Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 267–278 | Cite as

A Communicative Conception of Moral Appraisal

  • Jules Holroyd


I argue that our acts of moral appraisal should be communicative. Praise and blame should communicate, to the appraised, information about their status and competences as moral agents; that they are recognised by the appraiser as a competent moral agent, and thus a legitimate candidate for appraisal. I argue for this thesis by drawing on empirical data about factors that can affect motivation. On the basis of such data, I formulate a constraint, and argue that two prominent models of moral appraisal – a consequentialist model and Wallace’s ‘evaluative response’ model – violate this constraint. The model that I propose – the communicative conception of appraisal – does not violate this constraint. This conception, I argue, can provide a fuller picture of the role of appraisals in deepening agents’ commitment to moral norms. On this model, praise and blame has not only an evaluative component, but also communicates to the agent competence affirming information.


Blame Consequentialism Communicative Empirical Motivation Moral psychology Praise Wallace 



Many thanks, for questions and comments, to: Jimmy Lenman, Jenny Saul, Chris Bennett, Bob Stern and Sean Cordell; Richard Holton, for allowing me to sit in on his moral psychology course, at which an early version of this was presented; audiences at the University of Sheffield, and the British Society for Ethical Theory Annual Conference, Southampton University 2006, and an anonymous referee for the latter. I am also grateful to the AHRC for funding.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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