Moral Judgment and Deontology: Empirical Developments

Philosophy Compass 9 (11):745-755 (2014)
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A traditional idea is that moral judgment involves more than calculating the consequences of actions; it also requires an assessment of the agent's intentions, the act's nature, and whether the agent uses another person as a means to her ends. I survey experimental developments suggesting that ordinary people often tacitly reason in terms of such deontological rules. It's now unclear whether we should posit a traditional form of the doctrine of double effect. However, further research suggests that a range of non-consequentialist factors influence moral judgment, including intentions, commissions, personal harm, and agent-centered commitments. Many, if not all, such factors appear to affect how involved the agent is in bringing about an outcome.

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Joshua May
University of Alabama, Birmingham


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