The Phenomenology of Moral Experience

The Phenomenology of Moral Experience

The Phenomenology of Moral Experience

The Phenomenology of Moral Experience

Excerpt

The following studies may appear to constitute an anomaly among present discussions of the problems of ethics. During the past decades most philosophers have been prone to approach the issues of ethical theory through logical and epistemological analyses. On the other hand, there have been a few philosophers, and a considerable number of social scientists, who have attempted to derive an ethical theory from their interpretations of psychological or sociological facts. Because of prior commitments, neither group has, I believe, examined the full range of moral experience with sufficient care.

In the first of the studies which follows I have attempted to show the necessity for grounding any ethical theory upon a phenomenological analysis of moral experience. In the remaining five studies I have attempted to analyze the nature of that experience and of the moral controversies to which it gives rise. In making these analyses I have consciously sought to avoid prejudging any of the issues of ethical theory by the introduction of epistemological, psychological, or sociological hypotheses. What I have sought to render is a faithful description of the most significant features of various types of moral experience, and of that which all possess in common.

The results of these analyses are not, in my opinion, devoid of import for ethical theory. Not only can they serve as a basis for testing the adequacy of alternative theories, but they also directly suggest certain significant conclusions. The conclusions to which I believe them to give rise are such as to lend very powerful support to the basic contention of those recent moralists who have attacked the utilitarian tradition. However, unlike the majority of these moralists, I should be unwilling to hold that the data of moral experience suggest that rightness is a "non-natural" property of actions, or that judgments of rightness and wrongness are apriori in character. In the language of current technical distinctions, I believe that the ethical theory which is most consonant with the facts of moral experience would be classifiable as a naturalistic and (in Sidgwick's sense) . . .

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