Moral Intuitions

Walter Sinnott‐Armstrong, Liane Young and Fiery Cushman

in The Moral Psychology Handbook

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

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Moral intuitions are strong, stable, immediate moral beliefs. Moral philosophers ask when they are justified. This question cannot be answered separately from a psychological question: How do moral intuitions arise? Their reliability depends upon their source. This chapter develops and argues for a new theory of how moral intuitions arise—that they arise through heuristic processes best understood as unconscious attribute substitutions. That is, when asked whether something has the attribute of moral wrongness, people unconsciously substitute a different question about a separate but related heuristic attribute (such as emotional impact). Evidence for this view is drawn from psychology and neuroscience, and competing views of moral heuristics are contrasted. It is argued that moral intuitions are not direct perceptions and, in many cases, are unreliable sources of evidence for moral claims.

Keywords: moral intuition; intuitionism; heuristics; affect; emotion; unconscious; evidence; moral epistemology

Chapter.  12090 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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