, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 197-207
Date: 10 Jul 2012

What Mystery of Moral Experience?

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The Problem with Our Ordinary Moral Practice

According to Michael Smith, a “central organizing problem” in contemporary meta-ethics concerns a particular way in which our moral thought and practice is or at least appears mysterious.

Michael Smith, The Moral Problem (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994), p. 11; see also David McNaughton, Moral Vision (Oxford: Blackwell, 1988), p. 23.

Our “ordinary moral practice” and the “facts of ordinary moral experience,” he says, contain features which are incontrovertible but mutually incompatible.

Smith, op. cit., pp. 5 & 124.

The features, taken individually, account for some of the basic and inalienable characteristics of our moral thought but they are, on his view, jointly inconsistent. Broadly speaking the features are objectivity and practicality. As Smith puts it: “The problem is that the objectivity and the practicality of moral judgment pull in quite opposite directions from each other…. The objectivity of moral judgement suggests that there are moral fa