Moral Intuitions, Cognitive Psychology, and the Harming/Not-Aiding Distinction
Previous chapters have made liberal use of intuitive judgments about cases and principles. The book has also discussed the difference of opinion between some nonconsequentialists and some consequentialists (such as Peter Unger and Peter Singer) about the use of such judgments. Are the methods and results of cognitive psychology relevant to the questions these philosophers ask about the form and validity of a moral theory and the methods used in moral philosophy? This chapter examines aspects of this very large question by considering some of the methods and results of psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, especially in connection with their development of Prospect Theory. It presents certain claims made by Kahneman about moral theory, the use of intuitions, and the identification of the bearers of utility. It also explores the theory of gains and losses in Kahneman and Tversky's work and its relation to the supposed moral contrast between harming and not-aiding. Finally, it discusses what a moral theory based on the loss/no-gain distinction of Prospect Theory might look like.
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