The Journal of Value Inquiry

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 197–207 | Cite as

What Mystery of Moral Experience?


1 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.1 Our “ordinary moral practice” and the “facts of ordinary moral experience,” he says, contain features which are incontrovertible but mutually incompatible.2 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 facts [and we have] beliefs about what these facts are … but it leaves entirely mysterious how or why having a moral view is supposed to have special links with [motivation]…. The practicality of moral judgement suggests just the opposite, that our moral judgements express our desires…. While this enables us to make good sense of the link [with motivation], it leaves entirely mysterious what a moral argument is supposed to be an argument about.”3

Let us understand what is meant by the mystery or problem in line with the intention Smith expresses as something which has an explanation, if baffling at first. But the formulation Smith gives of the problem, its standard formulation, involves a problematic psychological account of moral experience. The psychological account involves assuming that moral experience, and what is manifest in ordinary practice, can be accounted for in terms of propositional attitudes, an assumption which drives how the problem is characterized and proposed solutions to it. We need not deny that moral experience can be problematic or mysterious. The principal issue is that the standard view of what constitutes the mystery casts the problem in psychological terms, where the source of the problem is an alleged incompatibility of mental states.

The idea is that although our moral thought and practice is apparently coherent, it is, mysteriously, made up of elements that cannot be coherently combined. On an alternative view, moral experience and the ordinary facts which constitute it are not exhausted by our mental states and cannot be exhausted by them. Much of the basic stuff of moral experience has nothing to do with our mental life at all. The ordinary facts of moral thought, discourse, and experience are not well accounted for, let alone exhausted by facts about our mental states or propositional attitudes.

2 Mental States and the So-called Facts of Moral Experience

It is widely agreed that our moral experience at least suggests the presence of objective values, properties, events, and states of affairs. This aspect of our evaluative phenomenology finds expression in verbal forms as well is in other modes of practice. We make assertions such as stealing is wrong and being honest is right. We think of moral judgments as true or false and use moral predicates in describing our behavior. Our moral thought involves trying to think, talk, and act in ways that are right, where the rightness involved is taken to be independently constituted by the way the world is. With our moral thought and discourse, we aspire to represent such objective facts which obtain, when they do, independently of our practices of representation, assertion, and description. On the standard formulation, this feature is captured by the familiar claim about our psychology that the means by which we try to represent the world correctly is by having and expressing beliefs about the world. Central to our moral experience is also a practical, motivational aspect captured by a claim about a different aspect of our psychology that moral judgment involves having and expressing desires which are constitutively motivational.

Typically, beliefs and desires share a common feature in that both have representational content, if of different sorts. Beliefs have representational content in so far as with them, we seek to represent the way the world really is. Desires have representational content in so far as with them we represent how the world is to be.4 The source of the mystery lies in how our moral thought and practice can be, as it appears to be, genuinely answerable to the world and intrinsically practical, a combination of both objective and practical purport. A diagnosis of this fact could lead us to suppose that our mental economy contains other special kinds of composite psychological states, so-called besires, for instance.5 Besires are mental states that are adequate for playing both objective and practical roles. They satisfy both directions of fit, in the sense considered by G. E. M. Anscombe.6

The existence of besires would at least show that the standard picture of human psychology is insufficient and would give us reason to reject the suggestion that our moral thought could be exhaustively decomposed in to beliefs and desires. Whether or not we agree that besires are a justified addition to our mental economy or that they play the right kind of explanatory role, besires are nevertheless mental states. Thus we could say that while the mystery has its source in the alleged conflict between kinds of mental states, proposed solutions involve the introduction of other kinds of mental states that could supposedly account for the objective and practical character of moral thought. Thus what is being proposed as a solution to the problem of an impoverished philosophical psychology is a replacement philosophical psychology. But this shifts the problem of accounting for moral experience and practice in psychological terms instead of dealing with it.

The pervasive character and distinctive features of the philosophical psychology at issue is Humean. It is central to the standard formulation of the mystery. The features of our experience are characterized as incompatible by Humean psychology according to which desires are the primary motivational force for action. This illuminates the mystery implied by the objective feature, since the relevant mental state captured by objectivity cannot accommodate this aspect. One of the central tenets of Humean psychology is the division of relevant propositional attitudes into either beliefs or desires. What is emphasized is how such basic mental states are distinct existences, as Hume understood them to be, and how they can motivate a person to act.

Let us imagine that the moral thought and experience of a person corresponds to the problem that Smith outlines. Furthermore, let us suppose that the person is able to enjoy each of the practical and objective aspects of moral experience somehow in isolation from the other, and thus their phenomenology tracks the distinctness between beliefs and desires. In considering the practical aspect, the person recognizes that this makes good sense, as Smith puts it, of the pre-philosophical connection between moral judgement and action. We may suppose that it simply does not occur to him that it has any problematic implications for any other aspect of our thought or experience. It makes good sense, and that is that. Let us suppose that soon after, the person considers the intellectual element in moral experience, and he similarly notes that this makes good sense of why moral experience appears to have objective purport and why we argue and try and get things right. It simply does not occur to him that it has any problematic implications for any other aspect of our thought or experience. The experience of the person is unlike the characterization Smith offers to the extent that no mystery or problem presents itself. We may ask if something is missing from the experience and the person is missing the mystery.

Perhaps the description of this case is misleading, since it is part of what it is to be practical or subjective that it is as such in tension somehow with what it is to be objective. We might think that the person is evidently not competent to consider his experience with sufficient sensitivity, since the relevant competence would make him aware that the mystery is already implied by each of the practical and objective elements, even if taken independently. This would be a failure in conceptual competence or some failure to understand or properly interpret just what is presented in experience. If the person can understand that the aspect of experience on which he is focused is objective, then he will understand, a priori, that the content is incompatible with the practical content of moral experience. Perhaps experience of each element is needed to make the relevant understanding lively to his mind, as Hume would say, but the understanding would not positively depend on such experience. Even if this is right, from within the constraints of Humean psychology it is unclear whether the relevant kind of understanding is intellectual or practical.

Phenomenologically, beliefs and desires are not often experienced as distinct. Someone believing that his daughter is playing the violin in a school concert is not felt as distinct from his desiring to hear her play. Such cases are part of the ordinary facts of experience. Proponents of Humean psychology insist that, despite the phenomenology, beliefs and desires can be pulled apart “at least modally,” as Smith puts it.7 The states are exclusive in that neither can fulfill the role taken by the other, and yet this fact is problematic when considering the overall nature of our moral thought and practice. In considering this, we are bound to consider both the intellectual and the practical features that in combination make up moral thought and practice, not just one of them somehow on its own. Nevertheless the assumption is that, notwithstanding the appearances, it is possible to decompose the ordinary facts of moral experience into beliefs and desires, mental states the contents and roles of which are mutually exclusive. The assumption in large part serves as the source of the mystery since, given the disjunction, it is quite unclear how moral experience appears simultaneously to combine both elements. This view rests on it being plausible that we can describe, interpret, and understand our moral thought and experience in terms of mental states and the relations between them. The view is also motivated by a questionable characterization of what counts as the appearances and of what is involved in identifying them.

3 Psychology and Metaphysics

Let us assume that ordinary moral practice contains an objective feature and a practical feature which are “the exact opposite of each other.”8 The objective feature is partly constituted by our expressing beliefs, and the practical feature partly involves expressing our desires. Beliefs and desires are both propositional attitudes with their own distinctive forms of representational content and directions of fit. The objective feature implies that the constraint in light of which beliefs fail or succeed in being true is set by the nature of the world. It is commonly assumed that neither beliefs nor the features of the world that they are purported to represent can be intrinsically motivational. Some philosophers appeal to an alleged metaphysical truth that as a matter of fact, the world simply does not contain such features since they would breach a range of central metaphysical commitments.9 The commitments rule out there being features of the world that are objective and practical, external to our minds yet, per impossibile, intrinsically connected to our will. Admitting such objective yet intrinsically motivating features of the world would, supposedly, contravene the best undertanding of the universe that we currently have and the best accounts of the ways in which we know about the universe. Proponents of the standard formulation could embrace this understanding through premises about the content and significance of mental states. The strategy would thus draw metaphysical conclusions from psychological premises. The denial that there are objective and motivational facts in the world is taken to be directly supported by psychological theory. As Smith puts it: “the standard picture of human psychology tells us that there are no such facts.”10 In looking at the nature and role of our mental states and by employing the standard theory, Humean psychology, we can come to know that the world must be bereft of objective moral values.

Accordingly, even if the fabric of the world was, as J. L. Mackie put it, queer enough so as to include objective yet intrinsically motivating properties, we would not have at our disposal anything like the right kind of psychological state that would provide us with awareness of such properties. The nature and representational content of beliefs is inadequate to capture the practical aspect, and the nature and representational content of desire is inadequate to capture the objective aspect. The fabled properties would simply remain invisible even if our relevant psychological states and capacities were well-stocked and finely-tuned. On the view that Mackie sets out, defending the idea that we can know about objective values would involve appealing to “special faculty of moral perception” or “a strange sort of intuition.”11 Translated into the psychological vocabulary of the standard model, any awareness of objective yet motivational features of the world would presumably involve a strange sort of mental state wholly at odds with the standard understanding of human psychology.

4 Appearances and Inner and Outer Phenomena

Advocates of the standard account propose an analysis of the elements manifest in ordinary moral practice and of the ordinary facts of moral experience. These aspects of our lives are, presumably, meant to be pre-philosophical in the sense that they are the things of which a philosophical analysis is provided. Our practice and experience constitute what is often regarded as the principal data, so to speak, for such analysis. Conventionally the data is characterized as the elements manifest in ordinary practice. Often competing philosophical accounts of our moral thought are assessed partly according to how successful they are in saving the appearances, the extent to which a given theory accounts for the ordinary features manifest in moral practice and experience. Whatever the credentials of this way of assessing proposed accounts of our moral thought and practice, the standard formulation of the mystery involves a mistaken focus on the appearances as they are manifested at the psychological or mental level. The error is not that focusing on this level is mistaken as such but that the focus is bound to exclude much of what ought to count as falling within the class of moral appearances. This exclusion results in the ordinary features of moral experience being substituted by the ordinary features of our psychological lives. We should resist this, since the moral appearances and the ordinary facts of experience cannot be reduced to facts about our mental states. What counts as the moral appearances ought to include, among other things: aspects of interpersonal dialogue including the variety of non- linguistic behavior and activities that is partly constitutive of interpersonal understanding; regulative ideals that govern the logic of moral thought such as convergence of opinion; norms regulating the articulation, criticism, and defense of moral views; patterns of thought and argument regulated by inter-subjective agreement; the expression and discussion of moral emotions; witnessing the behavior of people; and seeing the effects of our decisions. Also included would be, as Smith acknowledges, rampant cruelty, systematic injustice, and moral indifference.12 These elements are part of what is constituted by ordinary moral experience and thought, but none of them are mental states or propositional attitudes.

It might be said in response that such things nevertheless require some kind of mental state such as a belief to mediate our access to such non-mental features or states of affairs. For instance, for rampant cruelty to figure as a constituent of moral experience we would need a belief that there is rampant cruelty in the world. Furthermore, if mental states or propositional attitudes were needed to act as conduits for all the constituents of moral experience, then this would imply that there could be no appearances without the relevant kind of mental state to serve as mediator, no appearances if there were no mental states to illuminate them. Few philosophers would defend the idea that rampant cruelty is simply a mental state, but it is only marginally less implausible to say that cruelty appears in our moral thought and discourse only because we have beliefs that it exists and desires that we act collectively to eliminate it. It is not a plausible view, since many things that figure in the ordinary stream of moral experience resist characterization in psychological terms.

Describing features such as non-linguistic behavior and rampant cruelty as part of the moral appearances assumes a wide-scope use of the term “appearance” that is well accommodated by what is presumably meant by the ordinary facts of moral experience. The suggestion is not that it is never appropriate to say that beliefs mediate or constitute the appearances but that the moral appearances exceed well beyond what can be captured by applying mental state terms. There are, then, good reasons to distinguish between the different senses with which “appearance” is used. For instance, it can be used to refer to the domain of appearances appropriate to describing them in the context of thought, and it can also be used to refer to the domain of appearances appropriate to describing them in the context of our experience of the world. Constituents of the context of our experience incorporate outer phenomena and cannot be adequately understood or accounted for by attending to our psychological states. The domain of inner phenomena, in contrast, is constituted by psychological states or episodes such as, centrally, beliefs, and desires. That sense of “appearance” is narrow in scope and is used to refer to psychological content rather than features of the world outside of the minds and attitudes of persons.

The standard account of the mystery of moral experience would have us misappropriate the distinction in the scopes of “appearance,” since there is an unwarranted priority assigned to appearances in the narrow, psychological sense. This motivates the view of psychological content as mediator. For example, although it is conceded that rampant cruelty is part of our moral experience broadly construed, and that such states of affairs are at least notionally unlike propositional attitudes, our recognition of such states of affairs is articulated through the medium of Humean psychology as mysteriously combing both objective and practical features. The problem is that in implicitly treating one realm of appearances as if it could be reduced to or substituted by another realm, proponents of the strategy would have us suppose that the ordinary facts of moral experience are facts about our psychology. But this is not just a problem about a proposed reduction of one kind of appearance to another. It also reflects a deeper problem about what it takes for us to identify and understand our mental states. Criticizing the psychological account of moral experience should not be taken to imply an exclusive distinction between, on the one hand, an inner realm of psychological states and, on the other, a non-mental realm of worldly properties and states of affairs. There is nothing about this distinction that implies that it is absolute.

Let us consider cases of our needing to find out whether we believe something, a process which is arguably a fundamental feature of our lives, particularly our moral lives. The process need not involve a form of introspection or attending to our inner mental lives. For instance, Gareth Evans argues that in determining whether we believe that something is the case, we ordinarily do not inwardly glance toward an interior psychological realm. As he puts it: “If someone asks me ‘Do you believe that there is going to be a third world war?’, I must attend, in answering him, to precisely the same outward phenomena as I would attend to if I were answering the question ‘Will there be a third world war?’”13

As Evans sees it, understanding the nature of our mental capacities, including the nature of belief, need not involve some scanning of our inner lives. In understanding the nature of belief and of whether or not we have a particular belief vital for understanding our mystery, our “eyes are, so to speak, or occasionally literally, directed outward – upon the world.”14 This suggests that determining whether we have a belief that something is the case will be a matter, at least some of the time, of attending to the appearances in the wide-scope sense, to the features that constitute the ordinary and non-psychological constituents of our moral experience. Evans explains that in affirming some belief or judgment, we look at the world. We do not need to “in any sense gaze at, or concentrate upon, [our] internal state.”15 This supports a wider view about what we should take as the ordinary features of experience in the current sense, even if it is agreed that beliefs play a central role. What matters is where we look, as it were, to find out about what constitutes our moral experience and what is manifest in our moral thought and practice.

Interpreting appearances in the narrow, psychological sense is not an error as such. We can insist on the importance of the moral appearances without rendering them in purely psychological terms. The appearances have a fundamentally important methodological and phenomenological role in moral philosophy. For example, according to Aristotle, in ethical inquiry we ought to: “first set out the way things appear to people, and then, having gone through the puzzles, proceed to prove the received opinions about these ways of being affected – at best, all of them, or, failing that, most, and the most authoritative. For if the problems are resolved, and received opinions remain, we shall have offered sufficient proof.”16 Ideally, the appearances are saved by a philosophical account of the phenomena under question and our investigations, ideally, vindicate received opinions. In the context, Aristotle is embarking on a discussion of akrasia, although the principle of saving the appearances is one that has wide application. In contemporary moral theory, the use of this principle has been a central way to organize debates about whether forms of realism or expressivism offer the best account of our moral thought, practice, and discourse.17 In the present context, the principle of saving the phenomena is also important for recognizing the different realms of appearance. For instance, taking the principle seriously means that in characterizing the moral phenomena we ought to attend to features of our experience that cannot be translated into the framework of mental states. Whether or not an Aristotelian would endorse the idea that clarifying the appearances needs to focus exclusively on the character and interplay between mental states, Aristotle was not uninterested in psychology, and his deployment of the principle of saving the appearances shows that what falls within the scope of phenomena is complex and wide-ranging.

5 A Different Mystery?

What is constituted by the moral appearances is complex and we should proceed carefully when considering what it is that we take as manifest in ordinary thought and discourse. Part of the assumption that our moral thought and experience can be translated into propositional attitudes reflects substantive commitments at the philosophical level, and this brings into question the legitimacy of idea that the appearances constitute a set of pre-philosophical data. Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, for example, suggests that the moral problem or mystery in the standard formulation might be better thought of as a meta-ethical problem that emerges at the level of second-order analysis, once distinctively philosophical assumptions are operating.18 Challenging the characterization of the mystery in this way does not exhibit skepticism about second order analyses as such but suggests that we need to take a view about whether the appearances that are at the focus of the standard formulation are in fact the shadows of technical and controversial theses in philosophical psychology and beyond. But, as Smith explains: “what metaethical reflection suggests, at least initially, is that the very idea of being morally required to act in some way or other is all a total sham: nothing could be everything a moral requirement purports to be. When people become convinced moral skeptics for this sort of reason and then go on to acquire an indifference to the suffering of others, as so many certainly do, the problems the rest of us face become acute.”19 He adds that the cause of the first-order moral problem “is not the fact that moral thought is incoherent” but instead “the fact that it is believed to be incoherent when it is not.”20 Meta-ethical reflection is in some sense the source of and also the solution to the problem that Smith is concerned to identify. Sayre-McCord suggests that a form of moral skepticism can follow from reflection, since someone could become aware of the sham and put the knowledge into practice, so to speak. Such a person could thereby become indifferent to the suffering of others.21 That some of us do not become moral skeptics in the light of meta-ethical reflection suggests either that the content of such reflection is itself different for non-skeptics or that some other thoughts prevent the meta-ethical skepticism from infiltrating our first-order discourse and practice. Smith would deny that there is a difference in the content of reflection between philosophers who do and do not become skeptics. Meta-ethical reflection as such suggests that the very idea of being morally required to do one thing as opposed to another is a sham. But the sham is only an initial suggestion, not a conclusion to serve as the basis of action or, if indifference does express the relevant kind of skepticism, the basis of inaction. The proposal that Smith makes is to solve the moral problem, whether or not it comes to infect first-order practice, by showing how moral requirements flow from what it is to be a thinking, reflective, rational creature. These are just the features that skeptics must admit that they have, since their indifference arises from rational reflection on what morality appears to be.22

Whether the proposal that Smith makes is a good response to moral skepticism is not of central concern. The claim is only that the problem or mystery of moral experience as revealed through meta-ethical reflection need not threaten to undermine morality. What is initially suggested by reflection need not be some curious fact about our thought and discourse that can jeopardize the very idea of morality. Instead, as Kant suggests, the mystery of moral experience can sustain our moral lives. It could be an important part of what gives moral thought and discourse its character. Kant wrote of the “strangeness” of how moral demands in the form of the moral law are experienced as independent of our inclinations and how this is “mysterious and wonderful.”23 As a rationalist alternative to the account of motivation and the wider philosophical psychology provided by a Humean framework, Kant offers a way to regard a certain type of reason as the essentially motivating force in ethics.24

The kind of psychological approach to moral experience we have considered is often taken for granted and to a large extent it thus shapes what the initial problem or mystery is to which philosophers respond. For instance, according to Alison Denham: “No doubt there really is much about morality which is genuinely mysterious, but that is because human psychology is mysterious.”25 In the context, the point is directed toward what she describes as an easy view in moral epistemology in which it is held that moral perception is a sui generis faculty of knowing. That thought, according to Denham, can be attractive to some of us since it “imbues moral phenomena with a pleasing air of mystery.”26 Viewing moral phenomena as mysterious could be pleasing, since it would apparently help preserve the autonomous character of ethics and thus protect against prevalent forms of reductionist naturalism, if we were inclined to feel the need for such protection. Denham suggests that the mystery of moral experience is a function of the mystery of human psychology; but there is no compelling reason why we must choose between either accounting for the mystery in psychological terms or embracing the idea that the mystery is a result of some sui generis qualities or properties of moral phenomena wholly independent of psychology and a broader naturalist framework.

6 Concluding Remarks

The standard formulation of the mystery encourages us to attend to mental states, to the logic of propositional attitudes and their relations to the exclusion of other important features of moral experience. We cannot hope to describe adequately our moral experience if we characterize it in wholly psychological terms that are used to refer only to inward phenomena. The motivation for analyzing the ordinary features of experience in psychological terms comes from a tacit commitment to the primacy of psychology. Overall, our moral thought and practice is said to contain a mystery or problem, but the mystery is generated by the incompatibility of mental states. The standard formulation need not explicitly restrict the focus on aspects of our psychology but there is, nevertheless, a problematic switch between domains of phenomena. An explanation of why our overall moral thought and practice contains a mystery ultimately will be framed in terms of psychological states even though the mystery is said to pervade our moral thought and discourse. What explains the occurrence of the mystery is that the complex array of outer phenomena can be interpreted as either being intellectual or practical which, in turn, are captured by the two cardinal psychological states of belief and desire. The relevant propositional attitudes have distinct metaphysical, semantic, and epistemological roles, but both share the same psychological space, as it were. Thus there has been a slide between two senses of the phenomena, an outward sense and an inner sense, and the two have been conflated.

Moral experience may nonetheless contain features that are difficult to reconcile and our moral lives may well be in some sense mysterious. To neglect those aspects of our moral lives would be to neglect core features of our experience and to risk turning moral reflection, as Martha Nussbaum has put it, into something “hopelessly flat, tedious, underambitious.”27 Nevertheless, a particular account of what the mystery amounts to, one that is characterized as something that can be identified and explained with reference only to psychological considerations, is misleading. It is misleading because it runs together different domains of phenomena, and illicitly substitutes one for the other and by doing so presents a restrictive conception of what the mystery amounts to. In particular, it implies that the mystery is, in essence, a psychological mystery that comes into view through analysis of mental states and their relations. As such, saving the phenomena becomes a task of describing the salient characteristics of our inner psychological lives.

What constitutes the ethical appearances is not a question that can be analyzed into a question about states of mind. As a contribution to the task of elucidating our moral experience, Smith has provided an influential framework for further discussion. But there is more to the mystery or the problem of moral experience than can be accommodated by invoking propositional attitudes and the apparent tension between them. Providing a comprehensive and in-depth account of what the ordinary facts of moral experience amount to is an important and daunting task and we should do more than glancing inward if we want to understand what they are.28


  1. 1.

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

  2. 2.

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

  3. 3.

    Michael Smith, “Realism,” in A Companion to Ethics, ed. Peter Singer (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), p. 402.

  4. 4.

    See Smith, The Moral Problem, p. 7.

  5. 5.

    See J. E. J. Altham “The Legacy of Emotivism,” in Graham MacDonald and Crispin Wright, eds., Fact, Science and Morality: Essays on A. J. Ayer’s Language, Truth and Logic (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986).

  6. 6.

    See Elizabeth Anscombe, Intention (Oxford: Blackwell, 1957), p. 56.

  7. 7.

    Smith, The Moral Problem, p. 7.

  8. 8.


  9. 9.

    See J. L. Mackie, Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong (London: Penguin, 1977).

  10. 10.

    Smith, The Moral Problem, p. 11.

  11. 11.

    Mackie, op. cit., pp. 38–39.

  12. 12.

    See Michael Smith, “In Defence of ‘The Moral Problem’,” Ethics, vol. 108, no. 1, 1997, p. 118.

  13. 13.

    Gareth Evans, TheVarieties of Reference (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982) p. 225.

  14. 14.

    Evans, op. cit., p. 225.

  15. 15.


  16. 16.

    Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, ed. Roger Crisp (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 1139a, bk.VI, ch.1, pp. 103–104.

  17. 17.

    See Jonathan Dancy, “Two Conceptions of Moral Realism,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume, vol. 60, 1986; see also Edward Harcourt, “Quasi-Realism and Ethics Appearances,” Mind, vol. 114, 2005, and Michael Ridge “Saving the Ethical Appearances.” Mind, vol. 115, 2006.

  18. 18.

    See Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, “The Metaethical Problem,” Ethics, vol. 108, 1997.

  19. 19.

    Smith, “In Defence of ‘The Moral Problem’,” p. 118.

  20. 20.


  21. 21.

    See ibid.

  22. 22.

    See ibid., p. 117.

  23. 23.

    Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, trans. Lewis White Beck (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1956), pp. 31 & 84.

  24. 24.

    See David Jensen, “Kant and a Problem of Motivation,” Journal of Value Inquiry, vol. 46, no. 1, 2012.

  25. 25.

    Alison Denham, Metaphor and Moral Experience (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 58.

  26. 26.


  27. 27.

    Martha Nussbaum, “Saving Aristotle’s Appearances,” in The Fragility of Goodness (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 241.

  28. 28.

    I would like to thank the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft for funding work for “Emotional Experience in Depression: A Philosophical Study” that also made it possible to complete this article. I would also like to thank Andy Hamilton, Simon P. James, Donnchadh O’Conaill and Duncan Proctor, and Thomas Magnell, the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Value Inquiry, for helpful conversations and comments.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyDurham UniversityDurhamUK

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