The Possibility of a Reflective Deontology

Kevin Patrick Tobia, University of Oxford


Greene (2013) claims automatic (intuitive) processing gives rise to deontological moral judgments while controlled (reflective) processing leads to Utilitarian ones. This claim is supported by an empirical demonstration that, in some cases, a measure of cognitive reflection is correlated with Utilitarian responding to moral dilemmas (Paxton et al., 2013). These authors note there may be a reversal of this pattern, but that there is currently no compelling evidence for it. I begin here by presenting evidence for this reversal; sometimes, more automatic processing leads to characteristically deontological judgment. I then turn to a broader theoretical argument against the posited connection between controlled psychological processing and Utilitarian moral judgment. The psychological distinction between automatic and controlled processing is not one that maps neatly onto theories of normative ethics.


Reflective Intentions: Philosophical Concepts of Intentionality (200 KB)

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