Mistakes we make : perceptual failure and the moral agent / Autumn M. Fiester.

Fiester, Autumn M.
vii, 150 p. ; 29 cm.
Local subjects:
Penn dissertations -- Philosophy.
Philosophy -- Penn dissertations.
Moral judgment can be said to be a process that includes three "moments": the moment of recognition (when it occurs to the agent that there is a morally relevant situation at hand); the moment of deliberation (when the agent reflects on what she ought to do, weighing reasons or principles, considering facts and context); and the moment of decision (when the agent decides her course of action). In this work, I examine the first moment of moral judgment, what I call "moral perception." Moral perception is the recognition of the moral salience of the features in a particular situation an agent encounters. I argue that there are three components of accurate moral perception: moral principles, moral concepts, and a set of context-generating skills.
When the agent does not recognize the moral salience of the features of a situation, there has been a breakdown in the process, what can be called "perceptual failure." Because moral perception is the necessary impetus for moral reflection, moral decision, and, ultimately, moral action, a failure in the perceptual process has as its consequence unintentional wrongdoing. Perceptual failure leads to a wrongdoing because the perpetrator misidentifies the situation as being morally neutral and thus fails to initiate the process of practical reasoning that would reveal a moral obligation, duty, or prohibition. In a case of perceptual failure, the process of moral judgment never gets off the ground. In this essay, I argue that perceptual failures can occur when any of the three components is compromised. I claim that there are two types of perceptual failures that can occur in the mature moral agent: the first is caused by a structural deficit in one of the first two components, her principles or concepts, and the other is caused when there is a lapse in the agent's efficacy in applying her principles and/or concepts due to problems in her context-generating skills.
Supervisor: Susan Sauve Meyer.
Thesis (Ph.D. in Philosophy) -- University of Pennsylvania, 2002.
Includes bibliographical references.
Local notes:
University Microfilms order no.: 3054939.
Meyer, Susan Sauve, advisor.
University of Pennsylvania.
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