Colloquium: January 15th

Title: Compassionate Moral Realism: The Core Argument

Speaker: Colin Marshall (University of Washington)

Friday, Jan 15th at 2:30pm in CLE A203


Many people believe that compassion is central to morality. But many people also believe that compassion is purely subjective, so that compassionate people do not get reality right any more than cruel people. In this talk, I argue that this second view is false. Compassion, I claim, can be objective in a straightforward sense: matching reality. According to a familiar early modern view (found in Locke), our experiences of shape are objective in a way that our experiences of color are not precisely because only the former match or resemble qualities in their objects. The same sort of matching, I argue, holds when someone is pained by another's pain, since compassionate pain resembles other types of pain . Building on David Lewis's 1989 account of value, I use this result to show that pain is objectively (pro tanto) bad. This latter fact, I claim, provides the keystone for a novel form of moral realism.