Moral Psychology

Bias and Reasoning: Haidt’s Theory of Moral Judgment

According to Haidt’s Social Intuitionist Model (SIM) of moral judgment, most moral judgments are generated by the intuitive process and the purpose of reasoning is to provide a post hoc and biased basis for justification. The SIM is of great importance for moral philosophers because if the SIM were an accurate description of how we arrive at our moral judgments, the evidential weight of most of our moral judgments may be undercut. In this paper, I question Haidt’s claim that reasoning provides a biased basis for justification by challenging his claim that reasoning is biased. After presenting the tendencies that, according to Haidt, make reasoning biased, I draw on the literature on epistemic justification to show that these tendencies are not always biases. If I am right, it is premature to claim that our reasoning is biased, and that the purpose of reasoning is to provide a biased basis for justification. [In New Waves in Ethics, ed. Thom Brooks. Palgrave, forthcoming] [pdf | html]


The Normativity of Memory Modification

The prospect of using memory modifying technologies raises interesting and important normative concerns. We first point out that those developing desirable memory modifying technologies should keep in mind certain technical and user-limitation issues. We next discuss certain normative issues that the use of these technologies can raise such as truthfulness, appropriate moral reaction, self-knowledge, agency, and moral obligations. Finally, we propose that as long as individuals using these technologies do not harm others and themselves in certain ways, and as long as there is no prima facie duty to retain particular memories, it is up to individuals to determine the permissibility of particular uses of these technologies. [Neuroethics 1(2) 2008: 85-99, with Anders Sandberg] [pdf | html]


The Idea of a Duty to Love

Can there be a duty to love someone? Many people do not think so. One common objection, what I call the commandability objection, says that duty requires that the action required by the duty to be commandable, but love is an emotion and emotions are not commandable. Another objection, what I call the motivation objection, says that really to love a person, one must be motivated to love the person for the person’s sake. However, to have a duty to love means that one would not be motivated to love the person for the person’s sake, but for the sake of the duty. In this paper, I examine both objections and I argue that neither undermines the idea of a duty to love. [Journal of Value Inquiry 40(1) 2006: 1-22] [pdf | html]