chapter  12
22 Pages

The viability of Kolnai’s moral phenomenology

Moral awareness and anti-Utopianism
WithChris Bessemans

Aurel Kolnai’s political philosophy is essentially characterised by a subtle ‘conservative attitude’. He combined his interest in realist phenomenology and common-sense philosophy, or intuitionism, to develop a viewpoint that was mainly concerned with arguing for the philosophical relevance and importance of ordinary moral experience and the phenomenological description of and reflection on ethically relevant phenomena. The distinctive feature of Kolnai’s ethics is his insistence on and acknowledgement of the importance of our moral awareness, commonly referred to as conscience. Kolnai’s approach, by focusing on the moral awareness of moral agents, might result in an understanding of moral conflicts as moments of moral choice rather than anomalies of moral theory. His anti-utopianism is at the same time a kind of moral anthropology. The intimate link between Kolnai’s political–philosophical and ethical writings can be found in his focus on recovering the ordinary, human world and common sense, and restoring it to its proper place in philosophical reflection.