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The Limits of Appealing to Disgust

In Victor Kumar & Nina Strohminger (eds.), The Moral Psychology of Disgust. Rowman & Littlefield International. pp. 151-170 (2018)

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  1. Harnessing Moral Psychology to Reduce Meat Consumption.Joshua May & Victor Kumar - 2023 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 9 (2):367-387.
    How can we make moral progress on factory farming? Part of the answer lies in human moral psychology. Meat consumption remains high, despite increased awareness of its negative impact on animal welfare. Weakness of will is part of the explanation: acceptance of the ethical arguments doesn’t always motivate changes in dietary habits. However, we draw on scientific evidence to argue that many consumers aren’t fully convinced that they morally ought to reduce their meat consumption. We then identify two key psychological (...)
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  • Moral Rationalism on the Brain.Joshua May - 2023 - Mind and Language 38 (1):237-255.
    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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  • How to Debunk Moral Beliefs.Victor Kumar & Joshua May - 2018 - In Jussi Suikkanen & Antti Kauppinen (eds.), Methodology and Moral Philosophy. New York: 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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  • Regard for Reason in the Moral Mind.Joshua May - 2018 - New York: Oxford University Press.
    The burgeoning science of ethics has produced a trend toward pessimism. Ordinary moral thought and action, we’re told, are profoundly influenced by arbitrary factors and ultimately driven by unreasoned feelings. This book counters the current orthodoxy on its own terms by carefully engaging with the empirical literature. The resulting view, optimistic rationalism, shows the pervasive role played by reason, and ultimately defuses sweeping debunking arguments in ethics. The science does suggest that moral knowledge and virtue don’t come easily. However, despite (...)
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  • Agency in Mental Disorder: Philosophical Dimensions.Matt King & Joshua May (eds.) - 2022 - Oxford University Press.
    How exactly do mental disorders affect one’s agency? How might therapeutic interventions help patients regain or improve their autonomy? Do only some disorders excuse morally inappropriate behavior, such as theft or child neglect? Or is there nothing about having a disorder, as such, that affects whether we ought to praise or blame someone for their moral success or failure? Our volume gathers together empirically-informed philosophers who are well equipped to tackle such questions. Contributors specialize in free will, agency, and responsibility, (...)
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