Veil-of-Ignorance Reasoning and Justification of Moral Judgments
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CitationHuang, Karen. 2020. Veil-of-Ignorance Reasoning and Justification of Moral Judgments. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThe “veil of ignorance” is a moral reasoning device designed to promote impartial decision-making by denying decision-makers access to potentially biasing information about who will benefit most or least from the available options. In this research, I investigate the following questions: Does veil-of-ignorance reasoning influence moral decisions involving tradeoffs between the greater good and competing moral concerns? If so, what is this kind of influence? How do third-party observers perceive veil-of-ignorance reasoning? In Chapter 1, I introduce moral dilemmas involving tradeoffs between the greater good and competing moral concerns, the use of veil-of-ignorance reasoning in these dilemmas, and the importance of third-party assessments of moral reasoning. In Chapter 2, I test a veil-of-ignorance reasoning intervention and find that this intervention influences moral judgment, specifically in the utilitarian direction. This result generalizes across many decision domains, including decisions with real stakes. Furthermore, this result is explained by impartial reasoning, and not by alternative explanations such as anchoring, probability calculation, or perspective-taking. Chapter 3 examines the interpersonal effects of veil-of-ignorance reasoning. When a decision-maker is dealing with a moral dilemma where the utilitarian response is unpopular, employing a veil-of-ignorance justification of the utilitarian response increases observer trust of the decision-maker, an effect driven by perceived warmth. Overall, VOI reasoning could serve as an intervention to maximize good consequences, while also signaling respect for the individuality of persons and promoting interpersonal trust. These results have implications for both individual and collective decision-making, as well as how democratic deliberation could proceed regarding sensitive moral issues.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365797
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