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Why Ethics is Hard

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image of Journal of Moral Philosophy

I argue that one central resource for ethical thinking, seriously under-explored in contemporary anglophone philosophy, is moral phenomenology, the exploration of the texture and quality (the “what-it’s-like-ness”) of moral experience. Perhaps a barrier that has prevented people from using this resource is that it’s hard to talk about experience. But such knowledge can be communicated, e.g. by poetry and drama. In having such experiences, either in real life or at second-hand through art, we can gain moral knowledge, rather as Mary the colour scientist can gain knowledge of colours; such knowledge is a real cognitive gain, but it is not knowledge of the propositional kind that philosophers have usually focused on.

Affiliations: 1: The Open University,


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