Moral judgments and emotions: A less intimate relationship than recently claimed

Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 35 (3):177-195 (2015)
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It has long been claimed that moral judgements are dominated by reason. In recent years, however, the tide has turned. Many psychologists and philosophers now hold the view that there is a close empirical association between moral judgements and emotions. In particular, they claim that emotions (1) co-occur with moral judgements, (2) causally influence moral judgements, (3) are causally sufficient for moral judgements, and (4) are causally necessary for moral judgements. At first sight these hypotheses seem well-supported. In this paper I show, however, that appearances are deceiving. If one considers the relevant scientific studies in detail, one finds that in many interpretations the above hypotheses are either not supported or even contradicted by the available evidence. This conclusion is significant both for our understanding of moral judgements qua empirical phenomena and for normative ethics and metaethics.

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Thomas Pölzler
University of Graz


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