Sympathy pp 76-95 | Cite as

An Attitude Towards a Soul

  • Craig Taylor
Part of the Swansea Studies in Philosophy book series


So far my claim has been that certain primitive responses – specifically sympathy and the kind of moral incapacity that is evidenced by Huckleberry Finn – are responses that are themselves constitutive of human nature. The objection I considered in Chapter 4, however, was that it is not these responses themselves that are constitutive of human nature but rather those sentiments, dispositions, emotions and so on – that we might place under the general heading of desires – that lie behind these responses and – in conjunction perhaps with the agent’s beliefs and certain rational/deliberative processes – explain them. Indeed, so the objection goes, that must be so if we are to distinguish those responses to others that are truly moral from those that are, as Williams puts it, merely psychological. Roughly the idea here is that any belief we might have concerning whether an agent’s response is a moral one is ultimately to be justified by reference to certain more basic beliefs we have about that agent’s psychological states and processes. But against this I suggested that our justified belief that an agent’s response was a moral one in no way depends on any such beliefs. On the contrary, I claimed that any beliefs we might have here about, say, an agent’s emotions or sentiments, are themselves founded on our primitive responses to them. More precisely, I claimed that our beliefs about an agent’s motives here are constituted in part by certain of our primitive responses to them. But how could what I amcalling primitive responses be constitutive of such beliefs? In this chapter I hope to answer that question.


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© Craig Taylor 2002

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  • Craig Taylor

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