The Sheriff in Our Minds: On the Morality of the Mental

Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 22 (3):1-19 (2022)
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Many people believe that our thoughts can be morally wrong. For example, many regard rape and murder fantasies as morally wrong. In a provocative recent essay, George Sher disagrees with this and argues that “the realm of the purely mental is best regarded as a morality-free zone,” wherein “no thoughts or attitudes are either forbidden or required”. Ultimately, Sher argues that “each person’s subjectivity is a limitless, lawless wild west in which absolutely everything is permitted”. Sher calls this view the Wild West of the Mind. I argue against Sher’s position. In section I, I summarize Sher’s view. In section II, I criticize Sher’s argument for the Wild West of the Mind. In section III, I outline additional objections to Sher’s view.

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Samuel Director
Brown University


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