Social Intuitionism and the Psychology of Moral Reasoning

Philosophy Compass 6 (10):708-721 (2011)
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Abstract

Rationalism about the psychology of moral judgment holds, among other things, that the justifying moral reasons we have for our judgments are also the causally effective reasons for why we make those judgments. This can be called the ‘effectiveness’-thesis regarding moral reasoning. The theory that best exemplifies the thesis is the traditional conscious reasoning-paradigm. Current empirical moral psychology, however, poses a serious challenge to this thesis: it argues that in fact, emotional reactions are necessary and sufficient to account for moral judgment, and that typically, moral reasoning is a matter of mere confabulation. In this survey, the empirical challenge to this thesis made by the ‘social intuitionist’ model of moral judgment and reasoning is discussed. The model claims that moral reasoning is essentially ineffective and, psychologically speaking, a matter of mere post hoc-rationalizations of cognitively impenetratable gut reactions. Several interpretations of this evidence are discussed and it is shown that there is room for a psychology of moral reasoning that can account for the available empirical evidence and yet does not have to give up the most central elements of a normative picture of moral reasoning.

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Hanno Sauer
Utrecht University

References found in this work

What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
The moral problem.Michael Smith - 1994 - Cambridge, Mass., USA: Blackwell.
The sources of normativity.Christine M. Korsgaard - 1996 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Onora O'Neill.
The emotional construction of morals.Jesse J. Prinz - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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