The Moral Significance of the Emotions Analytical Essay by Shaad

The Moral Significance of the Emotions
This paper describes how moral subjectivism is refuted by the realists and quasi-realists and highlights the central role that is played by the emotions in arriving at objective and moral truths.
# 146717 | 1,925 words | 5 sources | APA | 2010 | BD
Published by on Jan 14, 2011 in Philosophy (Metaphysics) , Philosophy (Logic) , Philosophy (Epistemology) , Sociology (General)

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This essay discusses the role that the emotions play in human understanding and conduct. It starts by pointing out that the British tradition of empirical scepticism does not preclude moral objectivity, and that Hume in particular lays much stress on the emotions as guiding towards moral truths. The writer then describes the moral subjectivism of the logical positivists and there efforts to dismiss the emotions as insignificant states of mind. Against this strain the essay presents the arguments of various realists and quasi-realists. Wiggins is shown to argue that moral judgments can be both subjective and objective at the same time, and where the emotions play the role of guiding the subjective impressions towards objectivity. Blackburn is shown to guide this line of reasoning towards practical and moral life, where the latter is shown to be the sublimation of the former, and is filtered through the emotions. Finally, Oakley is shown to describe the emotions in terms of strengthening of purpose. The conclusion drawn that morality is not a mere state of mind but describes the impulse to activity, which is also the embodiment of objectivity, and the emotions play a crucial role in guiding towards truth.

From the Paper:

"In the British tradition of empirical scepticism, all knowledge is derived from the senses, and is thus subject to relativism. The four great sceptics in this tradition are Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley and Hume. Yet in none of their cases does material scepticism lead to moral scepticism. Hobbes was staunchly conservative; Locke advanced a theory of the natural rights of man; Berkeley was confident that all objective truth was in the mind of God, and Hume proposed a ``science of man''. The recent debate surrounds the question as to what extent moral perceptions are objective. The realists hold that they are purely objective, while the anti-realists argue for pure subjectivity. The quasi-realists fall somewhere in between. Simon Blackburn, a proponent of quasi-realism, insists on the subjectivity of moral perceptions, yet believes that rational accounts can be given for such perceptions. Wiggins, on the other hand, does not see why there should be an either/or option."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Blackburn, S. (1998) Ruling passions: a theory of practical reasoning, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Hume, D. (2006) An Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Cosimo, Inc., New York.
  • Hume, D. (1986) Treatise of Human Nature, Penguin Classics, New York.
  • Oakley, J. (1993) Morality and the emotions, Routledge, London.
  • Wiggins, D. (1998) Needs, Values, Truth: Essays in the Philosophy of Value, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Cite this Analytical Essay:

APA Format

The Moral Significance of the Emotions (2011, January 14) Retrieved December 07, 2023, from

MLA Format

"The Moral Significance of the Emotions" 14 January 2011. Web. 07 December. 2023. <>