Rationalizing our Way into Moral Progress

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19 (5):1-12 (forthcoming)

Authors
Jesse S. Summers
Duke University
Abstract
Research suggests that the explicit reasoning we offer to ourselves and to others is often rationalization, that we act instead on instincts, inclinations, stereotypes, emotions, neurobiology, habits, reactions, evolutionary pressures, unexamined principles, or justifications other than the ones we think we’re acting on, then we tell a post hoc story to justify our actions. This is troubling for views of moral progress according to which moral progress proceeds from our engagement with our own and others’ reasons. I consider an account of rationalization, based on Robert Audi’s, to make clear that rationalization, unlike simple lying, can be sincere. Because it can be sincere, and because we also have a desire to be consistent with ourselves, I argue that rationalization sets us up for becoming better people over time, and that a similar case can be made to explain how moral progress among groups of people can proceed via rationalization.
Keywords Moral progress  Rationalization  Real reasons  Explanatory and justificatory reasons  Psychological explanations
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-016-9750-5
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Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc: Some Benefits of Rationalization.Jesse S. Summers - 2017 - Philosophical Explorations 20 (sup1):21-36.
Butchering Benevolence Moral Progress Beyond the Expanding Circle.Hanno Sauer - 2019 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 22 (1):153-167.

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