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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. Julia Annas (1981). An Introduction to Plato's Republic. Oxford University Press.
    This interpretive introduction provides unique insight into Plato's Republic. Stressing Plato's desire to stimulate philosophical thinking in his readers, Julia Annas here demonstrates the coherence of his main moral argument on the nature of justice, and expounds related concepts of education, human motivation, knowledge and understanding. In a clear systematic fashion, this book shows that modern moral philosophy still has much to learn from Plato's attempt to move the focus from questions of what acts the just person ought to perform (...)
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  2. Robert Audi (2011). Practical Reasoning and Moral Judgment. Analytica 5:94-111.
    Russian translation of the Chpater 9 of Audi R. Practical Reasoning and Ethical Decision. – London, N. Y., 2006. Translated by Andrei Zavaliy with kind permission of the author.
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  3. Robert Audi (2005). 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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  4. 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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  5. Eric Barnes (2000). Ruling Passions: A Theory of Practical Reason, Simon Blackburn. Clarendon Press, 1998, 344 Pages. [REVIEW] Economics and Philosophy 16 (2):372-378.
  6. Kenneth Baynes (1992). Constructivism and Practical Reason in Rawls. Analyse & Kritik 14 (1):18-32.
    This essay argues that Rawls's recent constructivist approach waivers between a relativist defense and a more Kantian account which grounds his conception of justice in the idea of an agreement between free and equal moral persons. It is suggested that this ambiguity lies at the center of his attempt to provide a "political not metaphysical" account which is also not "political in the wrong way".
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  7. Lawrence C. Becker (1973). On Justifying Moral Judgments. New York,Humanities Press.
    Much discussion of morality presupposes that moral judgments are always, at bottom, arbitrary. Moral scepticism, or at least moral relativism, has become common currency among the liberally educated. This remains the case even while political crises become intractable, and it is increasingly apparent that the scope of public policy formulated with no reference to moral justification is extremely limited. The thesis of On Justifying Moral Judgments insists, on the contrary, that rigorous justifications are possible for moral judgments. Crucially, Becker argues (...)
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  8. 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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  9. Simon Blackburn (2001). Ruling Passions: A Theory of Practical Reason. Philosophical Quarterly 51 (202):110-114.
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  10. John R. Boatright (1973). The Practicality of Moral Judgments. Philosophical Quarterly 23 (93):316-334.
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  11. Johan Brännmark, The Constitution of Agency: Essays on Practical Reason and Moral Psychology.
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  12. Michael E. Bratman (1991). Review: Cognitivism About Practical Reason. [REVIEW] Ethics 102 (1):117 - 128.
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  13. Bob Brecher (2005). Moral Obligation and Everyday Advice. South African Journal of Philosophy 24 (2):109-120.
    A major obstacle in the way of any rationalistic understanding of morality is that the moral ‘ought' obliges action: and on the (neo-)Humean view, action is thought to require affect. If, however, one could show that “ordinary” practical reasons are by themselves action-guiding, then moral reasons – a particular sort of practical reasons – also have no need of desire to “move” us to act. So how does the practical ‘ought' work? To answer that, we need to ask what exactly (...)
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  14. Mar Cabezas (2011). Moral Judgments, Emotions, and Some Expectations From Moral Motivation. Public Reason 3 (1).
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  15. Nathan Carson (2014). Getting Into the Game of Tradition-Constituted Moral Inquiry. International Philosophical Quarterly 54 (1):25-42.
    The early work of Alasdair MacIntyre aims to provide resources to “fragmented” modern selves for adjudicating “incommensurable” claims of rival moral traditions and for committing to one with full allegiance. But MacIntyre seems to undermine rational choice through his thesis of Rational Particularism, namely, that there is no tradition-independent, universally acceptable rational standpoint from which to evaluate competing claims of rival traditions. In this paper I combat a prevalent argument that his Particularism thesis render the choice of tradition allegiance by (...)
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  16. Lorraine Code (2002). Narratives of Responsibility and Agency: Reading Margaret Walker's Moral Understandings. Hypatia 17 (1):156-173.
    Naturalized moral epistemology eschews practices of assuming to know a priori the nature of situations and experiences that require moral deliberation. Thus it promises to close a gap between formal ethical theories and circumstances where people need guidelines for action. Yet according experience so central a place in inquiry risks "naturalizing" it, treating it as incontestable, separating its moral and political dimensions. This essay discusses these issues with reference to Margaret Walker's Moral understandings.
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  17. Richard Corrigan (2008). Evaluative Judgement, Motivation and the Moral Standard. Philosophy Pathways 133.
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  18. Fiery Cushman, Distinguishing the Roles of Causal and Intentional Analyses in Moral Judgment.
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  19. R. F. D. (1970). Moral Reasoning. Review of Metaphysics 23 (3):552-553.
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  20. R. F. D. (1970). Moral Reasoning. Review of Metaphysics 23 (3):552-553.
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  21. Jean De Munck & Bénédicte Zimmermann (2015). Evaluation as Practical Judgment. Human Studies 38 (1):113-135.
    What does evaluation mean? This article examines the evaluative process as a practical judgment that links a situation to a set of values in order to decide upon a course of action. It starts by discussing A. Sen’s “relational” and “comparative” account of evaluation, built in critical dialogue with J. Rawls’ deductive theory. Comparison, incompleteness, reality, and deliberation are the key principles of Sen’s approach, which, in some respects, echoes that of J. Dewey. The second part shows the relevance of (...)
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  22. Sharmistha Dhar (2010). Affective Intuition and Rule Deployment: The Dénouement of Moral Judgment. International Journal on Humanistic Ideology 3 (1):141-152.
    What faculty of our mind is best suited to endow us with all that is required to carry forth our moral enterprise? In other words, what are the cognitive resources that subserve the moral mind? This is a core empirical question, raised much to the delight of the investigative inquisitiveness of the moral psychologists. But the philosophical connection to this problem can be traced back to as far in time as that of Plato the main tenet of whose tripartite theory (...)
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  23. Sharmisths Dhar (2010). Affective Intuition and Rule Deployment: The Dénouement of Moral Judgment. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL ON HUMANISTIC IDEOLOGY STUDIES INTO THE NATURE AND ORIGIN OF HUMANISTIC IDEAS 3 (1):141-152.
    What faculty of our mind is best suited to endow us with all that is required to carry forth our moral enterprise? In other words, what are the cognitive resources that subserve the moral mind? This is a core empirical question, raised much to the delight of the investigative inquisitiveness of the moral psychologists. But the philosophical connection to this problem can be traced back to as far in time as that of Plato the main tenet of whose tripartite theory (...)
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  24. Stephen Engstrom (2009). The Form of Practical Knowledge: A Study of the Categorical Imperative. Harvard University Press.
    Introduction -- Part I: Willing as practical knowing -- The will and practical judgment -- Fundamental practical judgments : the wish for happiness -- Part II: From presuppositions of judgment to the idea of a categorical imperative -- The formal presuppositions of practical judgment -- Constraints on willing -- Part III: Interpretation -- The categorical imperative -- Applications -- Conclusion.
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  25. Nicolas Espinoza (2008). The Small Improvement Argument. Synthese 165 (1):127 - 139.
    It is commonly assumed that moral deliberation requires that the alternatives available in a choice situation are evaluatively comparable. This comparability assumption is threatened by claims of incomparability, which is often established by means of the small improvement argument (SIA). In this paper I argue that SIA does not establish incomparability in a stricter sense. The reason is that it fails to distinguish incomparability from a kind of evaluative indeterminacy which may arise due to the vagueness of the evaluative comparatives (...)
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  26. Morris Gall (1947). Judicial Decision and Practical Judgment. Journal of Philosophy 44 (2):51-52.
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  27. 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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  28. 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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  29. Marc Hauser, Fiery Cushman, Liane Young, J. I. N. Kang-Xing & John Mikhail (2007). A Dissociation Between Moral Judgments and Justifications. Mind and Language 22 (1):1–21.
    To what extent do moral judgments depend on conscious reasoning from explicitly understood principles? We address this question by investigating one particular moral principle, the principle of the double effect. Using web-based technology, we collected a large data set on individuals' responses to a series of moral dilemmas, asking when harm to innocent others is permissible. Each moral dilemma presented a choice between action and inaction, both resulting in lives saved and lives lost. Results showed that: (1) patterns of moral (...)
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  30. Robert Lawrence Holmes (1961). John Dewey's Ethics in the Light of Contemporary Metaethical Theory: An Analysis and Interpretation of His Account of the Nature of Moral Judgments. Dissertation, University of Michigan
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  31. Douglas Huff (1998). The Role of Character in Moral Judgments. Cogito 12 (1):65-70.
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  32. Paul Hurley (2007). Desire, Judgment, and Reason: Exploring the Path Not Taken. Journal of Ethics 11 (4):437 - 463.
    At the outset of The Possibility of Altruism Thomas Nagel charts two paths out of the fundamental dilemma confronting metaethics. The first path rejects the claim that a persuasive account of the motivational backing of ethical judgments must involve an agent’s desires. But it is the second path, a path that Nagel charts but does not himself take, that is the focus of this essay. This path retains the standard account, upon which all motivation involves desire, but denies that desires (...)
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  33. Nichols Ingham (1977). P. T. Geach, "Reason and Argument". [REVIEW] The Thomist 41 (4):625.
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  34. Jonathan D. Cohen Joshua D. Greene, Sylvia A. Morelli, Kelly Lowenberg, Leigh E. Nystrom (2008). Cognitive Load Selectively Interferes with Utilitarian Moral Judgment. Cognition 107 (3):1144.
  35. Guy Kahane (2016). If Nothing Matters. Noûs 50 (2).
    The possibility that nothing really matters can cause much anxiety, but what would it mean for that to be true? Since it couldn’t be bad that nothing matters, fearing nihilism makes little sense. However, the consequences of belief in nihilism will be far more dramatic than often thought. Many metaethicists assume that even if nothing matters, we should, and would, go on more or less as before. But if nihilism is true in an unqualified way, it can’t be the case (...)
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  36. Ulas Kaplan & Terrence Tivnan (2014). Multiplicity of Emotions in Moral Judgment and Motivation. Ethics and Behavior 24 (6):421-443.
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  37. Andrew Kernohan (2010). Moral Beliefs and Moral Motivation. Journal of Value Inquiry 44 (4):447-459.
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  38. Aristophanes Koutoungos (2008). Moral Sensitivity and Desire Attachment: In What Sense Are They Constituents of One's Rational Profile? [REVIEW] Acta Analytica 23 (2):125-145.
    A quantitative interpretation is given of the (in)coherence that moral agents experience as a tension between their ordered moral judgments over n physically incompatible actions, and the competitive ordering of motivating intensities (or, desires). Then a model describing one’s tendency to reduce the experienced in-coherence is constructed. In this model, moral sensitivity (S) and desire attachment (e) function as primitives that motivate from opposing perspectives the reduction of incoherence. Two distinct sub-processes of this reduction are therefore initiated by (S) and (...)
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  39. Colin M. Macleod (2001). Making Moral Judgements and Giving Reasons. [REVIEW] Canadian Journal of Philosophy 31 (2):263-289.
    This essay provides a critical notice of T.M. Scanlon's book _What We Owe to Each Other. Special attention is given to assessing the success of Scanlon's theory of practical rationality as it provides a basis for his account of value and his contractualist moral theory.
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  40. Fernando Martínez Manrique (2009). Emotion, Modularity and Rational Action. Universitas Philosophica 52.
    Contemporary theories of emotion view it as related to rational action. This paper begins stating two ways in which a system could be deemed rational, which I call the contributive and constitutive way. I assess the possibility whether emotion can be rational in both ways, as a system capable of producing rational action by itself. To this end I analyze the modular view of emotion, especially in a version of dual-system theory. I will argue that this view has at least (...)
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  41. George E. Newman, Kristi L. Lockhart & Frank C. Keil (2010). “End-of-Life” Biases in Moral Evaluations of Others. Cognition 115 (2):343-349.
  42. Onora O'Neill (2007). Normativity and Practical Judgement. Journal of Moral Philosophy 4 (3):393-405.
    Norms are apt for reasoning because they have propositional structure and content; they are practical because they aim to guide action, rather than to describe aspects of the world. These two features hold equally of norms construed sociologically as the norms of specific social groups, and of norms conceived abstractly as principles of action. On either view, norms are indeterminate while acts are particular and determinate. Consequently norms cannot fully specify which particular act is to be done. Are they then (...)
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  43. Onora O'neill (2001). Practical Principles & Practical Judgment. Hastings Center Report 31 (4):15-23.
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  44. Ricardo Parellada (2006). Moral Judgment in States of Deliberative Equilibrium. Revista de Filosofía (Madrid) 31 (1):167-180.
    Ethical theory examines human action in general terms, whereas moral judgment takes place in particular situations. These situations often cannot be subsumed easily under general norms and call for a delicate balance of norms and circumstances. I describe situations where opposing courses of action seem morally reasonable and I call them states of deliberative equilibrium. I review Aristotle’s and Kant’s conceptions of moral judgment and I offer a rule for stepping from deliberation to judgment in many situations of equilibrium.
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  45. Jared Piazza, Justin F. Landy & Geoffrey P. Goodwin (2014). Cruel Nature: Harmfulness as an Important, Overlooked Dimension in Judgments of Moral Standing. Cognition 131 (1):108-124.
  46. Jared Piazza, Paulo Sousa & Colin Holbrook (2013). Authority Dependence and Judgments of Utilitarian Harm. Cognition 128 (3):261-270.
    Three studies tested the conditions under which people judge utilitarian harm to be authority dependent (i.e., whether its right or wrongness depends on the ruling of an authority). In Study 1, participants judged the right or wrongness of physical abuse when used as an interrogation method anticipated to yield useful information for preventing future terrorist attacks. The ruling of the military authority towards the harm was manipulated (prohibited vs. prescribed) and found to significantly influence judgments of the right or wrongness (...)
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  47. A. W. Price (1995). Simon Blackburn, Essays in Quasi-Realism, New York, Oxford University Press, 1993, Pp. 262. Utilitas 7 (1):172.
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  48. Janet Radcliffe Richards (2000). Practical Reason and Moral Certainty-the Case of Discrimination. In Edna Ullmann-Margalit (ed.), Reasoning Practically. Oxford University Press
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  49. Peter Railton (2009). Internalism for Externalists. Philosophical Issues 19 (1):166-181.
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  50. 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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