Variability and moral phenomenology

Michael B. Gill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Many moral philosophers in the Western tradition have used phenomenological claims as starting points for philosophical inquiry; aspects of moral phenomenology have often been taken to be anchors to which any adequate account of morality must remain attached. This paper raises doubts about whether moral phenomena are universal and robust enough to serve the purposes to which moral philosophers have traditionally tried to put them. Persons' experiences of morality may vary in a way that greatly limits the extent to which moral phenomenology can constitute a reason to favor one moral theory over another. Phenomenology may not be able to serve as a pre-theoretic starting point or anchor in the consideration of rival moral theories because moral phenomenology may itself be theory-laden. These doubts are illustrated through an examination of how moral phenomenology is used in the thought of Ralph Cudworth, Samuel Clarke, Joseph Butler, Francis Hutcheson, and Søren Kierkegaard.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-113
Number of pages15
JournalPhenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Francis Hutcheson
  • Joseph Butler
  • Moral phenomenology
  • Ralph Cudworth
  • Samuel Clarke
  • Søren Kierkegaard
  • Variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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