Tact as Ambiguous Imperative: Merleau-Ponty, Kant, and Moral Sense-Bestowal

Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 20 (1):195-211 (2015)
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I argue in this paper that some of the most basic commitments of Kantian ethics can be understood as grounded in the dynamic of sense that Merleau-Ponty describes in his Phenomenology of Perception. Specifically, I argue that Merleau-Ponty’s account supports the importance of universalizability as a test for the moral permissibility of particular acts as well as the idea that the binding character of the moral law is given as something like a fact of reason. But I also argue that Merleau-Ponty’s account of reversibility suggests an important dimension of moral experience that is given in the experience of contact and that is underthematized in moral philosophies like Kant’s that emphasize the role of universalizability. Finally, I advance a positive account of moral experience that is centered on the idea of tact as ambiguous imperative.

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Bryan Lueck
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville


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