- This is the most confusing paper I’ve ever attempted to read.
- I probably need to read "Mackie (J.L.) - Problems from Locke" and "Mackie (J.L.) - Hume's Moral Theory" first!
- That said, the paper seems to have been given to some poor A-Level students to examine. See the summary below:-
- Abstract by Dr. Steve Grant1
- McDowell accepts that moral properties cannot be like ‘primary qualities’. He agrees that moral qualities cannot seriously be thought to exist in the world independently of human sensibilities, as moral judgements clearly involve a subjective response. This means that he rules out a Platonist form of moral realism whereby the perception of moral qualities is a purely intellectual perception of something like a mathematical object which exists independently of any human perspective.
- McDowell goes on to question why we should assume that moral judgements should not be seen as closer to secondary qualities, whereby they depend partly on the way the world is, and partly on they way humans perceive the world. Note that we take judgements about the colour of objects to be true or false even though they depend partly on the way humans perceive the world. Why should it not be the same for judgements in ethics?
- McDowell acknowledges that there is one obvious disanalogy between judgements of secondary properties and moral judgements. With colour judgements, our visual system is affected by the coloured object which comes before us. With moral judgements, we have the additional thought that the object deserves to be judged in a particular way – we see an act of unnecessary violence as something which not only causes a judgement of badness, but which deserves to be seen as bad. Nevertheless, why can’t we say that there are certain activities which are suited to causing certain sorts of subjective responses from humans? For example, why should we not say that simple acts of helping others bring out a correct, subjective response of approval, just as acts of violence bring out a subjective response of disapproval? We come to judge such matters correctly with the help of those who are practically wise (a term he borrows from Aristotle).
- Overall, this means that we can have a correct moral judgement where a person or event elicits a moral judgement which stands the test of rational argument, and where it makes our behaviour comprehensible.
For a précis, with a lot of yellow ink where I was confused see this Note2.
Write-up3 (as at 01/08/2017 13:56:38): McDowell - Values and Secondary Qualities
This note provides my detailed review of "McDowell (John) - Values and Secondary Qualities".
Currently, this write-up is only available as a PDF. For a précis, click File Note (PDF). It is my intention to convert this to Note format in due course.
→ Further details to be supplied4.
Footnote 1: From Link (Defunct) (downloaded from Link (Defunct)).
- This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (01/08/2017 13:56:38).
- Link to Latest Write-Up Note.
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