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Moral Psychology and Human AgencyPhilosophical Essays on the Science of Ethics$
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Justin D'Arms and Daniel Jacobson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198717812

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198717812.001.0001

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Sentimentalism and Scientism

Sentimentalism and Scientism

Chapter:
(p.253) 11 Sentimentalism and Scientism
Source:
Moral Psychology and Human Agency
Author(s):

Justin D’Arms

, Daniel Jacobson
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198717812.003.0011

This chapter challenges a central thesis of the empirical ethics movement: pessimism about reasons and reasoning. This is the claim that the reasons people offer in support of their evaluative judgments are merely post hoc rationalizations of conclusions driven by emotional responses. Pessimism is manifest in Peter Singer’s claim that the science of ethics presents a dilemma between relativism (or some other form of skepticism) and a morality denatured of anything contingently human—in particular, of all emotional influence. It argues that although pessimists are right that emotions make a significant contribution to evaluative thought, no pessimistic thesis strong enough to support Singer’s dilemma is tenable. A more philosophically adequate theory, which discriminates between good and bad reasons and reasoning, is at least as well supported by the evidence. This view, rational sentimentalism, offers an anthropocentric route through Singer’s dilemma that avoids the costs of relativism and denatured rationalism.

Keywords:   anthropocentrism, empirical ethics, Greene, Haidt, Prinz, Rozin, scientism, sentimentalism, Singer

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