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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractRecent work in empirical moral psychology has led to at least one point of consensus: intuitive, psychologically-spontaneous cognitive processes play a central and inescapable role in moral evaluation. However, among those who accept that intuitive processes play a central role there remains much debate concerning the underlying character of these intuitive processes, as well as their developmental and evolutionary origins. The two dominant approaches are represented by psychological sentimentalists, who hold that these underlying processes are essentially emotion-driven, and moral nativists, who hold that these processes are subserved by innate, tacitly-held moral principles. In the course of this dissertation I critically examine each of these prominent psychological accounts, and work to outline a novel alternative. Questions concerning the psychological processes involved in moral judgment are interesting in their own right, as well as for their potential relevance to debates in ethical theory. The observed role of intuitive processing in moral judgment challenges those traditions in psychology and philosophy according to which deliberate rational processes do or should dominate. Indeed, it is widely thought that the centrality of these intuitive processes serves to undermine the status of morality and the epistemic standing of moral beliefs. Both the sentimentalist and the nativist analyses of intuitive moral judgment have been used to ground challenges to the status of morality and moral belief. I build on my critiques of the empirical adequacy of the psychological and evolutionary claims grounding these challenges to develop ways to defeat them. When properly understood, neither of these accounts of intuitive moral psychology supports a global challenge to the epistemic standing of moral belief.
Degree ProgramGraduate College