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Moral epistemology is the study of moral knowledge.
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- Possession of various emotions and desires—care, concern, love, but also anger, revulsion, indignation—is not just immensely useful to seeing the moral landscape, it is a necessary condition of doing so. The idea of dispassion as the paradigmatic epistemic stance seems to me a dangerous one, for there are some truths, I want to argue, that can be apprehended only from a stance of affective engagement. The claim is an important one, for, if correct, it means we must reject the “bureaucratic model” of morality that is implicit in so many ethical theories.
- The first lesson about affect’s role in moral epistemology, then, is that from the valorized position of dispassionate detachment we are often actually less likely to pick up on what is morally salient. Emotional distance does not always clarify; disengagement is not always the most revealing stance. To see clearly what is before us, we need to cultivate certain desires, such as the desire to see justice done, and the desire to see humans flourish, but we must also, more particularly, work at developing our capacities for loving and caring about people.