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Regard for Reason in the Moral Mind

Oxford University Press (2018)

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  1. Moral Rationalism on the Brain.Joshua May - forthcoming - Mind and Language.
    I draw on neurobiological evidence to defend the rationalist thesis that moral judgments are essentially dependent on reasoning, not emotions (conceived as distinct from inference). The neuroscience reveals that moral cognition arises from domain-general capacities in the brain for inferring, in particular, the consequences of an agent’s action, the agent’s intent, and the rules or norms relevant to the context. Although these capacities entangle inference and affect, blurring the reason/emotion dichotomy doesn’t preferentially support sentimentalism. The argument requires careful consideration of (...)
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  • Moral Consistency Reasoning Reconsidered.Norbert Paulo - 2020 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 23 (1):107-123.
    Many contemporary ethicists use case-based reasoning to reach consistent beliefs about ethical matters. The idea is that particular cases elicit moral intuitions, which provide defeasible reasons to believe in their content. However, most proponents of case-based moral reasoning are not very explicit about how they resolve inconsistencies and how they abstract principles from judgments about particular cases. The aim of this article is to outline a methodology—called Consistency Reasoning Casuistry—for case-based reasoning in ethics. This methodology draws on Richmond Campbell and (...)
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  • Moral Responsibility and Mental Illness: A Call for Nuance.Matt King & Joshua May - 2018 - Neuroethics 11 (1):11-22.
    Does having a mental disorder, in general, affect whether someone is morally responsible for an action? Many people seem to think so, holding that mental disorders nearly always mitigate responsibility. Against this Naïve view, we argue for a Nuanced account. The problem is not just that different theories of responsibility yield different verdicts about particular cases. Even when all reasonable theories agree about what's relevant to responsibility, the ways mental illness can affect behavior are so varied that a more nuanced (...)
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  • Précis of Regard for Reason in the Moral Mind.Joshua May - 2019 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 42 (e146):1-60.
    Regard for Reason in the Moral Mind argues that a careful examination of the scientific literature reveals a foundational role for reasoning in moral thought and action. Grounding moral psychology in reason then paves the way for a defense of moral knowledge and virtue against a variety of empirical challenges, such as debunking arguments and situationist critiques. The book attempts to provide a corrective to current trends in moral psychology, which celebrate emotion over reason and generate pessimism about the psychological (...)
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  • How to Debunk Moral Beliefs.Victor Kumar & Joshua May - 2019 - In Jussi Suikkanen & Antti Kauppinen (eds.), Methodology and Moral Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 25-48.
    Arguments attempting to debunk moral beliefs, by showing they are unjustified, have tended to be global, targeting all moral beliefs or a large set of them. Popular debunking arguments point to various factors purportedly influencing moral beliefs, from evolutionary pressures, to automatic and emotionally-driven processes, to framing effects. We show that these sweeping arguments face a debunker’s dilemma: either the relevant factor is not a main basis for belief or it does not render the relevant beliefs unjustified. Empirical debunking arguments (...)
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  • These Confabulations Are Guaranteed to Improve Your Marriage! Toward a Teleological Theory of Confabulation.Samuel Murray & Peter Finocchiaro - 2020 - Synthese 198 (11):10313-10339.
    Confabulation is typically understood to be dysfunctional. But this understanding neglects the phenomenon’s potential benefits. In fact, we think that the benefits of non-clinical confabulation provide a better foundation for a general account of confabulation. In this paper, we start from these benefits to develop a social teleological account of confabulation. Central to our account is the idea that confabulation manifests a kind of willful ignorance. By understanding confabulation in this way, we can provide principled explanations for the difference between (...)
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  • Debunking, Epistemic Achievement, and Undermining Defeat.Michael Klenk - forthcoming - American Philosophical Quarterly.
    Several anti-debunkers have argued that evolutionary explanations of our moral beliefs fail to meet a necessary condition on undermining defeat called modal security. They conclude that evolution, therefore, does not debunk our moral beliefs. This article shows that modal security is false if knowledge is virtuous achievement. New information can undermine a given belief without giving one reason to doubt that that belief is sensitive or safe. This leads to a novel conception of undermining defeat, and it shows that successful (...)
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  • Against Moral Judgment. The Empirical Case for Moral Abolitionism.Hanno Sauer - 2021 - Philosophical Explorations 24 (2):137-154.
    ABSTRACT In this paper, I argue that recent evidence regarding the psychological basis of moral cognition supports a form of moral abolitionism. I identify three main problems undermining the epistemic quality of our moral judgments – contamination, reliability, and bad incentives – and reject three possible responses: neither moral expertise, nor moral learning, nor the possibility of moral progress succeed in solving the aforementioned epistemic problems. The result is a moderate form of moral abolitionism, according to which we should make (...)
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  • Morality as an Evolutionary Exaptation.Marcus Arvan - 2021 - In Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz (eds.), Empirically Engaged Evolutionary Ethics. Springer - Synthese Library. pp. 89-109.
    The dominant theory of the evolution of moral cognition across a variety of fields is that moral cognition is a biological adaptation to foster social cooperation. This chapter argues, to the contrary, that moral cognition is likely an evolutionary exaptation: a form of cognition where neurobiological capacities selected for in our evolutionary history for a variety of different reasons—many unrelated to social cooperation—were put to a new, prosocial use after the fact through individual rationality, learning, and the development and transmission (...)
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  • Empirical Moral Rationalism and the Social Constitution of Normativity.Joseph Jebari - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (9):2429-2453.
    Moral rationalism has long been an attractive position within moral philosophy. However, among empirical-minded philosophers, it is widely dismissed as scientifically untenable. In this essay, I argue that moral rationalism’s lack of uptake in the empirical domain is due to the widespread supposition that moral rationalists must hold that moral judgments and actions are produced by rational capacities. But this construal is mistaken: moral rationalism’s primary concern is not with the relationship between moral judgments and rational capacities per se, but (...)
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  • Bias in Science: Natural and Social.Joshua May - 2020 - Synthese:1-22.
    Moral, social, political, and other “nonepistemic” values can lead to bias in science, from prioritizing certain topics over others to the rationalization of questionable research practices. Such values might seem particularly common or powerful in the social sciences, given their subject matter. However, I argue first that the well-documented phenomenon of motivated reasoning provides a useful framework for understanding when values guide scientific inquiry (in pernicious or productive ways). Second, this analysis reveals a parity thesis: values influence the social and (...)
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  • Huckleberry Finn’s Conscience: Reckoning with the Evasion.Steve Clarke - 2020 - The Journal of Ethics 24 (4):485-508.
    Huck Finn’s struggles with his conscience, as depicted in Mark Twain’s famous novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, have been much discussed by philosophers; and various philosophical lessons have been extracted from Twain’s depiction of those struggles. Two of these philosophers stand out, in terms of influence: Jonathan Bennett and Nomy Arpaly. Here I argue that the lessons that Bennett and Arpaly draw are not supported by a careful reading of AHF. This becomes particularly apparent when we consider the final (...)
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  • No need to get up from the armchair.Dan Baras - 2020 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 23 (3):575-590.
    Several authors believe that metaethicists ought to leave their comfortable armchairs and engage with serious empirical research. This paper provides partial support for the opposing view, that metaethics is rightly conducted from the armchair. It does so by focusing on debunking arguments against robust moral realism. Specifically, the article discusses arguments based on the possibility that if robust realism is correct, then our beliefs are most likely insensitive to the relevant truths. These arguments seem at first glance to be dependent (...)
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  • Moral Gridworlds: A Theoretical Proposal for Modeling Artificial Moral Cognition.Julia Haas - 2020 - Minds and Machines 30 (2):219-246.
    I describe a suite of reinforcement learning environments in which artificial agents learn to value and respond to moral content and contexts. I illustrate the core principles of the framework by characterizing one such environment, or “gridworld,” in which an agent learns to trade-off between monetary profit and fair dealing, as applied in a standard behavioral economic paradigm. I then highlight the core technical and philosophical advantages of the learning approach for modeling moral cognition, and for addressing the so-called value (...)
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  • Testing the Motivational Strength of Positive and Negative Duty Arguments Regarding Global Poverty.Luke Buckland, Matthew Lindauer, David Rodríguez-Arias & Carissa Véliz - forthcoming - Review of Philosophy and Psychology:1-19.
    Two main types of philosophical arguments have been given in support of the claim that the citizens of affluent societies have stringent moral duties to aid the global poor: “positive duty” arguments based on the notion of beneficence and “negative duty” arguments based on noninterference. Peter Singer’s positive duty argument and Thomas Pogge’s negative duty argument are among the most prominent examples. Philosophers have made speculative claims about the relative effectiveness of these arguments in promoting attitudes and behaviors that could (...)
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  • Do Ethics Classes Influence Student Behavior? Case Study: Teaching the Ethics of Eating Meat.Eric Schwitzgebel, Bradford Cokelet & Peter Singer - 2020 - Cognition 203:104397.
    Do university ethics classes influence students’ real-world moral choices? We aimed to conduct the first controlled study of the effects of ordinary philosophical ethics classes on real-world moral choices, using non-self-report, non-laboratory behavior as the dependent measure. We assigned 1332 students in four large philosophy classes to either an experimental group on the ethics of eating meat or a control group on the ethics of charitable giving. Students in each group read a philosophy article on their assigned topic and optionally (...)
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  • The Means/Side-Effect Distinction in Moral Cognition: A Meta-Analysis.Adam Feltz & Joshua May - 2017 - Cognition 166:314-327.
    Experimental research suggests that people draw a moral distinction between bad outcomes brought about as a means versus a side effect (or byproduct). Such findings have informed multiple psychological and philosophical debates about moral cognition, including its computational structure, its sensitivity to the famous Doctrine of Double Effect, its reliability, and its status as a universal and innate mental module akin to universal grammar. But some studies have failed to replicate the means/byproduct effect especially in the absence of other factors, (...)
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  • The Neuroscience of Moral Judgment: Empirical and Philosophical Developments.Joshua May, Clifford I. Workman, Julia Haas & Hyemin Han - forthcoming - In Felipe De Brigard & Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (eds.), Neuroscience and Philosophy. Cambridge, USA: MIT Press.
    We chart how neuroscience and philosophy have together advanced our understanding of moral judgment with implications for when it goes well or poorly. The field initially focused on brain areas associated with reason versus emotion in the moral evaluations of sacrificial dilemmas. But new threads of research have studied a wider range of moral evaluations and how they relate to models of brain development and learning. By weaving these threads together, we are developing a better understanding of the neurobiology of (...)
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  • Moral Reasoning and Emotion.Joshua May & Victor Kumar - 2018 - In Karen Jones, Mark Timmons & Aaron Zimmerman (eds.), Routledge Handbook on Moral Epistemology. Routledge. pp. 139-156.
    This chapter discusses contemporary scientific research on the role of reason and emotion in moral judgment. The literature suggests that moral judgment is influenced by both reasoning and emotion separately, but there is also emerging evidence of the interaction between the two. While there are clear implications for the rationalism-sentimentalism debate, we conclude that important questions remain open about how central emotion is to moral judgment. We also suggest ways in which moral philosophy is not only guided by empirical research (...)
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  • Compassion Without Cognitivism.Charlie Kurth - 2019 - Humana Mente 12 (35).
    Compassion is generally thought to be a morally valuable emotion both because it is concerned with the suffering of others and because it prompts us to take action to their behalf. But skeptics are unconvinced. Not only does a viable account of compassion’s evaluative content—its characteristic concern—appear elusive, but the emotional response itself seems deeply parochial: a concern we tend to feel toward the suffering of friends and loved ones, rather than for individuals who are outside of our circle of (...)
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  • Philosophical Intuitions Are Surprisingly Stable Across Both Demographic Groups and Situations.Joshua Knobe - forthcoming - Filozofia Nauki.
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  • A Limited Skeptical Threat. [REVIEW]Joshua May - 2018 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 41:35-6.
    Doris argues that our choices are heavily influenced by forces that we wouldn’t count as genuine reasons. This unsettling conclusion is motivated by a debunking argument so wide-ranging that it isn’t foisted upon us by the sciences. Doris sometimes seems to lower his ambitions when offering instead a skeptical hypothesis argument, but that conflicts with his aims in the book.
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  • X-Phi and Impartiality Thought Experiments: Investigating the Veil of Ignorance.Norbert Paulo & Thomas Pölzler - 2020 - Diametros 17 (64):72-89.
    This paper discusses “impartiality thought experiments”, i.e., thought experiments that attempt to generate intuitions which are unaffected by personal characteristics such as age, gender or race. We focus on the most prominent impartiality thought experiment, the Veil of Ignorance, and show that both in its original Rawlsian version and in a more generic version, empirical investigations can be normatively relevant in two ways: First, on the assumption that the VOI is effective and robust, if subjects dominantly favor a certain normative (...)
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  • The Limits of Emotion in Moral Judgment.Joshua May - 2018 - In Karen Jones & Francois Schroeter (eds.), The Many Moral Rationalisms. Oxford University Press. pp. 286-306.
    I argue that our best science supports the rationalist idea that, independent of reasoning, emotions aren’t integral to moral judgment. There’s ample evidence that ordinary moral cognition often involves conscious and unconscious reasoning about an action’s outcomes and the agent’s role in bringing them about. Emotions can aid in moral reasoning by, for example, drawing one’s attention to such information. However, there is no compelling evidence for the decidedly sentimentalist claim that mere feelings are causally necessary or sufficient for making (...)
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  • Derivation of Morality From Prudence.Marcus Arvan - 2020 - In Neurofunctional Prudence and Morality: A Philosophical Theory. New York: Routledge. pp. 60-94.
    This chapter derives and refines a novel normative moral theory and descriptive theory of moral psychology--Rightness as Fairness--from the theory of prudence defended in Chapter 2. It briefly summarizes Chapter 2’s finding that prudent agents typically internalize ‘moral risk-aversion’. It then outlines how this prudential psychology leads prudent agents to want to know how to act in ways they will not regret in morally salient cases, as well as to regard moral actions as the only types of actions that satisfy (...)
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  • The Limits of Appealing to Disgust.Joshua May - 2018 - In Nina Strohminger & Victor Kumar (eds.), The Moral Psychology of Disgust. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 151-170.
    The rhetoric of disgust is common in moral discourse and political propaganda. Some believe it's pernicious, for it convinces without evidence. But scientific research now suggests that disgust is typically an effect, not a cause, of moral judgment. At best the emotion on its own only sometimes slightly amplifies a moral belief one already has. Appeals to disgust are thus dialectically unhelpful in discourse that seeks to convince. When opponents of abortion use repulsive images to make their case, they convince (...)
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  • Embodied Cognition.A. Wilson Robert & Foglia Lucia - 2011 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Cognition is embodied when it is deeply dependent upon features of the physical body of an agent, that is, when aspects of the agent's body beyond the brain play a significant causal or physically constitutive role in cognitive processing. In general, dominant views in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science have considered the body as peripheral to understanding the nature of mind and cognition. Proponents of embodied cognitive science view this as a serious mistake. Sometimes the nature of the (...)
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  • Empathy.Karsten Stueber - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Despite its linguistic roots in ancient Greek, the concept of empathy is of recent intellectual heritage. Yet its history has been varied and colorful, a fact that is also mirrored in the multiplicity of definitions associated with the empathy concept in a number of different scientific and non-scientific discourses. In its philosophical heyday at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, empathy had been hailed as the primary means for gaining knowledge of other minds and as the method (...)
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