New - The annual project for 2018/2019, "Emotions and Perception in Moral Epistemology", led by Dr. Warner Preston

October 3, 2017

It is clear that emotions have a central role in our moral practices. We feel indignation about racist government policies, compassion for an ill friend, and admiration for those we see as morally courageous. These emotions also appear closely related to moral motivation, as well as moral judgment. But do emotions play any significant role in justifying moral beliefs? And if so, what broader implications would this have for moral epistemology, moral psychology, and moral metaphysics? Much recent metaethical work has been focused on these topics.

A related question concerns the connections--psychological as well as epistemological--between perceptual experience and emotional experience. There is good evidence that affect can influence the way we perceptually experience the world. Depression can make the world look darker, and fear can help to sharpen attentional focus. It remains an open philosophical question how these influences are relevant epistemologically. Are emotional responses epistemically distorting, epistemically beneficial, or some combination? Do emotions make available the perceptual representation of sui generis properties, or do they only direct our attention toward properties we already perceptually represent? Do emotional influences on perceptual processing have long term effects? Does perceptual processing have any long term effect on our emotional dispositions?

Given the important role that emotions play in moral judgment, and the role that emotions play in the formation of perceptual experience, a variety of interesting philosophical questions arise related to moral epistemology. The tight connection between perception, emotion, and moral belief allows for a wide range of questions about moral epistemology, moral psychology, normative theorizing, and even moral metaphysics. We will be addressing these questions, broadly construed, over the course of the year.

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