There is no moral faculty

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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 Moral minds (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.

Keywords: Cognitive Science; Ethical Naturalism; Ethics; Moral Faculty Theory

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09515089.2011.579423

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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