Moral Judgement, Agency and Affect: A Response to Gerrans and Kennett

Mind 126 (501):233-257 (2016)
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Abstract

Recently, a number of philosophers and psychologists have drawn on neuroscientific and psychological research on the role of affective processes in moral thinking to provide support for moral sentimentalism. Philip Gerrans and Jeanette Kennett criticize such ‘neurosentimentalist’ accounts on the grounds that they focus only on synchronic processes occurring at the time of moral judgement. As a result, these accounts face a dilemma: either they fail to accommodate the connection between moral judgement and agency or they are committed to implausible claims about the moral agency of individuals with damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. I respond to this criticism, arguing that Gerrans and Kennett fail to appreciate the diachronic aspects of affective mechanisms and that they misinterpret the empirical literature on the vmPFC. I argue that neurosentimentalism does have the resources to explain the connection between moral judgement and agency.

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Chris Zarpentine
Florida State University

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