A neuropsychological challenge to the sentimentalism/rationalism distinction
- 365 Downloads
Critical reflection on the available neuropsychological evidence suggests that the roles of emotion and reason in moral judgment may not be distinct. This casts significant doubt on our current understanding of moral judgment, and therefore also on all philosophical theories based on that understanding. Most notably, it raises doubts about both sentimentalism and rationalism, which historically have often been treated as exclusive and exhaustive theories regarding the nature of moral concepts. As an alternative, I endorse pluralism with regard to the emotional and rational nature of moral concepts.
KeywordsSentimentalism Rationalism Pluralism Emotion Reason Cognition Neuroethics Moral psychology Dual-process model Joshua Greene Moral judgment task Dilemmas Trolley problems
I am grateful to Joshua Greene and to Michael Davis, Thomas Fisher, Elisabeth Hildt, Warren Schmaus, Aaron Spink, and two anonymous referees for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper. My research was funded by a grant from the Swiss Cogito Foundation, to which I am also grateful.
- Foot, P. (1967). The problem of abortion and the doctrine of the double effect. Oxford Review, 5, 5–15.Google Scholar
- Gallagher, H. L., Happé, F., Brunswick, N., Fletcher, P. C., Frith, U., & Frith, C. D. (2000). Reading the mind in cartoons and stories: An fMRI study of “theory of mind” in verbal and nonverbal tasks. Neuropsychologia, 38(1), 11–21.Google Scholar
- Grabner, R. H., Ischebeck, A., Reishofer, G., Koschutnig, K., Delazer, M., Ebner, F., et al. (2009b). Fact learning in complex arithmetic and figural-spatial tasks: The role of the angular gyrus and its relation to mathematical competence. Human Brain Mapping, 30(9), 2936–2952.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Gray, K., & Schein, C. (2012). Two minds vs. two philosophies: Mind perception defines morality and dissolves the debate between deontology and utilitarianism. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 3(3), 405–423.Google Scholar
- Greene, J. D. (2014b). The cognitive neuroscience of moral judgment and decision making. In M. S. Gazzaniga (Ed.), The Cognitive Neurosciences V (pp. 1013–1024). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Greene, J. D., Sommerville, R. B., Nystrom, L. E., Darley, J. M., & Cohen, J. D. (2001b). An fMRI investigation of emotional engagement in moral judgment. [Supplementary material]. Science (New York, N.Y.), 293(5537), 2105–8. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/293/5537/2105/tab-figures-data.
- Helion, C., & Pizarro, D. A. (2015). Beyond dual-processes: the interplay of reason and emotion in moral judgment. In J. Clausen & N. Levy (Eds.), Handbook of Neuroethics (pp. 109–125). SpringerGoogle Scholar
- Hintikka, J. (1998). What is abduction? The fundamental problem of contemporary epistemology. Transactions of the Charles S Peirce Society, 34(3), 503–533.Google Scholar
- Hume, D. (2013/1751). An enquiry concerning the principles of morals. New York: Start Publishing LLC.Google Scholar
- Kant, I. (1964/1785). Groundwork of the metaphysic of morals (HJ Paton, Trans.). NY: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
- Muller, J., Sommer, M., Wagner, V., Wagner, V., Lange, K., Lange, K., et al. (2003). Abnormalities in emotion processing within cortical and subcortical regions in criminal psychopaths: Evidence from a functional magnetic resonance imaging study using pictures with emotional content. Biological Psychiatry, 54(2), 152–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Singer, P. (1972). Famine, affluence and morality. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 1(3), 229–243.Google Scholar
- Talati, A., & Hirsch, J. (2005). Functional specialization within the medial frontal gyrus for perceptual go/no-go decisions based on “what,” “when,” and “where” related information: an fMRI study. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 17(7), 981–993.Google Scholar
- Young, L., Camprodon, J. A., Hauser, M., Pascual-Leone, A., & Saxe, R. (2010). Disruption of the right temporoparietal junction with transcranial magnetic stimulation reduces the role of beliefs in moral judgments. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(15), 6753–6758.CrossRefGoogle Scholar