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Sentimental RulesOn the Natural Foundations of Moral Judgement$
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Shaun Nichols

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195169348

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0195169344.001.0001

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Is It Irrational to Be Amoral?

Is It Irrational to Be Amoral?

How Psychopaths Threaten Moral Rationalism

(p.65) 3 Is It Irrational to Be Amoral?
Sentimental Rules

Shaun Nichols

Oxford University Press

Moral rationalism provides one prominent way of securing moral objectivism. If morality derives from reason, then morality might enjoy an objective basis. In this chapter, two rationalist claims are distinguished: a conceptual claim and an empirical claim. The conceptual claim is that it is a conceptual truth that moral requirements are rational requirements; the empirical claim is that human moral judgment is produced by rational cognitive mechanisms. This chapter argues that both claims are problematic. The conceptual claim is threatened by the conceptual possibility of a rational amoralist. The empirical claim is insulated from such worries but it is undermined by evidence that psychopaths apparently do have a seriously disturbed capacity for moral judgment.The most plausible explanation of this deficit does not fit with an Empirical Rationalist account.

Keywords:   amoralism, autism, moral rationalism, psychopathy, Michael Smith

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