Moral Perception Beyond Supervenience

21 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2018

See all articles by Silvia Panizza

Silvia Panizza

University of East Anglia (UEA)

Date Written: September 13, 2018


Among the possible ways of gaining moral knowledge, moral perception figures as a controversial yet fruitful option. If moral perception is possible, moral disagreement is addressed not by appealing to principles but to the process and the objects of perception, and moral progress occurs not through deliberation but by refining one’s perceptual faculties. The possibility of “seeing clearly and justly” is at the heart of Iris Murdoch’s thought, but Murdoch herself does not put forth a systematic argument for this view. In this paper I propose an argument for moral perception based on Murdoch’s philosophy, while engaging with contemporary debates in moral perception. The key idea I take from Murdoch is that perception is conceptually laden, where concepts are understood as ways of grasping the world according to human concerns. Murdoch’s position enables us to solve a difficult tension: explaining the motivating force of perception while maintaining objectivity in ethics. This view of moral perception also constitutes a radical position in the debate, where even the most optimistic defenses appeal to the supervenience of values on facts. If Murdoch is right, however, we perceive complex properties, including values, directly, so that appeal to supervenience becomes unnecessary and some of the grounds for the very distinction between fact and value are put into question.

Keywords: Moral Perception, Iris Murdoch, Realism, Supervenience, Concept-Use

Suggested Citation

Panizza, Silvia, Moral Perception Beyond Supervenience (September 13, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Silvia Panizza (Contact Author)

University of East Anglia (UEA) ( email )

Norwich Research Park
Norwich, Norfolk NR4 7TJ
United Kingdom

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