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Moral Judgment

Edited by Leonard Kahn (Loyola University, New Orleans)
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Summary Internalism and Externalism about Moral Judgment are, very roughly, contending views about the relationship between making a moral judgment and being motivated to act in accordance with it. Internalists - again, quite roughly - hold that there is a necessary connection between making a moral judgment and being motivated to act appropriately. Externalists deny that the connection is necessary and hold that it is, instead, merely contingent. 
Key works In many ways, Michael Smith's The Moral Problem is the both the most important work on moral judgment and the best place for someone interested in the topic to begin thinking seriously. Smith, better than anyone else, sets out the problems which have dominated the philosophical agenda on moral judgment for the last two decades and presents a novel and powerful cognitivist, Humean, internalist solution to these problems. R.M. Hare's The Language of Morals offers the classic non-cogntivist statement of internalism, while David O. Brink's Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics provides a persuasive case for cognitivist externalism and Jonathan Dancy's Moral Reasons argues for cognitivist non-Humeanism. Dancy's work draws in important ways from Thomas Nagel's The Possibility of Altruism, and Russ Shafer-Landau's Moral Realism: A Defense is a worthwhile follow up on both works. Those who wish to approach the problem from a more historical direction may wish to begin with Book III of David Hume's Treatise of Human Nature, Immanuel Kant's Critique of Practical Reason, and Chapter III of John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism. A more recent work which finds deep inspiration from Kant's work on moral motivation is Christine Korsgaard, The Sources of Normativity.
Introductions Connie Rosati, "Moral Motivation," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Michael Smith, The Moral Problem, especially Chapter 3 Alex Miller, An Introduction to Contemporary Metaethics, , especially Chapter 3
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Subcategories:History/traditions: Moral Judgment
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  1. Robert Audi (2006). Practical Reasoning and Ethical Decision. Routledge.
    What role does reason play in our actions? How do we know whether what we do is right? Can practical reasoning guide ethical judgment? Practical Reasoning and Ethical Decision presents an account of practical reasoning as a process that can explain action, connect reasoning with intention, justify practical judgments, and provide a basis for ethical decisions. The first part of the book is a detailed critical overview of the influential theories of practical reasoning found in Aristotle, Hume, and Kant. The (...)
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  2. Robert Audi (1997). Moral Judgment and Reasons for Action. In Garrett Cullity & Berys Nigel Gaut (eds.), Ethics and Practical Reason. Oxford University Press. 125--160.
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  3. Mavis Biss (2014). Moral Imagination, Perception, and Judgment. Southern Journal of Philosophy 52 (1):1-21.
    This paper develops an account of moral imagination that identifies the ways in which imaginative capacities contribute to our ability to make reason practical in the world, beyond their roles in moral perception and moral judgment. In section 1, I explain my understanding of what it means to qualify imagination as ‘moral,’ and go on in section 2 to identify four main conceptions of moral imagination as an aspect of practical reason in philosophical ethics. I briefly situate these alternative ideas (...)
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  4. Fiery Cushman, Distinguishing the Roles of Causal and Intentional Analyses in Moral Judgment.
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  5. P. T. Geach (1965). Assertion. Philosophical Review 74 (4):449-465.
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  6. S. Guth & W. Guth (2000). Morality Based on Cognition in Primates. Journal of Consciousness Studies 7 (1-2):1-2.
    Traditional evolutionary biology views animal behaviour as based on instincts that leave no room for deliberated morality. In their informative essay, Jessica Flack and Frans de Waal provide convincing evidence that monkeys and, even more so, apes often cognitively perceive the physical and emotional needs of others and that they try to help others, e.g. by consolation or sharing food. We mainly discuss aspects neglected by Flack and de Waal, such as how morality can be clearly defined and whether it (...)
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  7. Dan Haggerty (2009). Speaking for Others: Epistemology and Ethics. Social Philosophy Today 25:109-122.
    In this paper, I explore risks and responsibilities associated with speaking for others. I argue that, contrary to the recent philosophical literature on the subject, speaking for others is not always epistemically or politically illegitimate. Moreover, epistemological justification is not the only important consideration when trying to determine if we should speak for others. Ethical justification also matters and can override epistemological worries. Indeed, sometimes we should speak for others though we cannot know their experience. I identify and evaluate five (...)
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  8. Paul Horwich (2005). The Frege‐Geach Point. Philosophical Issues 15 (1):78–93.
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  9. Charlie Kurth (2014). Expressivism and Innocent Mistakes. Ethics 124 (2):370-383.
    Allan Gibbard maintains that his plan-based expressivism allows for a particular type of innocent mistake: I can agree that your plan to X makes sense (say, because it was based on advice from someone you trust), while nonetheless insisting that it is incorrect (e.g., because you chose a bad advisor). However, Steve Daskal has recently argued that there are significant limitations in Gibbard’s account of how we can be mistaken about the normative judgments we make. This essay refines Gibbard’s account (...)
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  10. H. Paul (1994). The Essence of Expressivism. Analysis 54 (1):19-20.
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  11. Peter Railton (2009). Internalism for Externalists. Philosophical Issues 19 (1):166-181.
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  12. Peter Railton (2000). Darwinian Building Blocks. Journal of Consciousness Studies 7 (1-2):1-2.
    Although the ‘naturalistic fallacy’ and the is/ought distinction have often been invoked as definitive grounds for rejecting any attempt to bring evolutionary thought to bear on ethics, they are better interpreted as warnings than as absolute barriers. Our moral concepts themselves -- e.g. the principle that ‘ought implies can’ -- require us to ask whether human psychology is capable of impartial empathetic thought and motivation characteristic of normative systems that could count as moral. As the essay by Flack and de (...)
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  13. Paul Redding (2007). Hegel, Fichte and the Pragmatic Contexts of Moral Judgment. In Espen Hammer (ed.), German Idealism: Contemporary Perspectives. Routledge.
    Hegel’s treatment of ‘Moralität’ in both the Phenomenology of Spirit and the Philosophy of Right provides important clues as to how he conceives the recognitive dynamics of modern moral life. As ‘spirit that is certain of itself’, morality as comprehended in the Phenomenology is the final form of spirit [Geist], which, in Hegel’s exposition, follows ‘reason’ which itself had followed ‘consciousness’ and ‘self-consciousness’. Spirit had first been considered in its objective form as an ‘in itself’. This was the ‘true spirit’ (...)
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  14. John R. Searle (1962). Meaning and Speech Acts. Philosophical Review 71 (4):423-432.
  15. Barry C. Smith (2012). Empathie Et Perception des Valeurs. Dialogue 51 (1):119-127.
    ABSTRACT: Differences of evaluative judgments are often assumed to be a reason to prefer pluralism, relativism or subjectivism to objectivism, and this preference is even more pronounced in the case of judgements of taste. A comparison between perceptual and moral disagreements, however, enables us to understand that differences in judgments may be due to a difference in access to the situation or object, and not necessarily to a difference in value. The feeling of irresolvable differences that sometimes arises in situations (...)
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  16. L. Stevenson (1978). GEACH, P. T. "Reason and Argument". [REVIEW] Mind 87:445.
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  17. Susan Aj Stuart (2010). The Roots of Morality-a Review. Journal of Consciousness Studies 17 (1-2):244-249.
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  18. Philip R. Sullivan & Phillip R. Sullivan (1996). Overriding the Natural Ought. Behavior and Philosophy 24 (2):129 - 136.
    Natural selection favors not only more adaptive structural features but also more effective behavioral programs. Crucial for the prospering and very survival of an extremely sophisticated social species like homo sapiens is the biological/psychological program that might be conveniently labeled the human sense of fairness: a feeling often referred to in societies featuring supernaturalized explanations as one's "God given conscience." The sense of fairness and related programs derive a measure of their effectiveness from the fact that, in addition to the (...)
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  19. J. E. Tiles & Mary Tiles (1977). Reason and Argument by P. T. Geach. Philosophical Books 18 (2):86-86.
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  20. Elliot Turiel (1994). Making Sense of Social Experiences and Moral Judgments. Criminal Justice Ethics 13 (2):69-76.
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  21. Mark van Roojen (forthcoming). Moral Cognitivism Vs . Non-Cognitivism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Non-cognitivism is a variety of irrealism about ethics with a number of influential variants. Non-cognitivists agree with error theorists that there are no moral properties or moral facts. But rather than thinking that this makes moral statements false, noncognitivists claim that moral statements are not in the business of predicating properties or making statements which could be true or false in any substantial sense. Roughly put, noncognitivists think that moral statements have no truth conditions. Furthermore, according to non-cognitivists, when people (...)
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  22. Lucinda Vandervort (1985). Empirical Uncertainty and Legal Decision-Making. In Eugenio Bulygin, Jean Louis Gardies & Ilkka Nilniluoto (eds.), LAW AND MODERN FORMS OF LIFE, with an introduction by Michael D. Bayles, volume 1, Law and Philosophy Library, pp. 251-261. D. Reidel Publishing.
    In this paper I argue that the rationality of law and legal decision making would be enhanced by a systematic attempt to recognize and respond to the implications of empirical uncertainty for policy making and decision making. Admission of uncertainty about the accuracy of facts and the validity of assumptions relied on to make inferences of fact is commonly avoided in law because it raises the spectre of paralysis of the capacity to decide issues authoritatively. The roots of this short-sighted (...)
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  23. Kathleen Wallace (1993). Reconstructing Judgment: Emotion and Moral Judgment. Hypatia 8 (3):61 - 83.
    A traditional association of judgment with "reason" has drawn upon and reinforced an opposition between reason and emotion. This, in turn, has led to a restricted view of the nature of moral judgment and of the subject as moral agent. The alternative, I suggest, is to abandon the traditional categories and to develop a new theory of judgment. I argue that the theory of judgment developed by Justus Buchler constitutes a robust alternative which does not prejudice the case against emotion. (...)
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  24. Donald J. Warner & Richard A. Block (1984). Type A Behavior and Temporal Judgment. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 22 (3):163-166.
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  25. Matthew C. Weidenfeld (2011). Comportment, Not Cognition: Contributions to a Phenomenology of Judgment. Contemporary Political Theory 10 (2):232.
    Current theoretical account of judgment has a difficult time saying anything positive about the experience of judging and, when they do offer positive accounts, they seem to overlook much that we know about the capacity already in our daily lives. Following the work of Martin Heidegger and Hubert Dreyfus, this article provides a phenomenological consideration of the structure of judging that considers judgment not as an intellectual act, but as a comportment. The article proceeds in two parts. The first offers (...)
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  26. Deena Skolnick Weisberg & Alan M. Leslie (2012). The Role of Victims' Emotions in Preschoolers' Moral Judgments. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 3 (3):439-455.
    Do victims’ emotions underlie preschoolers’ moral judgment abilities? Study 1 asked preschoolers (n = 72) to judge actions directed at characters who could and could not feel hurt and who did and did not cry. These judgments took into account only the nature of the action, not the nature of the victim. To further investigate how victims’ emotions might impact children’s moral judgments, Study 2 presented preschoolers (n = 37) with stories that varied in transgression type (Moral, Conventional, or None) (...)
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  27. Karl Widerquist (2009). Ken Binmore, Natural Justice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), Pp. XII + 207. Utilitas 21 (4):529-532.
Amoralists
  1. Carla Bagnoli (2006). The Alleged Paradox of Moral Perfection. In Elvio Baccarini (ed.), Rationality in Belief and Action,. Rijeka.
    Some contemporary philosophers, notably B. Williams and S. Wolf, argue that moral perfection is not just an unsustainable ideal, but also an unreasonable one in that it thwarts and demotes all the various elements that contribute to personal well-being. More importantly, moral perfection seems to imply the denial of an identifiable personal self; hence the paradox of moral perfection. I argue that this alleged paradox arises because of a misunderstanding of the role of moral ideals, of their overridingness, and of (...)
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  2. Dorit Bar-On & Matthew Chrisman (2009). Ethical Neo-Expressivism. In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, vol. 4. Oup Oxford. 132-65.
    A standard way to explain the connection between ethical claims and motivation is to say that these claims express motivational attitudes. Unless this connection is taken to be merely a matter of contingent psychological regularity, it may seem that there are only two options for understanding it. We can either treat ethical claims as expressing propositions that one cannot believe without being at least somewhat motivated (subjectivism), or we can treat ethical claims as nonpropositional and as having their semantic content (...)
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  3. Matthew S. Bedke (2009). Moral Judgment Purposivism: Saving Internalism From Amoralism. Philosophical Studies 144 (2):189 - 209.
    Consider orthodox motivational judgment internalism: necessarily, A’s sincere moral judgment that he or she ought to φ motivates A to φ. Such principles fail because they cannot accommodate the amoralist, or one who renders moral judgments without any corresponding motivation. The orthodox alternative, externalism, posits only contingent relations between moral judgment and motivation. In response I first revive conceptual internalism by offering some modifications on the amoralist case to show that certain community-wide motivational failures are not conceptually possible. Second, I (...)
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  4. Fredrik Björklund, Gunnar Björnsson, John Eriksson, Ragnar Francén Olinder & Caj Strandberg (2012). Recent Work on Motivational Internalism. Analysis 72 (1):124-137.
    Reviews work on moral judgment motivational internalism from the last two decades.
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  5. Gunnar Björnsson (2002). How Emotivism Survives Immoralists, Irrationality, and Depression. Southern Journal of Philosophy 40 (3):327-344.
    Argues that emotivism is compatible with cases where we seem to lack motivation to act according to our moral opinions.
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  6. Gunnar Björnsson, John Eriksson, Caj Strandberg, Ragnar Francén Olinder & Fredrik Björklund (2014). Motivational Internalism and Folk Intuitions. Philosophical Psychology 28 (5):715-734.
    Motivational internalism postulates a necessary connection between moral judgments and motivation. In arguing for and against internalism, metaethicists traditionally appeal to intuitions about cases, but crucial cases often yield conflicting intuitions. One way to try to make progress, possibly uncovering theoretical bias and revealing whether people have conceptions of moral judgments required for noncognitivist accounts of moral disagreement, is to investigate non-philosophers' willingness to attribute moral judgments. A pioneering study by Shaun Nichols seemed to undermine internalism, as a large majority (...)
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  7. Gunnar Björnsson & Ragnar Francén Olinder (2013). Internalists Beware—We Might All Be Amoralists! Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (1):1 - 14.
    Standard motivational internalism is the claim that by a priori or conceptual necessity, a psychological state is a moral opinion only if it is suitably related to moral motivation. Many philosophers, the authors of this paper included, have assumed that this claim is supported by intuitions to the effect that amoralists?people not suitably related to such motivation?lack moral opinions proper. In this paper we argue that this assumption is mistaken, seeming plausible only because defenders of standard internalism have failed to (...)
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  8. Gunnar Björnsson & Tristram McPherson (2014). Moral Attitudes for Non-Cognitivists: Solving the Specification Problem. Mind 123 (489):1-38.
    Moral non-cognitivists hope to explain the nature of moral agreement and disagreement as agreement and disagreement in non-cognitive attitudes. In doing so, they take on the task of identifying the relevant attitudes, distinguishing the non-cognitive attitudes corresponding to judgements of moral wrongness, for example, from attitudes involved in aesthetic disapproval or the sports fan’s disapproval of her team’s performance. We begin this paper by showing that there is a simple recipe for generating apparent counterexamples to any informative specification of the (...)
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  9. Gunnar Björnsson, Caj Strandberg, Ragnar Francén Olinder, John Eriksson & Fredrik Björklund (eds.) (2015). Motivational Internalism. Oxford University Press.
    Motivational internalism—the idea that there is an intrinsic or necessary connection between moral judgment and moral motivation—is a central thesis in a number of metaethical debates. In conjunction with a Humean picture of motivation, it provides a challenge for cognitivist theories that take moral judgments to concern objective aspects of reality. Versions of internalism have potential implications for moral absolutism, realism, non-naturalism, and rationalism. Being a constraint on more detailed conceptoins of moral motivation and moral judgment, it is also directly (...)
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  10. Danielle Bromwich (2013). Motivational Internalism and the Challenge of Amoralism. European Journal of Philosophy 23 (1).
    Motivational internalism is the thesis that captures the commonplace thought that moral judgements are necessarily motivationally efficacious. But this thesis appears to be in tension with another aspect of our ordinary moral experience. Proponents of the contrast thesis, motivational externalism, cite everyday examples of amoralism to demonstrate that it is conceptually possible to be completely unmoved by what seem to be sincere first-person moral judgements. This paper argues that the challenge of amoralism gives us no reason to reject or modify (...)
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  11. Terence Rajivan Edward (2013). Joseph Raz on the Problem of the Amoralist. Abstracta 7 (1):85-93.
    Joseph Raz has argued that the problem of the amoralist is misconceived. In this paper, I present three interpretations of what his argument is. None of these interpretations yields an argument that we are in a position to accept.
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  12. Stephen Finlay (2011). The Selves and the Shoemaker: Psychopaths, Moral Judgement, and Responsibility. Southern Journal of Philosophy 49 (s1):125–133.
    David Shoemaker argues from (A) psychopaths’ emotional deficiency, to (B) their insensitivity to moral reasons, to (C) their lack of criminal responsibility. This response observes three important ambiguities in this argument, involving the interpretation of (1) psychopaths’ emotional deficit, (2) their insensitivity to reasons, and (3) their moral judgements. Resolving these ambiguities presents Shoemaker with a dilemma: his argument either equivocates or it is falsified by the empirical evidence. An alternative perspective on psychopaths’ moral and criminal responsibility is proposed.
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  13. Stephen Finlay (2004). The Conversational Practicality of Value Judgement. Journal of Ethics 8 (3):205-223.
    Analyses of moral value judgements must meet a practicality requirement: moral speech acts characteristically express pro- or con-attitudes, indicate that speakers are motivated in certain ways, and exert influence on others' motivations. Nondescriptivists including Simon Blackburn and Allan Gibbard claim that no descriptivist analysis can satisfy this requirement. I argue first that while the practicality requirement is defeasible, it indeed demands a connection between value judgement and motivation that resembles a semantic or conceptual rather than merely contingent psychological link. I (...)
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  14. J. Fischer, Moral Opposites - An Examination of Intuitions Concerning the Amoralist and the Moral Saint.
    In this thesis I want to take a look at the extreme ends of the moral spectrum. Specifically, I am going to examine the very extremes of the moral spectrum, namely the amoralist and the moral saint. I want to take a look at the justifications we have for the intuitions people commonly hold about these two opposites; the intuition being that both an amoralist and a moral saint are undesirable ideals. In examining both cases, I aim to answer the (...)
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  15. Ragnar Francén Olinder (2012). Svavarsdóttir's Burden. Philosophia 40 (3):577-589.
    It is sometimes observed that the debate between internalists and externalists about moral motivation seems to have reached a deadlock. There are those who do, and those who don’t, recognize the intuitive possibility of amoralists: i.e. people having moral opinions without being motivated to act accordingly. This makes Sigrun Svavarsdóttir’s methodological objection to internalism especially interesting, since it promises to break the deadlock through building a case against internalism (construed as a conceptual thesis), not on such intuitions, but on a (...)
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  16. James Griffin (1998). Value Judgement: Improving Our Ethical Beliefs. Clarendon Press.
    In this elegantly written book James Griffin offers a new examination of the fundamental questions of ethics. Central to the book is the question of how we can improve our ethical judgements and beliefs; in addressing this, Professor Griffin discusses such key issues of moral philosophy as what a good life is like, where the boundaries of the natural world come, how values relate to the world, how great human capacities are, and where moral norms come from. He gives a (...)
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  17. Allan Hazlett (forthcoming). Expressivism and Convention-Relativism About Epistemic Discourse. In A. Fairweather & O. Flanagan (eds.), Naturalizing Epistemic Virtue. Cambridge University Press.
    Consider the claim that openmindedness is an epistemic virtue, the claim that true belief is epistemically valuable, and the claim that one epistemically ought to cleave to one’s evidence. These are examples of what I’ll call “epistemic discourse.” In this paper I’ll propose and defend a view called “convention-relativism about epistemic discourse.” In particular, I’ll argue that convention-relativismis superior to its main rival, expressivism about epistemic discourse. Expressivism and conventionalism both jibe with anti-realism about epistemic normativity, which is motivated by (...)
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  18. Antti Kauppinen (forthcoming). Intuition and Belief in Moral Motivation. In Gunnar Björnsson (ed.), Moral Internalism.
    It seems to many that moral opinions must make a difference to what we’re motivated to do, at least in suitable conditions. For others, it seems that it is possible to have genuine moral opinions that make no motivational difference. Both sides – internalists and externalists about moral motivation – can tell persuasive stories of actual and hypothetical cases. My proposal for a kind of reconciliation is to distinguish between two kinds of psychological states with moral content. There are both (...)
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  19. Jeanette Kennett (2002). Autism, Empathy and Moral Agency. Philosophical Quarterly 52 (208):340-357.
    Psychopaths have long been of interest to moral philosophers, since a careful examination of their peculiar deficiencies may reveal what features are normally critical to the development of moral agency. What underlies the psychopath's amoralism? A common and plausible answer to this question is that the psychopath lacks empathy. Lack of empathy is also claimed to be a critical impairment in autism, yet it is not at all clear that autistic individuals share the psychopath's amoralism. How is empathy characterized in (...)
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  20. Lawrence Kohlberg (1973). The Claim to Moral Adequacy of a Highest Stage of Moral Judgment. Journal of Philosophy 70 (18):630-646.
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  21. Arie W. Kruglanski & Yoel Yinon (1974). Evaluating an Immoral Act Under Threat Versus Temptation: An Illustration of the Achievement Principle in Moral Judgment1. Journal of Moral Education 3 (2):167-175.
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  22. James Lenman (1999). 'The Amoralist and the Externalist. Philosophia 27:451.
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  23. Neil Levy (2005). Imaginative Resistance and the Moral/Conventional Distinction. Philosophical Psychology 18 (2):231 – 241.
    Children, even very young children, distinguish moral from conventional transgressions, inasmuch as they hold that the former, but not the latter, would still be wrong if there was no rule prohibiting them. Many people have taken this finding as evidence that morality is objective, and therefore universal. I argue that reflection on the phenomenon of imaginative resistance will lead us to question these claims. If a concept applies in virtue of the obtaining of a set of more basic facts, then (...)
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