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Hardcover | $50.00 X | £41.95 | 328 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 13 b&w illus. | March 2017 | ISBN: 9780262035606
eBook | $35.00 X | March 2017 | ISBN: 9780262337243

Moral Judgments as Educated Intuitions


Rationalists about the psychology of moral judgment argue that moral cognition has a rational foundation. Recent challenges to this account, based on findings in the empirical psychology of moral judgment, contend that moral thinking has no rational basis. In this book, Hanno Sauer argues that moral reasoning does play a role in moral judgment—but not, as is commonly supposed, because conscious reasoning produces moral judgments directly. Moral reasoning figures in the acquisition, formation, maintenance, and reflective correction of moral intuitions. Sauer proposes that when we make moral judgments we draw on a stable repertoire of intuitions about what is morally acceptable, which we have acquired over the course of our moral education—episodes of rational reflection that have established patterns for automatic judgment foundation. Moral judgments are educated and rationally amenable moral intuitions.

Sauer engages extensively with the empirical evidence on the psychology of moral judgment and argues that it can be shown empirically that reasoning plays a crucial role in moral judgment. He offers detailed counterarguments to the anti-rationalist challenge (the claim that reason and reasoning play no significant part in morality and moral judgment) and the emotionist challenge (the argument for the emotional basis of moral judgment). Finally, he uses Joshua Greene’s Dual Process model of moral cognition to test the empirical viability and normative persuasiveness of his account of educated intuitions. Sauer shows that moral judgments can be automatic, emotional, intuitive, and rational at the same time.

About the Author

Hanno Sauer is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Utrecht University.


“Sauer sinks a sharp plow into some of the most fertile ground in our field: understanding moral judgment not as a competition between reason and intuition, but rather as a synthesis of them. The fruits are ours to read.”
Fiery Cushman, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Harvard University
“Are moral beliefs impervious to reason? Are moral judgments constituted by emotions? Many philosophers and psychologists think we are forced to answer these questions affirmatively by empirical evidence. Hanno Sauer shows that while particular moral judgments are typically made on the basis of automatic intuitions, the intuitions themselves are educable, and reasoning—especially with others—plays an important role in this. The attractive rationalism he defends acknowledges the pervasive role of emotions in moral judgments, while nevertheless opening the way for genuine moral error and moral progress. Without doubt, this book is a major contribution to empirically informed metaethics and moral psychology.”
Neil Levy, Macquarie University; Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford