Is the emotional dog wagging its rational tail, or chasing it? reason in moral judgment

Cordelia Fine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

167 Citations (Scopus)


According to Haidt's (2001) social intuitionist model (SIM), an individual's moral judgment normally arises from automatic ‘moral intuitions’. Private moral reasoning—when it occurs—is biased and post hoc, serving to justify the moral judgment determined by the individual's intuitions. It is argued here, however, that moral reasoning is not inevitably subserviant to moral intuitions in the formation of moral judgments. Social cognitive research shows that moral reasoning may sometimes disrupt the automatic process of judgment formation described by the SIM. Furthermore, it seems that automatic judgments may reflect the ‘automatization’ of judgment goals based on prior moral reasoning. In line with this role for private moral reasoning in judgment formation, it is argued that moral reasoning can, under the right circumstances, be sufficiently unbiased to effectively challenge an individual's moral beliefs. Thus the social cognitive literature indicates a greater and more direct role for private moral reasoning than the SIM allows.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-98
Number of pages16
JournalPhilosophical Explorations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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