MV#18: Feeling Right, Ethics and Emotion — James Hutton

Should we trust our emotions as a guide to right and wrong?

Some ethical frameworks would see us removing our feelings from the picture, acting with impartiality, and following principles such as the greatest good for the greatest number. Yet we can find cases where the consequences of those frameworks don’t feel right.

This week’s guest James Hutton is a philosopher at the Delft University of Technology who argues that emotions provide a way of testing our moral beliefs — similar to the way observations are used in natural sciences as evidence for or against theories.

This is not to say that emotions are infallible, nor that they are not themselves influenced by our moral beliefs, but that they do have a place in our moral inventory. In particular, the destabilizing power they can have — their capability to clash with our beliefs — is an important counterpoint to the entrenchment of poorly justified worldviews.

Listen carefully and you can just about hear me revising my own beliefs throughout this conversation.