Social Philosophy and Policy

Research Article

Two Sources of Morality*

Philip Pettita1

a1 Philosophy, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University

This essay emerges from consideration of a question in the epistemology of ethics or morality. This is not the common claim-centered question as to how moral claims are confirmed and whether their mode of confirmation gives us grounds to be confident about the prospects for ethical discourse. Instead, I am concerned with the less frequently posed concept-centered question of where in human experience moral terms or concepts are grounded — that is, where in experience the moral becomes salient to us. This question was central to moral epistemology in the form it took among thinkers such as Locke, Hume, and Kant, and it remains of the first importance today.


* In writing this essay, I benefited from exchanges with Allan Gibbard, Oswald Hanfling, Brad Hooker, Victoria McGeer, Susan Mendus, Michael Ridge, Michael Smith, and R. Jay Wallace, and from comments from this volume's contributors and editors. I was particularly influenced by conversations with Stephen Darwall and Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, and I owe a very considerable debt to each. The essay was also improved by helpful discussions when it was presented at the annual meeting of the British Society for Ethical Theory in July 2000, and at a university seminar at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in September 2000.