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Annema, A.T.

Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy

Justifiable Moral Judgments

A neo-sentimentalist approach of Blameworthiness and justification

According to the sentimentalist philosophy of David Hume, morality is based or grounded in our emotions. When people feel an aversion to an act, it is this feeling that designates the act as being wrong, or morally reprehensible. In this view there is no objective truth to moral judgments; moral judgments reflect our emotions of (dis)approval.

In my thesis I follow the neo-sentimentalist tradition which builds on sentimentalism while it also allows for reasoning about our moral judgments. Neo-sentimentalist philosophers vary in their accounts of how one is able to reason about moral judgments and emotions in particular, but they commonly share the idea that our emotional responses can be thought of as either appropriate or inappropriate. In my thesis I follow this account of neo-sentimentalism and add to it an account of blame and blameworthiness. Basically, the emotion of blame follows the same sentimentalist tradition as Hume in which our emotions designate an act as being (morally) wrong. The account of blameworthiness allows us to examine our emotions.

The idea is that an emotion of blame is an emotion about something or someone that makes us feel a certain way. An emotion as such has propositional content which can either be true or untrue. If the propositional content is true, then the blame emotion is appropriate and the person being judged is indeed blameworthy. This account allows for some degree of objectivity which allows us to justify and defend our moral judgments or to criticize those of others. I defend this account against two critics, Jesse Prinz and Shaun Nichols, who both argue that an account of appropriate emotions is either unnecessary or over-intellectualized.

Last modified:02 December 2014 12.33 p.m.