There is no moral faculty
Author: Johnson, Mark
Source: Philosophical Psychology, Volume 25, Number 3, 1 June 2012 , pp. 409-432(24)
Abstract:Dewey's ethical naturalism has provided an exemplary model for many contemporary naturalistic treatments of morality. However, in some recent work there is an unfortunate tendency to presuppose a moral faculty as the alleged source of what are claimed to be nearly universal moral judgments. Marc Hauser's <roman>Moral minds</roman> (2006) thus argues that our shared moral intuitions arise from a universal moral organ, which he analogizes to a Chomskyan language faculty. Following Dewey's challenge to the postulation of the idea of universal instincts, I argue that Hauser's moral faculty account is (1) contrary to results from recent cognitive science, (2) unnecessary for explaining our moral understanding and reasoning, and (3) counterproductive to the correct project of a non-transcendent, empirically-grounded theory of moral understanding and problem-solving. I provide a sketch of an alternative account of what such an ethical naturalism would involve.
Document Type: Research article
Publication date: 2012-06-01