The mark of the moral: Beyond the sentimentalist turn

Philosophical Psychology 33 (4):569-591 (2020)
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In light of recent empirical data, many psychologists and philosophers have turned away from rationalism about moral judgment and embraced sentimentalism. In the process, they have rejected the classical “moral signature” as a way of distinguishing moral from conventional norms in favor of a sentimentalist approach to carving out the moral domain. In this paper, we argue that this sentimentalist turn has been made prematurely. Although we agree that the experiments reveal that the classical approach is flawed, we propose to replace it with an alternative, according to which a norm is moral precisely if it is justifiable to all. This does not hold for most norms based on disgust or loyalty to a particular community. We accommodate the fact that such norms are not merely conventional by introducing a third domain, the domain of ethics. Our proposal reveals that (psychological) rationalism is still a viable option, as a lot of the experimental evidence that features emotions concerns the domain of ethics rather than morality.



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