What Attentional Moral Perception Cannot Do but Emotions Can

James Hutton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Jonna Vance and Preston Werner argue that humans’ mechanisms of perceptual attention tend to be sensitive to morally relevant properties. They dub this tendency “Attentional Moral Perception” (AMP) and argue that it can play all the explanatory roles that some theorists have hoped moral perception can play. In this article, I argue that, although AMP can indeed play some important explanatory roles, there are certain crucial things that AMP cannot do. Firstly, many theorists appeal to moral perception to explain how moral knowledge is possible. I argue that AMP cannot put an agent in a position to acquire moral knowledge unless it is supplemented with some other capacity for becoming aware of moral properties. Secondly, theorists appeal to moral perception to explain “moral conversions”, i.e., cases in which an experience leads an agent to form a moral belief that conflicts with her pre-existing moral beliefs. I argue that AMP cannot explain this either. Due to these shortcomings, theorists should turn to emotions for a powerful and psychologically realistic account of virtuous agents’ sensitivity to the moral landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106
Pages (from-to)1-10
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • moral epistemology
  • moral psychology
  • moral perception
  • attention
  • emotion
  • epistemic sentimentalism


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