, Volume 195, Issue 5, pp 1873–1889 | Cite as

A neuropsychological challenge to the sentimentalism/rationalism distinction

  • Geoffrey S. HoltzmanEmail author
S.I.: Neuroscience and Its Philosophy


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.


Sentimentalism 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.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the Study of Ethics in the ProfessionsIllinois Institute of TechnologyChicagoUSA

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