Reason, Reflection, and Moral Change

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Reason, Reflection, and Moral Change

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Title: Reason, Reflection, and Moral Change
Author: Paxton, Joseph Michael
Citation: Paxton, Joseph Michael. 2014. Reason, Reflection, and Moral Change. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: Recent work in moral psychology emphasizes the role of immediate intuitive responses in shaping moral judgments, while at the same time questioning the causal role of more reflective reasoning processes. On this account (mainly due to Haidt, 2001), such reflective processes primarily provide post-hoc rationalizations for more immediate responses, and only appear to cause the associated judgments. This account poses a strong skeptical challenge to prior theories that focused on the role of reasoning in shaping moral judgments (most notably Kohlberg, 1969). In this dissertation, I attempt to address this challenge. I do so in Part I by reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of recent studies on moral reasoning and reflection. In Part II, I describe the results of six original studies that were designed to examine the roles of reasoning and reflection in moral judgment while accounting for skeptical interpretations. Part III concludes with a summary of the conditions under which reasoning and reflection were found to occur, along with a speculative account of the practical implications of this work and suggestions for future research on the cognitive mechanisms underlying reflective reasoning processes.
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