Posted by: captainfalcon | May 27, 2010

Moralistic

Is this a good analysis of you are moralistic?

You are moralistic just in case, due to an insufficiently subtle appreciation of the moral landscape, you are too profligate with your attributions of wrongdoing and blame.

As I use the phrase, one can lack a “subtle appreciation of the moral landscape” both by failing to appreciate certain normative distinctions (e.g. the distinction, if it exists, between obligations to strangers and associative obligations), and by failing to appreciate particularistic, facts on the ground (e.g. the fact that they were hurling abuse at each other because they enjoy being combative, not because they were aiming to wound).

Also, one can be too profligate with attributions of wrongdoing or blame both by attributing wrongdoing where there is none and by attributing too much blame where there is wrongdoing.

Finally, I’m inclined to think no (obviously, otherwise I’d have amended my analysis), but is someone who’s too profligate with his attributions of wrongdoing and blame because his appreciation of the moral landscape is too fine-grained also moralistic?

What’s the value of explicating you are moralistic? First, moralizer is, practically, a useful epithet, and there’s already some confusion about what it is for someone to be moralistic, owing to the fact that those who accuse others of it normally explain themselves by saying something like “he’s always casting judgment.” This is ambiguous, and, on one disambiguation, a moralizer is just someone who is unusually sensitive to moral considerations (which is arguably a virtue!). If this disambiguation takes hold, we will lose the concept and, thus, a powerful means of criticizing very odious people.

Moralizer could also be a theoretically useful epithet. Possibly, a good test of a purported normative judgment is to see whether we’d be inclined to judge someone who used it in his evaluations a moralizer. (Or possibly not.)

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