Preference, Principle, and Political Casuistry

Eric D. Knowles and Peter H. Ditto

in Ideology, Psychology, and Law

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199737512
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918638 | DOI:

Series: Series in Political Psychology

Preference, Principle, and Political Casuistry

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To say that someone is a person of principle is high praise; to declare that he or she is driven by personal preference is a damning critique. This chapter examines judgments of preference and principle from a social-psychological perspective, arguing that they reflect lay-psychological hypotheses concerning the causes of behavior. It is argued that judgments are rarely purely principled or purely preference-based. Rather, a hybrid or casuistic model is proposed, positing that principles (for example, general intellectual commitments) often guide judgments after having been selected to cohere with one’s preferences (or affective biases) concerning the outcome. Examples of casuistic judgments are examined from the domains of life-and-death decisions, legal reasoning, and racial thinking. The chapter closes with a discussion of the normative status of casuistic judgment.

Keywords: casuistry; principle; preference; legal reasoning; racial thinking; normative questions

Chapter.  16552 words. 

Subjects: Social Psychology

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