The moral significance of sincerity

Anne Cecilia Ozar, Fordham University


Philosophical analyses of sincerity have generally been of two types, one for which sincerity may be properly attributed only to communicative or quasi-communicative actions and one for which sincerity is primarily an intrapersonal concern. As a result, most philosophical accounts of sincerity equate it with either honesty or authenticity. Such equivocation fails to describe adequately our everyday experience of sincerity because it treats separately what is inseparable in our experience of the phenomenon of sincerity. Sincerity is both essentially self-referential and essentially concerned with truthful communication. The dissertation aims to correct the problems of previous accounts of sincerity by providing a phenomenological analysis of the nature and moral significance of sincerity. In so doing, it seeks to retrieve from our ordinary experience of sincerity those elements that are inseparable from it and to describe the structure of this experience in such a way that the relationship between these elements can be seen clearly. Sincerity is properly understood neither as a quality of states of mind nor as a correspondence between avowal and feeling. Rather, it is a way of relating to other persons whereby the agent aims to be recognized as trustworthy on the basis of her emotional commitments. Thus, the desire to act sincerely is grounded in values that prioritize affective human connectedness. Modern moral philosophy has generally grounded the value of communicative truthfulness either in its pragmatic function or more broadly in its relation to fairness. Both accounts presume that an interest in objectivity is a constitutive element of the desire to be truthful. Consequently, criticisms of moral philosophy's emphasis on objectivity and universality, such as those put forward by existentialism, tend to include a rejection of the value of communicative truthfulness. The dissertation challenges both sides of this debate by identifying a particular way of valuing truthfulness, unique to the desire to act sincerely, that is grounded in the importance placed upon the affective presentation of Other-directed emotions.

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Recommended Citation

Ozar, Anne Cecilia, "The moral significance of sincerity" (2009). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3353775.