Moral Reasoning

Gilbert Harman, Kelby Mason and Walter Sinnott‐Armstrong

in The Moral Psychology Handbook

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199582143
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191594496 | DOI:
Moral Reasoning

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Reasoning can be characterized along three dimensions: (1) practical/theoretical, (2) internal/external, and (3) conscious/unconscious. This chapter is concerned with internal reasoning. Although some theorists think that reasoning is always purely deductive, formal theories of deduction, probability theory, and utility theory must be distinguished from theories about how people do or ought to reason. The moral principles people accept often contain morally loaded terms and people often defend their moral views with general principles that they do not generally accept. A classical deductive theory of concepts as having necessary and sufficient conditions cannot be taken for granted. In contrast with the classical deductive model of reasoning, ordinary moral reasoning appears to aim at improving the overall coherence of one's view and get closer to a “reflective equilibrium”. Unfortunately, such reasoning is fragile.

Keywords: argument; categories; deduction; inference; reasoning; logic; prototypes; particularism; reflective equilibrium; validity

Chapter.  17000 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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