Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 77–96 | Cite as

Will the Real Moral Judgment Please Stand Up?

The Implications of Social Intuitionist Models of Cognition for Meta-ethics and Moral Psychology
  • Jeanette KennettEmail author
  • Cordelia Fine


The recent, influential Social Intuitionist Model of moral judgment (Haidt, Psychological Review 108, 814–834, 2001) proposes a primary role for fast, automatic and affectively charged moral intuitions in the formation of moral judgments. Haidt’s research challenges our normative conception of ourselves as agents capable of grasping and responding to reasons. We argue that there can be no ‘real’ moral judgments in the absence of a capacity for reflective shaping and endorsement of moral judgments. However, we suggest that the empirical literature indicates a complex interplay between automatic and deliberative mental processes in moral judgment formation, with the latter constraining the expression and influence of moral intuitions. We therefore conclude that the psychological literature supports a normative conception of agency.


Meta-ethics Moral judgment Automatic processing Moral intuitions Moral agency Reason-responding Reason-tracking 



The authors would like to thank Neil Levy, Edward Hare, and audiences at the Australasian Association of Philosophy Conference 2007, Monash University, Radboud University and the University of Oxford for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. The authors acknowledge the support of the Australian Research Council for this project. We thank audiences at the Australasian Association of Philosophy Conference 2007 and at Monash University, Radboud University, and the University of Oxford for stimulating and helpful discussions. We owe particular thanks to Neil Levy and an anonymous referee for forcing us to clarify our argument at a number of points.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public EthicsAustralian National University and Charles Sturt UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public EthicsUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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