What good is moral reasoning?

Mind and Society 10 (2):131-148 (2011)
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Abstract

The role of reasoning in our moral lives has been increasingly called into question by moral psychology. Not only are intuitions guiding many of our moral judgments and decisions, with reasoning only finding post-hoc rationalizations, but reasoning can sometimes play a negative role, by finding excuses for our moral violations. The observations fit well with the argumentative theory of reasoning (Mercier H, Sperber D, Behav Brain Sci, in press-b), which claims that reasoning evolved to find and evaluate arguments in dialogic contexts. This theory explains the strong confirmation bias that reasoning displays when it produces arguments, which in turn explains its tendency to rationalize our decisions. But this theory also predicts that people should be able to evaluate arguments felicitously and that, as a result, people should reason better in groups, when they are confronted with other people’s arguments. Groups are able to converge on better moral judgments. It is argued that reasoning and argumentation play an important role in our everyday moral lives, and a defense of the value of reasoning for moral change is offered

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Hugo Mercier
Institut Jean Nicod

References found in this work

A treatise of human nature.David Hume & D. G. C. Macnabb (eds.) - 1977 - New York: Dutton.
Actions, Reasons, and Causes.Donald Davidson - 1963 - Journal of Philosophy 60 (23):685.
Wise choices, apt feelings: a theory of normative judgment.Allan Gibbard - 1990 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Wise Choices, Apt Feelings.Allan Gibbard - 1990 - Ethics 102 (2):342-356.

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