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Communicating Moral Concern

by Elise Springer

Modern moral theories have crystallized around the logic of individual choices,abstracted from social and historical context. Yet most action, including moral theorizing, canequally be understood as a response, conscious or otherwise, to the social world out of which itemerges. In this novel account of moral agency, Elise Springer accords central importance to how weintervene in activity around us. To notice and address what others are doing with their moral agencyis to exercise what Springer calls critical responsiveness. Her account of this responsivenesssteers critics away from both of the conventionally familiar ideals -- justifying and expressingreactive attitudes on one hand, and prescribing and manipulating behavioral outcomes on the other. Good critical practice functions instead as a dynamic gestural engagement of attention, reachingfurther than expressive representation but not as far as causal control. To make sense of suchengagement, Springer unravels the influence of several entrenched philosophical dichotomies (activevs. passive, representation vs. object, illocution vs. perlocution). Where previous accounts havebeen preoccupied with justified claims or with end results, Springer urges the cultivation ofsituated critical engagement -- an unorthodox virtue. Moral agency can thereby claim a creative andembodied aspect, transforming the world of action through a socially extended process ofcommunicating concern.

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