Journal of Value Inquiry 52 (1):37-57 (2018)

Leland F. Saunders
Seattle Pacific University
A new variety of empirical skeptical moral arguments have been put forward in recent years, drawing on data from neuroscience, social and behavioral psychology, and economics, which strongly suggest that emotions play a central causal role in moral judgment, and that reasoning has at most a limited supplementary causal role in small portion of moral judgments. It follows from these empirical finding, it is argued, that moral judgments and morality more generally cannot be grounded in reason in the right sort of way to be rational. I argue that there are at least three distinct ways of understanding what it means to claim that moral reasoning is necessary to moral judgment. First, that moral reasoning is directly causally necessary to every moral judgment; second that moral reasoning is causally necessary to the ordinary development of the capacity for moral judgment, but is not directly causally implicated in every particular instance of moral judgment; and third that moral reasoning is necessary to a well-ordered capacity for moral judgment. I argue that the empirical data does support the claim that reasoning is not necessary to moral judgment in at least the first sense, perhaps in the second, but not in third, and that this is sufficient to provide for the rationality of moral judgments and morality more generally.
Keywords moral psychology  moral reasoning
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Reprint years 2018
DOI 10.1007/s10790-017-9601-1
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