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Sentimentalism: Human analysis of moral belief

Kretschmer, Fritz Martin; (1996) Sentimentalism: Human analysis of moral belief. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In this thesis, I investigate the nature of moral belief and judgment. Moral beliefs come out as dispositional sentiments of sanction; that is moral judgments express dispositions to experience something like compunction, guilt, remorse or shame (in the first-person) and blame, resentment, indignation or outrage (in the second- and third-person). This analysis constitutes one particular dispositional theory of value typically captured by a biconditional of the following form: X is P [if and only if] X is such as to produce a P response in subjects S Many moral philosophers, cognitivists and non-cognitivists, have adapted the general form of the biconditional for their purposes. The content of moral belief and judgment may be said to be dependent on psychological capacities of a various kind: interests, preferences (Hare), desires, second-order desires (Lewis), motivations, responses (Wiggins), attitudes (Blackburn) or plain dispositions. Common to most of these proposals is that the specific value-making states of mind remain underdefined. Attitudes, for example, are often merely characterized as what they are not supposed to be: standardly conceived beliefs with genuine truth-conditions (modelled, say, on a correspondence theory of truth). It is one aim of this dissertation to supply an independent account of the relevant states of mind. My proposal therefore starts from the psychological reality of sentiments, giving a full analysis of what sentiments are, before developing the relation of specific sentiments to moral belief in form of another biconditional: X is of moral value V [if and only if] X is such as to produce sentiments of sanction associated with V in subjects S In filling in this formula I argue (1) for a version of Internalism about moral belief, and I reassess (2) the epistemic status of moral beliefs as dispositional sentiments concentrating on the notion of a sentimental cause. In the case of the non-moral emotion of fear, for example, the sentimental cause is what I am afraid of - a dangerous circumstance. But what are sentiments of sanctions directed at, what is their content. My answer seeks to make room for the notion of an appropriate sentiment while remaining epistemologically non-cognitive: sentiments of sanction are subject to conditions of critical reflection, but these conditions may only imply reasonable convergence of sentiments under substantial psychological assumptions. In an appendix it is suggested that what has been previously argued on independent grounds may count as our best reading of Hume's moral philosophy.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Sentimentalism: Human analysis of moral belief
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Philosophy, religion and theology; Sentimentalism
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10106147
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