How Does Reasoning Contribute to Moral Judgment? Dumbfounding and Disengagement

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (2):237-250 (2015)
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Recent experiments in moral psychology have been taken to imply that moral reasoning only serves to reaffirm prior moral intuitions. More specifically, Jonathan Haidt concludes from his moral dumbfounding experiments, in which people condemn other people’s behavior, that moral reasoning is biased and ineffective, as it rarely makes people change their mind. I present complementary evidence pertaining to self-directed reasoning about what to do. More specifically, Albert Bandura’s experiments concerning moral disengagement reveal that moral reasoning often does contribute effectively to the formation of moral judgments. And such reasoning need not be biased. Once this evidence is taken into account, it becomes clear that both cognition and affect can play a destructive as well as a constructive role in the formation of moral judgments



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Frank Hindriks
University of Groningen