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Rationality and moral autonomy: An essay in moral psychology

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Abstract

Although there are many variations on the theme, so much is made of the good of moral autonomy that it is difficult not to suppose that there is everything to be said for being morally autonomous and nothing at all to be said for being morally nonautonomous. However, this view of moral autonomy cannot be made to square with the well-received fact that most people are morally nonautonomous — not, at any rate, unless one is prepared to maintain that most people are irrational in this respect. I am not. Thus, I reject what I take to be the prevailing view of moral autonomy. I argue that it is false that (1) moral autonomy is such that it is rational for every person to prefer being morally autonomous to being morally nonautonomous, but true that (2) moral autonomy is such that if anyone is morally autonomous, then it is rational for him to prefer being morally autonomous to being morally nonautonomous.

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Thomas, L. Rationality and moral autonomy: An essay in moral psychology. Synthese 57, 249–266 (1983). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01064004

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Keywords

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  • Moral Psychology
  • Moral Autonomy