The 47th Annual CSUF Philosophy Symposium

Moral Sentimentalism and Its Foundations

March 23-24, 2017

California State University, Fullerton

[Program Flyer]

Speakers (in alphabetical order):

Rachel Cohon, SUNY Albany, Human’s moral theory, meta-ethics, author of Hume’s Morality: Feeling and Fabrication. ( featured in: (

Michael B. Gill, U. Arizona, history of moral sentimentalism and moral rationalism

Victor Kumar, post-doc at U. of Toronto, moral psychology, moral motivation, naturalistic ethics, moral evolution

Joshua May, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, moral sentimentalism, disgust and moral judgments

Peter Railton, Michigan, moral psychology, moral motivation, moral sentimentalism

Stephen Stich, Rutgers, moral psychology and cognitive science:

David Wong, Duke, moral psychology, Chinese Confucian moral theory

March 23 Thursday

Opening Remarks
Heather Muraviov, President of the Philosophy Club

Sentimentalism and Realism in Epistemology and Ethics
Peter Railton, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

§ Main Objectives

  1. To argue that the most plausible interpretation of Humean sentimentalism is in fact realist — not quasi-realist, offering an expressivist or fictionalist account of moral language.

  2. To suggest that under Hume’s view, even if our moral discourse employs “response-dependent concepts”, the properties to which such discourse answers are not response-dependent. They are bona fide real properties of the physical and social world.

  3. To show that Humean sentimentalism in epistemology and meta-epistemology and Humean sentimentalism in ethics and meta-ethics are parallel. The neo-Sentimentalist analysis for belief can be applied to Hume’s conception of virtue as well.

Student Commentator: Noe Villasenor

Rediscovering Moral Beauty
David Wong, Duke University

§ Main Objectives

  1. To explore the moral sentiment of appreciating moral beauty in others — in the form of admiration and/or emulation (wanting to be like that person.)

  2. To introduce an ancient Chinese philosopher Xunzi’s view on the aesthetic dimension in recognizing moral exemplars and in rituals.

  3. To suggest that in the climate of abundant moral ugliness, we especially need to be reminded of the pleasure and fulfillment provided by the contemplation of moral beauty.

Student Commentator: Ruby Flores


The Mathematics-Morality Analogy and Sentimentalist Responses to It
Michael Gill, University of Arizona

§ Main Objectives

  1. To explain how the mathematics-morality analogy figured in the work of 17th and 18th century rationalists.

  2. To explain Hume’s arguments against the above analogy.

  3. To criticize the recent attempt by Justin Clarke-Doane in defense of the math-morality analogy as unsuccessful.

Student Commentator: Austin Shannon

Disapproval and Resentment: Two Aspects of the Moral Sentiments in Hume and Adam Smith
Rachel Cohon, State University of New York, Albany

§ Main Objectives

  1. To argue that Hume’s theory of moral sentiments place them in the category of indirect sentiments.

  2. To criticize Hume as failing to provide a causal explanation for the moral sentiment of disapprobation of the agent.

  3. To argue that Adam Smith construes the moral sentiments of disapproval and resentment as a desire to punish the agent.

  4. To criticize Smith as failing to offer the correct analysis of these sentiments.

Student Commentator: Daniel Lee

Dinner Banquet

March 24, Friday

Moral Sentimentalism and the Boundaries of Morality
Stephen Stich, Rutgers University

§ Main Objectives

  1. To offer a systematic review of attempts to provide an account of which judgments are moral judgments.

  2. To show why Turiel’s moral / conventional task fails to provide a reliable way of determining when a judgment is a moral judgment.

  3. To show that Kumar’s MCT also fails to provide a defensible account of a nomological cluster of properties that can be used in an empirically supported definition of moral judgment.

  4. To suggest that there might be more than one concept involved in ‘moral’ and that attempts to define the distinctive characteristics of moral judgments are doomed to fail.

Student Commentator: Erika Grimm

The Limits of Emotion in Moral Judgment
Joshua May, University of Alabama at Birmingham

§ Main Objectives

  1. To argue that our best science supports the rationalist idea that, independent of reasoning, emotions aren’t integral to moral judgment.

  2. To suggest that there is no compelling evidence for the decidedly sentimentalist claim that mere feelings or affect are causally necessary or sufficient for making a moral judgment or for treating norms as distinctively moral.

  3. To argue that even if moral cognition is largely driven by automatic intuitions, these shouldn’t be mistaken for emotions or their non-cognitive components.

Student Commentator: Nageen C. Jalali


Foul Behavior
Victor Kumar, University of Toronto

§ Main Objectives

  1. To respond to prevailing arguments that disgust is unreliable and harmful.

  2. To argue that moral disgust can be a fitting moral attitude when it is evoked by moral wrongs that pollute social relationships by eroding shared expectations of trust.

Student Commentator: LaToya Mayo

Student Panel: Moral Sentimentalism and Beyond
Faculty Advisor: Andrew Howat
Panelists: Katrina Van Dyke (2016), Mariela Garcia (2017), Raul Ruano (2017), and Patrick Henning (2018).

6:00 Post-Symposium Party



Speaker #1: Peter Railton Peter Railton Commentator: Noe Villasenor


Noe Villasenor Chair: Raul Ruano Speaker #2: David Wong


David Wong Commentator: Ruby Flores Ruby Flores


View from the back Chair:  Christopher Jones Speaker #3: Michael Gill


Michael Gill's Talk Commentator: Austin Shannon Austin Shannon


Auston Shannon Chair: Mary Muzdakis Speaker #4: Rachel Cohon


Commentator:  Daniel Lee Daniel Lee Rachel Cohon Responds


Chair:  Mariela Garcia Speaker #5: Stephen Stich Stich's Keyote Address


Stephen Stich Commentator: Erika Grimm Stich listens


Chair: Amy Prado Speaker #6: Joshua May Joshua May


Joshua May Commentor: Nageen C. Jalali Nageen C. Jalali


View from the back Chair:  Thuyanh Le Speaker #7: Victor Kumar


Commentator: LaToya Mayo LaToya Mayo Student Panelist: Katrina Van Dyke


Katrina Van Dyke Student Panelist: Raul Ruano Raul Ruano


Student Panelist: Patrick Henning Patrick Henning Student Panelist: Mariela Garcia


Mariela Garcia Student Panelists At the End Happy Faces