Ethical Perspectives

June 2015

Reason With Me: ‘Confabulation’ and Interpersonal Moral Reasoning

  • Sven Nyholm


According to Haidt’s ‘social intuitionist model’, empirical moral psychology supports the following conclusion: intuition comes first, strategic reasoning second. Critics have responded by arguing that intuitions can depend on non-conscious reasons, that not being able to articulate one’s reasons does not entail not being responsive to reasons, and that the relations between intuitions and reasoning can be truth-tracking and principled in ways overlooked by Haidt. This debate involves a false dichotomy: that either reasoning is truth-tracking, or else our reasoning is purely strategic and manipulative in nature. Reason-giving also, I argue, performs other important functions in moral and social life. A robust willingness to offer reasons in favour of our convictions is itself a virtue we seek and appreciate in others. Others’ willingness to reason with us is itself a good we enjoy at their hands, or that they confer upon us. What we give each other in being willing and determined to reason together is, among other things, respect for, and good-will towards, each other.

About the Author
SVEN NYHOLM is Assistant Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Ethics at the Eindhoven University of Technology. He received his PhD from the University of Michigan in 2012. His main research interests are moral philosophy (including applied ethics) and its history. He also writes on moral psychology and social and political philosophy. His book on Kant’s ethics, Revisiting Kant’s Universal Law and Humanity Formulas, is being published by De Gruyter in 2015. His articles and book reviews have appeared in general philosophy journals, ethics journals, and bioethics journals. A co-authored piece on the experimental philosophy of happiness was published in the first volume of the Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2014).
Email: s.r.nyholm@tue.nl

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To  Ethical Perspectives 2/2015