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Björnsson, Gunnar (ms). 'Objectivist' traits of moral phenomenology and moral discourse don't support moral objectivism. (Google)
Abstract: Moral objectivists hold that there are answers to moral questions, answers that are correct independently of who is asking the question. And they often think that traits of moral phenomenology and discourse support their understanding of moral thinking and moral language, creating a strong presumption against relativist, non-cognitivist and nihilist accounts. This paper questions that assumption, developing an argument of a type that has been alluded to more or less explicitly by proponents of non-cognitivism, relativism and nihilism. If the argument is successful, the existence of widespread and deep moral disagreement prevents objectivism from explaining or making sense of apparently objectivist traits of morality in a straightforward way. The fact that moral discourse and moral thinking seem to be concerned with objective matters gives us no straightforward reason to accept objectivism. Support for objectivism would have to come from a different source
Abstract: Clarifying the essential experiential structures at work in our everyday moral engagements promises both (1) to provide a perspicacious self-understanding, and (2) to significantly contribute to theoretical and practical matters of moral philosophy. Since the phenomenological enterprise is concerned with revealing the a priori structures of experience in general, it is then well positioned to discern the essential structures of moral experience specifically. Phenomenology can therefore significantly contribute to matters pertaining to moral philosophy. In this paper I would like to contribute to the relatively small yet burgeoning field of phenomenological ethics. I endeavour to do so by first identifying and consolidating the basic level of sense-bestowal, and then outlining the a priori structures of volition in order to demonstrate how such phenomenologically discerned structures are required for moral experience. Specifically, in section one I locate moral experience as at the level of meaning that is phenomenologically identified as the life-world, and then vindicate the life-world by illustrating how it is immune to naturalistic rationalisation. By thus both securing the level of meaning that is of concern and importantly delimiting the scope of our analysis, I proceed in section two to relate the volitional analyses of Aristotle, Husserl, and Heidegger. This relation is achieved thanks to a conceptual point of continuity: ‘prohairesis’. By examining the function of this concept (as an intentional structure) and its phenomenological continuity, the ground is then prepared for further phenomenological analyses of the virtues.
Abstract: This paper distinguishes between two senses of the term “phenomenology”: a narrow sense (drawn from Nagel) and a broader sense (drawn from Husserl). It claims, with particular reference to the moral sphere, that the narrow meaning of moral phenomenology cannot stand alone, that is, that moral phenomenology in the narrow sense entails moral intentionality. The paper proceeds by examining different examples of the axiological and volitional experiences of both virtuous and dutiful agents, and it notes the correlation between the phenomenal and intentional differences belonging to these experiences. The paper concludes with some reflections on how the focus on the broader sense of “phenomenology” serves to provide a more precise sense of what we might mean by “moral phenomenology.”
Abstract: Bodhicaryåvatåra was composed by the Buddhist monk scholar Íåntideva at Nalandå University in India sometime during the 8th Century CE. It stands as one the great classics of world philosophy and of Buddhist literature, and is enormously influential in Tibet, where it is regarded as the principal source for the ethical thought of Mahåyåna Buddhism. The title is variously translated, most often as A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life or Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds, translations that follow the canonical Tibetan translation of the title of the book (Byang chub sems pa’i spyod pa la ‘jug pa) and the commentarial tradition of Tibet. But that translation itself is a bit of a gloss on the original Sanskrit, and I think that a more natural English rendering of the Sanskrit title is simply How to Lead an Awakened Life, and that indeed describes the content of the text admirably. Taking this as the title of the text might also issue in a kind of gestalt shift in our view of the text, allowing us to see it not so much as a characterization of the extraordinary moral life of a saint, but as a guide to moral development open to any of us. So, let’s take that as the English title for now
Abstract: Many moral philosophers in the Western tradition have used phenomenological claims as starting points for philosophical inquiry; aspects of moral phenomenology have often been taken to be anchors to which any adequate account of morality must remain attached. This paper raises doubts about whether moral phenomena are universal and robust enough to serve the purposes to which moral philosophers have traditionally tried to put them. Persons’ experiences of morality may vary in a way that greatly limits the extent to which moral phenomenology can constitute a reason to favor one moral theory over another. Phenomenology may not be able to serve as a pre-theoretic starting point or anchor in the consideration of rival moral theories because moral phenomenology may itself be theory-laden. These doubts are illustrated through an examination of how moral phenomenology is used in the thought of Ralph Cudworth, Samuel Clarke, Joseph Butler, Francis Hutcheson, and Søren Kierkegaard
Abstract: In this paper, I address the what, the how, and the why of moral phenomenology. I consider first the question What is moral phenomenology?, secondly the question How to pursue moral phenomenology?, and thirdly the question Why pursue moral phenomenology? My treatment of these questions is preliminary and tentative, and is meant not so much to settle them as to point in their answers’ direction
Levin, David Michael (2009). Experience and description in the moral phenomenology of Merleau-ponty and Levinas. In Robert Vallier, Wayne Jeffrey Froman & Bernard Flynn (eds.), Merleau-Ponty and the Possibilities of Philosophy: Transforming the Tradition. State University of New York Press. (Google)
Abstract: In this study, I examine the significance of the trace and its legibility in the phenomenologies of Merleau-Ponty and Levinas, showing that this trope plays a more significant role in Merleau-Ponty's thinking than has been recognized heretofore and that it constitutes a crucial point of contact between Merleau-Ponty and Levinas. But this point of contact is also, in both their philosophies, a site where their thinking is compelled to confront its limits and the enigmas involved in the description of the topography of a hermeneutical flesh. It is argued that the significance of the trace consists in its alterity, its registering and inscribing in the very matter of the flesh an imperative spiritual assignment: the morally binding hold of the other person on my capacity to be responsive to the other's needs and bear responsibility for the other's welfare. The retrieval or recuperation of the trace, which, I argue, is inscribed as a certain predisposition in what, borrowing from Merleau-Ponty, we might call the prepersonal topology of the flesh, would thus constitute a task of the utmost importance for the formation of the moral self. However, given the paradoxical temporality of the trace and the hermeneutical nature of its legibility, the retrieval of the trace is not actually possible. Nevertheless, the attempt to retrieve it - one's commitment to retrieving it - is an absolutely imperative existential task, determining the character of the moral self. In both Merleau-Ponty and Levinas, however, the problematic nature of this recuperative project is manifested in the ambiguous, equivocal modality of their rhetoric, supposedly engaged in the phenomenological description of the primordial 'inscription', but oscillating, in fact, undecidably between descriptive and prescriptive, constative and performative, literal and metaphorical modes of discourse. It is argued that this, far from being a fault, is necessitated by the hermeneutic nature of the trace, which requires that the description be invocative and evocative, provoking a deep transformation in experience that would make the description true. It accordingly becomes clear that and why the moral phenomenologies of Merleau-Ponty and Levinas, depending as they must on a metaphorical interaction between language and experience, cannot function within the framework of the traditional correspondence theory of truth
Abstract: This paper discusses the issue of German moral responsibility for the Holocaust in the light of the thesis of Daniel Goldhagen and others that inherited negative stereotypes of Jews and Jewishness were prime causal factors contributing to the genocide. It is argued that in so far as the Germans of the Third Reich were dupes of an ''hallucinatory ideology,'' they strikingly exemplify the ''paradox of moral luck'' outlined by Thomas Nagel, that people are not morally responsible for what they are and are not responsible for. The implications of this paradox for the appraisal of German guilt are explored in relation to the views of a number of recent writers on the Holocaust
Abstract: In this short paper, I argue that the phenomenology of moral judgment is not unified across different areas of morality (involving harm, hierarchy, reciprocity, and impurity) or even across different relations to harm. Common responses, such as that moral obligations are experienced as felt demands based on a sense of what is fitting, are either too narrow to cover all moral obligations or too broad to capture anything important and peculiar to morality. The disunity of moral phenomenology is, nonetheless, compatible with some uses of moral phenomenology for moral epistemology and with the objectivity and justifiability of parts of morality