The Individual in Pursuit of the Individual; A Murdochian Account of Moral Perception
In a number of articles John McDowell defends the appearance that evaluative thought in general involves a distinct sensitivity to aspects of the world.1,2 This sensitivity, McDowell thinks, constitutes the ground of moral thought and moral knowledge in particular.3 Moral thinking, on this Aristotelian view, is not a matter of deriving conclusions about what ought to be done from premises stating universal moral truths or rules, for human affairs are irreducibly varied and situational and the human good is uncodifiable. The question How should one live can only be answered by the agent who has the capacity to single out occasion by occasion that feature of the situation which engages with the right concern for the circumstances. It is this singling out which is conceived of as a distinct sensitivity to aspects of reality, and which is explained as the virtuous agent’s susceptibility to reasons for acting; what McDowell calls moral perception. Moral perception is thus the...
I would like to thank Robert Pippin for invaluable help with an earlier draft of this paper and for opening my eyes to the difficulties of self- and other-knowledge. For an ongoing series of inspiring discussions on almost all the issues treated in this paper I want to thank John McDowell, Kieran Setiya and Matt Boyle. For generous comments on an earlier draft of this paper I want to thank the audience at the 4th Foundations of Normativity Conference at the University of Edinburgh and in particular Geoff Sayre-McCord and James Brown for his interesting and difficult objections. I would also like to thank the audience at the International Conference on Moral Epistemology at the American Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia and in particular Wojciech Kaftanski and Tristram Oliver-Skuse. Finally, I want to express my deep gratitude for the penetrating and thoughtful comments and suggestions of the anonymous reviewer for the Journal of Value Inquiry.