Some Socratic Modesty: A Reconsideration of Recent Empirical Work on Moral Judgment

Journal of Value Inquiry:1-23 (2024)
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One way to interpret the work of Joshua Greene (2001; 2008; 2014) is that the wave of empirical research into moral decision-making is a way for us to become more confident in our ability to gain moral knowledge. We argue that empirical research into moral judgment has shown (both survey-based and brain-based) that the grounds of moral judgment are opaque on several dimensions. We argue that we cannot firmly grasp what the morally relevant/irrelevant features of a decision context are, understand which cognitive system responds to said features, and further know that we are actually basing our judgment upon what we take to be the morally relevant features. That is, we argue that moral judgment is very much like other kinds of judgment: Deeply influenced by facts about the decision-context and the decision-maker. However, if moral judgment is merely the exercise of our general judgment making faculty, we shouldn’t be surprised by this result. We conclude by considering what this means for our practice of making moral judgments.

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David Sackris
Arapahoe Community College
Michael Dale
Hampden-Sydney College

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