictionary of Business Ethics (Patricia Werhane and R. Edward Freeman, eds.), Blackwell, 1997 (Reprinted In Moral Perception And Particularity)
Wiley Encyclopedia of Management 3rd edition, Volume 2: Business Ethics, 2014
"Altruism and Egoism," Dictionnaire de philosophie morale, (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1996)
"Community and Virtue," in Roger Crisp (ed.), How Should One Live? (Oxford University Press, 1996) (Reprinted In Moral Perception And Particularity)
"Altruism and the Moral Value of Rescue: Resisting Persecution, Racism, and Genocide," in L. Baron, L. Blum, D. Krebs, P. Oliner, S. Oliner, and M.Z. Smolenska, Embracing the Other: Philosophical, Psychological, and Historical Perspectives on Altruism, New York: NYU Press, 1992
"Moral Perception and Particularity," Ethics 101 (July 1991): 701-725 (Reprinted In Moral Perception And Particularity)