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Durham University

Department of Philosophy

Recent Events, Seminars and Lectures

Dr Silvia Panizza (East Anglia) - Moral perception beyond supervenience: a Murdochian perspective

27th October 2016, 11:30, Room 005, 48/49 Old Elvet, Durham.

Weekly Research Seminar

This Weekly Research Seminar commenced at 11:30am in room 005, 48/49 Old Elvet, Durham. Refreshments were available from 11:00am with the talk commencing at 11:30am.

Title: Moral perception beyond supervenience: a Murdochian perspective


Among the possible ways of gaining moral knowledge, moral perception figures as a controversial yet fruitful option. If moral perception is possible, moral disagreement is settled not by appealing to principles but to the objects and the process of perception, and progress in moral knowledge occurs not through deliberation but by refining one’s perceptual faculties. The possibility of ‘seeing clearly and justly’ is at the heart of Iris Murdoch’s thought, but Murdoch herself does not put forth a systematic argument for this view. In this paper I bring out an argument for moral perception based on Murdoch’s philosophy while engaging with contemporary debates in moral perception. The central idea I take from Murdoch is that perception is conceptually laden; concepts are here understood as ways of grasping the world according to human concerns. If this is true, we can explain the motivating force of perception while maintaining objectivity in ethics. This view of moral perception also constitutes a radical position in the debate, where even the most optimistic defences appeal to the supervenience of values on facts: if Murdoch is right, however, we directly perceive complex properties, including both values and other properties, so that appeal to supervenience becomes unnecessary, and some of the grounds for the very distinction between fact and value are put into question.