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PhD ceremony Mr. H. Sauer: Educated intuitions. A rationalist theory of moral judgment

When:Mo 27-01-2014 at 12:45
Where:Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

PhD ceremony: Mr. H. Sauer

Dissertation: Educated intuitions. A rationalist theory of moral judgment


Promotor(s): prof. P. Kleingeld

Faculty: Wijsbegeerte

What are the psychological foundations of moral judgment and reasoning? Recent research suggests that emotion and intuition are essential to human moral cognition: studies on psychopathy and brain lesions show that emotions are necessary for moral judgment; emotion manipulation experiments seem to demonstrate that emotions are also sufficient for moral judgment; neuroscientific evidence suggests that many of our moral judgments are produced by quick, automatic, and emotionally charged processes, and the post hoc nature of moral reasoning raises the suspicion that such reasoning is not the genuine cause of our moral judgments, but consists of after the fact rationalizations of intuitively held beliefs.

Hanno Sauer developed a model according to which automatic, emotionally charged moral intuitions can be educated: they are habitualized intuitive responses to morally salient situations. As such, they are not only the upshot of a process of rational upbringing; they are also open to episodes of rational reflection and other critical practices, which feed back into our intuitive judgments and help shape and improve them over time.

The dissertation ties together a normative case for a moderately rationalist position with an assessment of the latest empirical evidence concerning the nature of moral judgment and reasoning. Sauer explores the normative implications of this model and backs it up with a wealth of empirical findings.

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