In what sense can moral judgments be right or wrong? They cannot be right or wrong in the same way in which descriptive judgments are true or false – unless one is willing to make some extremely counterintuitive metaphysical assumptions about there being moral properties of agents and actions in the world that exist independently of the human mind and of human sensitivity. Still, it seems equally counter-intuitive to claim that moral judgments are a mere matter of personal taste. One way out of this dilemma is to try and develop some kind of response-dependence account of the meaning of the evaluative terms which we use in moral judgments. The underlying idea of such a strategy is that our moral judgments are about agents and their actions in the world, but that the particular way we emotionally respond to these matters of fact is constitutive of their moral evaluation.
Response-dependent accounts of meaning have been proposed for various kinds of terms, including in particular colour terms (such as ‘red’) and evaluative terms (such as ‘morally good’ or ‘morally bad’).
The questions we shall discuss in this course include the following:
What are the similarities and differences between our perceptual and our emotional/evaluative responses to matters of fact? Can a response-dependent account of a colour term provide a model for a response-dependent account of an evaluative term, and of a moral term in particular? And how should we conceive of the person on whose responses we rely when specifying the response constitutive of the meaning of a colour term or of a moral term? What is a normal perceiver? What is a normal subject of an emotional experience?