Feeling values: a phenomenological case for moral realism
Hammond, Tanner Burke
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The present work is an attempt to vindicate the notion that feelings are a source of justification for our ordinary moral and evaluative beliefs. On the account I defend, certain intentionally directed emotional experiences constitute perceptions of the evaluative features of objects and states of affairs in the world. The unique properties presented through such emotional experiences are what we ordinarily call values, and these irreducibly evaluative properties are the truthmakers of our evaluative and moral judgments. In sum, feelings are an avenue for arriving at moral and evaluative knowledge, because feelings are our access to those special features of the world that determine what the moral and evaluative facts are. My case proceeds in three parts. In Part I, I draw upon conceptual resources taken from Alexius Meinong and Franz Brentano in order defeat to recent efforts to reduce value concepts and properties to other non-evaluative terms. In Part II, I advance an affect-based version of substantive value realism—Affective Value Perceptualism—according to which values are sui generis properties given through intentional acts of emotional experience. On the broadly Husserlian account I defend, evaluative perceptions are emotionally-mediated presentations—that is, intentional experiences in which we are immediately aware of the evaluative features of some intentional object, and this by way of non-conceptual mental content. In Part III, I attempt to show how such an affect-based realism can furnish action-guiding norms and a priori moral principles. After tracing the historical aversion to the latter idea to a specious intellectualist prejudice in our understanding of the a priori, I develop an appropriation of Max Scheler's material a priori account of values. According to the latter, law-like constraints on correct evaluative judgments and actions are grounded in the material essences of emotional phenomena, which constitute a unique domain of a priori experiential facts alongside those governing all other experiential modalities (e.g. color, tone, space, etc.). After motivating the material a priori through an analysis of color incompatibility knowledge, I argue that the phenomenological analysis of paradigmatically evaluative emotions reveals a priori facts grounded in the nature of evaluative experience itself.