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Title: Exploring the Value of Practical Disorientation for Moral Life
Subtitle: Phenomenal Knowledge & Agential Humility
Author(s): VAN GILS-SCHMIDT, Henk Jasper
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 27    Issue: 2   Date: 2020   
Pages: 201-224
DOI: 10.2143/EP.27.2.3289019

Abstract :
The central thesis of this article is that the potential of practical disorientation to bring about morally beneficial effects is grounded in the phenomenal ‘what it is like’ (WIL)-knowledge of the vulnerability and fallibility of a person’s agential capacities. With this, I hope to contribute to the ground-breaking work by Ami Harbin on the value of practical disorientation for moral life. I start with an elaboration of Harbin’s understanding of practical disorientation as disrupting resolve that allows us to distinguish more sharply between practical disorientation and other resolve-disrupting phenomena such as doubt or ambivalence. I propose that we understand disorientations as the loss of one’s decision-making framework, whereas these other phenomena can be explained as specific conflicts within a person’s decisionmaking framework. Based on the elaborated understanding, I argue that the experience of the loss of one’s decision-making framework acquaints a person with the WIL-knowledge of her agency as vulnerable and fallible. This phenomenal knowledge grounds disorientation’s potential to bring about morally beneficial effects: without familiarity with the WIL-character of disorienting experiences, we are unable to make informed and accurate simulations of the psychological rich ways others may be affected by and respond to disorienting experiences. I conclude by qualifying the idea that disorientations bring about morally beneficial effects in two ways. First, not all disorienting experiences are on a par, which problematizes the generalization between different disorienting experiences. Second, in order for the morally beneficial effects to come about, a person needs to respond to the obtained WIL-knowledge with what I call agential humility: she needs to recognize her agency as vulnerable and fallible, thereby incorporating this into her working model of what it is like to be an agent.

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