Cognitive Science, Moral Reasoning, and the Theological Suspicion of Ethics

Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 36 (1):51-68 (2016)
  Copy   BIBTEX


This essay explores some theological implications of cognitive-science research into moral reasoning. Evolutionary theorizing argues that human morality originated as an adaptation that enabled our evolutionary ancestors to function as members of a social species. Neuroscientific experiments suggest that utilitarian responses to the moral dilemmas known as “trolley problems” involve more activity in brain areas associated with reason and less in areas associated with emotion than do nonutilitarian responses. According to Peter Singer and Joshua Greene, these two areas of research, taken together, support utilitarianism. They might therefore also seem to challenge nonutilitarian theological ethics. However, drawing on Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, it is argued instead that cognitive-science research on moral reasoning could offer a valuable hermeneutic of suspicion concerning ethics as a human project. Christians can welcome this critical function as an aid in the theological reconstruction of ethics without thereby being committed to the inferences drawn by Singer and Greene.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 91,271

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Moral Reasoning: Hints and Allegations.Joseph M. Paxton & Joshua D. Greene - 2010 - Topics in Cognitive Science 2 (3):511-527.
Re‐embedding Moral Agency.Christopher Steck - 2013 - Journal of Religious Ethics 41 (2):332-353.
Reflection and Reasoning in Moral Judgment.Joshua D. Greene - 2012 - Cognitive Science 36 (1):163-177.
A Cognitive–Intuitionist Model of Moral Judgment.Adenekan Dedeke - 2015 - Journal of Business Ethics 126 (3):437-457.


Added to PP

8 (#1,264,457)

6 months
4 (#754,937)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references