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Moral Rationalism

Edited by Christopher Michael Cloos (University of California at Santa Barbara)
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  1. Alfred Archer (2014). Moral Rationalism Without Overridingness. Ratio 27 (1):100-114.
    Moral Rationalism is the view that if an act is morally required then it is what there is most reason to do. It is often assumed that the truth of Moral Rationalism is dependent on some version of The Overridingness Thesis, the view that moral reasons override nonmoral reasons. However, as Douglas Portmore has pointed out, the two can come apart; we can accept Moral Rationalism without accepting any version of The Overridingness Thesis. Nevertheless, The Overridingness Thesis serves as one (...)
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  2. Robert L. Arrington (1989). Rationalism, Realism, and Relativism: Perspectives in Contemporary Moral Epistemology. Cornell University Press.
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  3. Robert Audi (1999). Moral Knowledge and Ethical Pluralism. In John Greco & Ernest Sosa (eds.), The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology. Blackwell. 271-302.
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  4. Robert Audi (1998). Moderate Intuitionism and the Epistemology of Moral Judgment. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 1 (1):15-44.
    This paper outlines and defends a moderate intuitionism. The point of departure is the intuitionism of W. D. Ross (1930) in The Right and the Good, conceived as ethically pluralist and epistemologically rationalist. The paper articulates a conception of self-evidence – including mediate as well as immediate kinds – appropriate to a moderate intuitionism, explores some of the resources and varieties of that position, and considers some problems and prospects for a rationalist version of intuitionism. The final section addresses the (...)
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  5. Robert Audi (1997). Moral Knowledge and Ethical Character. Oxford University Press.
    This book offers a unified collection of published and unpublished papers by Robert Audi, a renowned defender of the rationalist position in ethics. Taken together, the essays present a vigorous, broadly-based argument in moral epistemology and a related account of reasons for action and their bearing on moral justification and moral character. Part I details Audi's compelling moral epistemology while Part II offers a unique vision of ethical concepts and an account of moral explanation, as well as a powerful model (...)
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  6. Carla Bagnoli (2011). “Moral Perception and Knowledge by Principles”. In Jill Hernandez (ed.), New Intuitionism. Continuum. 84.
  7. Carla Bagnoli (2007). Phenomenology of the Aftermath: Ethical Theory and the Intelligibility of Moral Experience. In Sergio Tenenbaum (ed.), New Trends in Moral Psychology. Kluwer. 185-212.
  8. David O. Brink, Handout #6: Normative Authority and Nagelian Rationalism.
    Thomas Nagel's The Possibility of Altruism (1970) is one of the few sustained attempts to reject instrumental and prudential conceptions of practical reason and to defend the possibility of practical reason that is impartial or altruistic. Nagel makes claims about both moral motivation and practical reason, and each claim has both negative and positive constituents.
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  9. David O. Brink, Handout #2: Moral Motivation and Rationalism.
    We have looked at worries about expressivism and other forms of noncognitivism. The externalist solution may also seem to be a solution of last resort, because it may seem to deny the platitude that moral judgments are motivationally efficacious. For this reason, we might look seriously at rationalist theories of moral motivation, because they promise to represent moral judgments as intrinsically motivational without giving up cognitivism.
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  10. David Owen Brink (1989). Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics. Cambridge University Press.
    This book is a systematic and constructive treatment of a number of traditional issues at the foundations of ethics. These issues concern the objectivity of ethics, the possibility and nature of moral knowledge, the relationship between the moral point of view and a scientific or naturalist world-view, the nature of moral value and obligation, and the role of morality in a person's rational lifeplan. In striking contrast to traditional and more recent work in the field, David Brink offers an integrated (...)
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  11. George R. Carlson (1994). Moral Realism and Wanton Cruelty. Philosophia 24 (1-2):49-56.
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  12. Michael Cholbi (2011). The Moral Conversion of Rational Egoists. Social Theory and Practice 37 (4):533-556.
    One principal challenge to the rationalist thesis that the demands of morality are requirements of rationality has been that posed by the "rational egoist." In attempting to answer's the egoist's challenge, some rationalists have supposed that an adequate reply must take the form of a deductive argument that "converts" the egoist by showing that her position is contradictory, arbitrary, or violates some precept that defines practical rationality as such. Here I argue (a) that such rationalist replies will fail to persuade (...)
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  13. Matthew Chrisman (2005). Review of Shafer-Landau's Moral Realism. [REVIEW] Ethics 116 (1):250-255.
    G. E. Moore famously argued on the basis of semantic intuitions that moral properties are not reducible to natural properties, and therefore that moral predicates refer to nonnatural properties. This clearly represents a version of “moral realism,” but it is a testament to the strength of naturalist intuitions in contemporary philosophical debate that, insofar as one accepts Moore’s arguments, this is typically seen as a boon for antirealists rather than realists. For many philosophers worry that putative nonnatural properties would be (...)
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  14. Stephen Cohen (1979). Gewirth's Rationalism: Who is a Moral Agent? Ethics 89 (2):179-190.
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  15. David Copp (2006). Review: Ethics and the A Priori: Selected Essays on Moral Psychology and Meta-Ethics. [REVIEW] Mind 115 (458):476-481.
  16. Jonathan Dancy (2006). On How to Be a Moral Rationalist. Philosophical Books 47 (2):103-110.
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  17. Peter Danielson (2005). Playing with Ethics: Games, Norms and Moral Freedom. Topoi 24 (2):221-227.
    Morality is serious yet it needs to be reconciled with the free play of alternatives that characterizes rational and ethical agency. Beginning with a sketch of the seriousness of morality modeled as a constraint, this paper introduces a technical conception of play as degrees of freedom. We consider two ways to apply game theory to ethics, rationalist and evolutionary game theory, contrasting the way they model moral constraint. Freedom in the rationalist account is problematic, subverting willful commitment. In the evolutionary (...)
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  18. Alan Donagan (1984). Consistency in Rationalist Moral Systems. Journal of Philosophy 81 (6):291-309.
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  19. Alan Donagan (1982). Moral Rationalism and Variable Social Institutions. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 7 (1):3-10.
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  20. James Doyle (2000). Moral Rationalism and Moral Commitment. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 60 (1):1-22.
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  21. James Dreier (1996). Book Review: The Moral Problem by Michael Smith. [REVIEW] Mind 105 (418):363-367.
  22. E. Sonny Elizondo (2013). Reason in its Practical Application. Philosophers' Imprint 13 (21):1-17.
    Is practical reason a cognitive faculty? Do practical judgments make claims about a subject matter that are appropriately assessed in terms of their agreement with that subject matter? According to Kantians like Christine Korsgaard, the answer is no. To think otherwise is to conflate the theoretical and the practical, the epistemic and the ethical. I am not convinced. In this paper, I motivate my skepticism through examination of the very figure who inspires Korsgaard's rejection of cognitivism: Kant. For as I (...)
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  23. David Enoch (2007). Rationality, Coherence, Convergence: A Critical Comment on Michael Smith's Ethics and the a Priori. Philosophical Books 48 (2):99-108.
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  24. Mark Fedyk & Barbara Koslowski, Intuition Versus Reason: Strategies People Use to Think About Moral Problems. Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.
    We asked college students to make judgments about realistic moral situations presented as dilemmas (which asked for an either/or decision) vs. problems (which did not ask for such a decision) as well as when the situation explicitly included affectively salient language vs. non-affectively salient language. We report two main findings. The first is that there are four different types of cognitive strategy that subjects use in their responses: simple reasoning, intuitive judging, cautious reasoning, and empathic reasoning. We give operational definitions (...)
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  25. Stephen Finlay (2007). Four Faces of Moral Realism. Philosophy Compass 2 (6):820-849.
    This essay explains for a general philosophical audience the central issues and strategies in the contemporary moral realism debate. It critically surveys the contribution of some recent scholarship, representing expressivist and pragmatist nondescriptivism (Mark Timmons, Hilary Putnam), subjectivist and nonsubjectivist naturalism (Michael Smith, Paul Bloomfield, Philippa Foot), nonnaturalism (Russ Shafer-Landau, T. M. Scanlon) and error theory (Richard Joyce). Four different faces of ‘moral realism’ are distinguished: semantic, ontological, metaphysical, and normative. The debate is presented as taking shape under dialectical pressure (...)
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  26. Scott Forschler (2007). How to Make Ethical Universalization Tests Work. Journal of Value Inquiry 41 (1):31-43.
    Richard Hare described the "ethical fanatic" as an agent who appeared to be able to rationally universalize morally horrendous values by "fanatically" accepting the consequences of those values even if their universalization harmed the original agent. This challenges the project of basing ethics on universalization tests, as advocated by Hare, Immanuel Kant, and others. Hare later argued that fanatics are irrational by appealing to a "principle of prudence," but this violates his meta-principle of not basing fundamental ethical principles upon intuitions (...)
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  27. James Franklin (2004). On the Parallel Between Mathematics and Morals. Philosophy 79 (1):97-119.
    The imperviousness of mathematical truth to anti-objectivist attacks has always heartened those who defend objectivism in other areas, such as ethics. It is argued that the parallel between mathematics and ethics is close and does support objectivist theories of ethics. The parallel depends on the foundational role of equality in both disciplines. Despite obvious differences in their subject matter, mathematics and ethics share a status as pure forms of knowledge, distinct from empirical sciences. A pure understanding of principles is possible (...)
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  28. Joshua Gert (2008). Michael Smith and the Rationality of Immoral Action. Journal of Ethics 12 (1):1 - 23.
    Although it goes against a widespread significant misunderstanding of his view, Michael Smith is one of the very few moral philosophers who explicitly wants to allow for the commonsense claim that, while morally required action is always favored by some reason, selfish and immoral action can also be rationally permissible. One point of this paper is to make it clear that this is indeed Smith’s view. It is a further point to show that his way of accommodating this claim is (...)
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  29. Michael Gill, Rationalism, Sentimentalism, and Ralph Cudworth Michael B. Gill Section.
    Moral rationalism is the view that morality originates in reason alone. It is often contrasted with moral sentimentalism, which is the view that the origin of morality lies at least partly in (non-rational) sentiment. The eighteenth century saw pitched philosophical battles between rationalists and sentimentalists, and the issue continues to fuel disputes among moral philosophers today.
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  30. Michael B. Gill (2008). Teaching & Learning Guide For: Moral Rationalism Vs. Moral Sentimentalism: Is Morality More Like Math or Beauty? Philosophy Compass 3 (2):397–400.
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  31. Michael B. Gill (2007). Moral Rationalism Vs. Moral Sentimentalism: Is Morality More Like Math or Beauty? Philosophy Compass 2 (1):16–30.
    One of the most significant disputes in early modern philosophy was between the moral rationalists and the moral sentimentalists. The moral rationalists — such as Ralph Cudworth, Samuel Clarke and John Balguy — held that morality originated in reason alone. The moral sentimentalists — such as Anthony Ashley Cooper, the third Earl of Shaftesbury, Francis Hutcheson and David Hume — held that morality originated at least partly in sentiment. In addition to arguments, the rationalists and sentimentalists developed rich analogies. The (...)
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  32. Irwin Goldstein (2002). The Good's Magnetism and Ethical Realism. Philosophical Studies 108 (1-2):1-14.
    People support ethical antirealism with various arguments. Gilbert Harman thinks if a property of goodness existed, it would have detectable effects on objects that have it. However, Harman reasons, the good has no such detectable effects. Internalists think if good objects had some goodness property, that property would bond to desire and action in a way inconsistent with ethical realism. I defend ethical realism from the two arguments. I explain how good can both name a property and how objects with (...)
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  33. Irwin Goldstein (1980). Why People Prefer Pleasure to Pain. Philosophy 55 (July):349-362.
    Against Hume and Epicurus I argue that our selection of pleasure, pain and other objects as our ultimate ends is guided by reason. There are two parts to the explanation of our attraction to pleasure, our aversion to pain, and our consequent preference of pleasure to pain: 1. Pleasure presents us with reason to seek it, pain presents us reason to avoid it, and 2. Being intelligent, human beings (and to a degree, many animals) are disposed to be guided by (...)
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  34. Logi Gunnarsson (2000). Making Moral Sense: Beyond Habermas and Gauthier. Cambridge University Press.
    Is it rational to be moral? Can moral disputes be settled rationally? Which criteria determine what we have a good reason to do? In this innovative book, Logi Gunnarsson takes issue with the assumption made by many philosophers faced with the problem of reconciling moral norms with a scientific world view, namely that morality must be offered a non-moral justification based on a formal concept of rationality. He argues that the criteria for the rationality of an action are irreducibly substantive, (...)
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  35. Terry Horgan & Mark Timmons (2007). Morphological Rationalism and the Psychology of Moral Judgment. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (3):279 - 295.
    According to rationalism regarding the psychology of moral judgment, people’s moral judgments are generally the result of a process of reasoning that relies on moral principles or rules. By contrast, intuitionist models of moral judgment hold that people generally come to have moral judgments about particular cases on the basis of gut-level, emotion-driven intuition, and do so without reliance on reasoning and hence without reliance on moral principles. In recent years the intuitionist model has been forcefully defended by Jonathan Haidt. (...)
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  36. Michael Huemer, Reason, Objectivity, and Goodness.
    This paper will focus on my conception of the nature of morality, which I call intuitionism. My conception is inspired in large part by earlier intuitionists (Moore, Ross, and Prichard), though I do not claim they would all agree exactly with everything I say.
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  37. Jeanette Kennett (2006). Do Psychopaths Really Threaten Moral Rationalism? Philosophical Explorations 9 (1):69 – 82.
    It is often claimed that the existence of psychopaths undermines moral rationalism. I examine a recent empirically based argument for this claim and conclude that rationalist accounts of moral judgement and moral reasoning are perfectly compatible with the evidence cited.
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  38. Simon Kirchin (2005). Review of Michael Smith, Ethics and the a Priori. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2005 (4).
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  39. James Klagge (1991). Rationalism, Supervenience, and Moral Epistemology. Southern Journal of Philosophy 29 (S1):25-28.
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  40. Heidi Lene Maibom (2005). Moral Unreason: The Case of Psychopathy. Mind and Language 20 (2):237-57.
    Psychopaths are renowned for their immoral behavior. They are ideal candidates for testing the empirical plausibility of moral theories. Many think the source of their immorality is their emotional deficits. Psychopaths experience no guilt or remorse, feel no empathy, and appear to be perfectly rational. If this is true, sentimentalism is supported over rationalism. Here, I examine the nature of psychopathic practical reason and argue that it is impaired. The relevance to morality is discussed. I conclude that rationalists can explain (...)
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  41. Patricia Marino (2010). Moral Rationalism and the Normative Status of Desiderative Coherence. Journal of Moral Philosophy 7 (2):227-252.
    This paper concerns the normative status of coherence of desires, in the context of moral rationalism. I argue that 'desiderative coherence' is not tied to rationality, but is rather of pragmatic, instrumental, and sometimes moral value. This means that desire-based views cannot rely on coherence to support non-agent-relative accounts of moral reasons. For example, on Michael Smith's neo-rationalist view, you have 'normative reason' to do whatever your maximally coherent and fully informed self would want you to do, whether you want (...)
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  42. Nicholas Maxwell (2001). Can Humanity Learn to Create a Better World? The Crisis of Science Without Wisdom. In Tom Bentley & Daniel Stedman Jones (eds.), The Moral Universe.
    Can we learn to create a better world? Yes, if we first create traditions and institutions of learning rationally devoted to that end. At present universities all over the world are dominated by the idea that the basic aim of academic inquiry is to acquire knowledge. Such a conception of inquiry, judged from the standpoint of helping us learn wisdom and civilization, is grotesquely and damagingly irrational. We need to change our approach to academic enterprise if we are to create (...)
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  43. P. Michael McCullough & Sam Faught (2005). Rational Moralists and Moral Rationalists Value-Based Management: Model, Criterion and Validation. [REVIEW] Journal of Business Ethics 60 (2):195 - 205.
    This paper considers ethical decision making by blending three streams of related research: cognitive moral development of the decision maker, rational choice theory and a subjective expected utility model. Ethical dilemmas can be defined as situations where moral certainty is compromised by rational cognition. In this paper, the authors assume that some people use a morality-first perspective and others a rationality-first perspective. Ethical scenarios were written and used to test hypotheses derived from this perspective. The instrument developed was shown to (...)
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  44. Thaddeus Metz (1998). Reason, Politics, and Contractualism. Inquiry 18 (1):61-72.
  45. Christian Miller (2006). Shafer-Landau and Moral Realism. Social Theory and Practice 32 (2):311-331.
    In 1903 G.E. Moore celebrated a robust nonnaturalistic form of moral realism with the publication of his Principia Ethica. Subsequent years have witnessed the development and refinement of a number of views motivated at least in part by a deep resistance to the metaphysical and epistemological commitments of nonnaturalism. Over time, Moore’s view arguably has become the position of last resort for philosophers working in metaethics. Exactly one hundred years later, analytic metaethics has come full circle with the publication of (...)
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  46. Shaun Nichols, Moral Rationalism and Empirical Immunity.
    With the rapid recent growth of naturalized metaethics, Richard Joyce’s paper sounds an appropriate cautionary note. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by sexy new data and to neglect the difficulties in using the data to draw major philosophical conclusions. One of the central views in the sights of naturalists has been moral rationalism. Jonathan Haidt (2001), Joshua Greene (this volume), Jesse Prinz (forthcoming), and I (2002, 2004b) have all used recent empirical findings to challenge moral rationalist views. Although Joyce is (...)
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  47. Shaun Nichols (2002). How Psychopaths Threaten Moral Rationalism. The Monist 85 (2):285-303.
    Over the last 20 years, a number of central figures in moral philosophy have defended some version of moral rationalism, the idea that morality is based on reason or rationality (e.g., Gewirth 1978, Darwall 1983, Nagel 1970, 1986, Korsgaard 1986, Singer 1995; Smith 1994, 1997). According to rationalism, morality is based on reason or rationality rather than the emotions or cultural idiosyncrasies, and this has seemed to many to be the best way of securing a kind of objectivism about moral (...)
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  48. Paul Noordhof (1999). Moral Requirements Are Still Not Rational Requirements. Analysis 59 (3):127–136.
    Moral requirements apply to rational agents as such. But it is a conceptual truth that if agents are morally required to act in a certain way then we expect them to act in that way. Being rational, as such, must therefore suffice to ground our expectation that rational agents will do what they are morally required to do. But how could this be so? It could only be so if we think of the moral requirements that apply to agents as (...)
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  49. David Owens (2008). Rationalism About Obligation. European Journal of Philosophy 16 (3):403-431.
    In our thinking about what to do, we consider reasons which count for or against various courses of action. That having a glass of wine with dinner would be pleasant and make me sociable recommends the wine. That it will disturb my sleep and inhibit this evening’s work counts against it. I determine what I ought to do by weighing these considerations and deciding what would be best all things considered. A practical reason makes sense of a course of action (...)
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  50. Christopher Peacocke (2004). Moral Rationalism. Journal of Philosophy 101 (10):499 - 526.
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