The Point of Morality (Conference: 1.7.-3.7.2010, Berlin)


We often refer to morality without committing ourselves to one
particular moral view or even moral theory. For instance, people
identify questions generically as moral ones and set them in contrast to
matters of prudence or politics. Philosophers investigate issues such as
moral responsibility, the moral emotions, or the relation between
morality and self-interest independently of any particular position
about what is morally right and wrong. Such practices call for
investigation into how the realm of morality should be distinguished.
And they raise the question of how much can meaningfully be said about
morality without adopting a more specific stance.
To provide an illuminating answer to the question of what morality is
all about can be seen as a major concern in some prominent recent work
in moral philosophy. The goal is to provide an account of morality that
elucidates its point without a straightforward commitment to some
particular normative view. On the other hand, it is suggestive to
understand disagreements among various normative theories in terms of
competing conceptions of what has come to be referred to as ,the moral
point of view'.
This more recent project of capturing morality contrasts markedly with
well-known earlier attempts to analyse the concept of morality. From the
1950s through the 1970s many philosophers were engaged in the project of
listing individually necessary and, taken together, sufficient
conditions for judgements, norms, or principles to be moral ones. Among
the most influential ones were characterizations in terms of
overridingness and universality. Such formal accounts, including those
that mention the categoricity of moral reasons, still have a
considerable following. They are motivated by the thought that reference
to such features seems necessary for the descriptive task of identifying
what may count as ,the morality' of some society or some individual.
Interesting and helpful as such definitions may be, they crucially
remain silent about why morality should display the alleged features in
the first place. For the advantage of neutrality that purely formal
accounts seem to enjoy is set off by their failure to address the more
fundamental question of what the point of morality is. One major thing
that we might expect of a philosophical account of morality, however, is
that it makes sense to those who are engaged in the practice of morality.
The aim of this conference is to bring together philosophers from
various perspectives to assess the prospects of the project to provide a
generic account of morality ,from within'. Issues to be addressed
include: What are the respective advantages and disadvantages of
specific proposals, both traditional and more recent, for capturing the
point of morality? Is there in fact space for an illuminating
characterization of the moral between a purely formal account on the one
hand and particular normative theories on the other hand? How important
is it to find a general account of morality? What exactly are the
contexts in and the purposes for which distinguishing the moral from the
non-moral plays a role?

We often refer to morality without committing ourselves to one
particular moral view or even moral theory. For instance, people
identify questions generically as moral ones and set them in contrast to
matters of prudence or politics. Philosophers investigate issues such as
moral responsibility, the moral emotions, or the relation between
morality and self-interest independently of any particular position
about what is morally right and wrong. Such practices call for
investigation into how the realm of morality should be distinguished.
And they raise the question of how much can meaningfully be said about
morality without adopting a more specific stance.
To provide an illuminating answer to the question of what morality is
all about can be seen as a major concern in some prominent recent work
in moral philosophy. The goal is to provide an account of morality that
elucidates its point without a straightforward commitment to some
particular normative view. On the other hand, it is suggestive to
understand disagreements among various normative theories in terms of
competing conceptions of what has come to be referred to as ,the moral
point of view'.
This more recent project of capturing morality contrasts markedly with
well-known earlier attempts to analyse the concept of morality. From the
1950s through the 1970s many philosophers were engaged in the project of
listing individually necessary and, taken together, sufficient
conditions for judgements, norms, or principles to be moral ones. Among
the most influential ones were characterizations in terms of
overridingness and universality. Such formal accounts, including those
that mention the categoricity of moral reasons, still have a
considerable following. They are motivated by the thought that reference
to such features seems necessary for the descriptive task of identifying
what may count as ,the morality' of some society or some individual.
Interesting and helpful as such definitions may be, they crucially
remain silent about why morality should display the alleged features in
the first place. For the advantage of neutrality that purely formal
accounts seem to enjoy is set off by their failure to address the more
fundamental question of what the point of morality is. One major thing
that we might expect of a philosophical account of morality, however, is
that it makes sense to those who are engaged in the practice of morality.
The aim of this conference is to bring together philosophers from
various perspectives to assess the prospects of the project to provide a
generic account of morality ,from within'. Issues to be addressed
include: What are the respective advantages and disadvantages of
specific proposals, both traditional and more recent, for capturing the
point of morality? Is there in fact space for an illuminating
characterization of the moral between a purely formal account on the one
hand and particular normative theories on the other hand? How important
is it to find a general account of morality? What exactly are the
contexts in and the purposes for which distinguishing the moral from the
non-moral plays a role?

Principal investigators
Schmidt, Thomas Prof. Dr. (Details) (Philosophy in Practice / Ethics)

Duration of project
Start date: 05/2010
End date: 10/2010

Last updated on 2022-08-09 at 05:08