Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2304760
 


 



Is Deontology a Heuristic? On Psychology, Neuroscience, Ethics, and Law


Cass R. Sunstein


Harvard Law School

August 1, 2013


Abstract:     
A growing body of psychological and neuroscientific research links dual-process theories of cognition with moral reasoning (and implicitly to legal reasoning as well). The relevant research appears to show that at least some deontological judgments are connected with rapid, automatic, emotional processing, and that consequentialist judgments (including utilitarianism) are connected with slower, more deliberative thinking. These findings are consistent with the claim that deontological thinking is best understood as a moral heuristic – one that generally works well, but that also misfires. If this claim is right, it may have large implications for many debates in politics, morality, and law, including those involving the role of retribution, the free speech principle, religious liberty, the idea of fairness, and the legitimacy of cost-benefit analysis. Nonetheless, psychological and neuroscientific research cannot rule out the possibility that consequentialism is wrong and that deontology is right. It tells us about the psychology of moral and legal judgment, but it does no more. On the largest questions, it leaves moral and legal debates essentially as they were before.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 18

Keywords: neuroscience, deontology, retribution, moral intuitions, consequentialism

JEL Classification: A12, D03, D87

working papers series





Download This Paper

Date posted: August 2, 2013 ; Last revised: August 20, 2013

Suggested Citation

Sunstein, Cass R., Is Deontology a Heuristic? On Psychology, Neuroscience, Ethics, and Law (August 1, 2013). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2304760 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2304760

Contact Information

Cass R. Sunstein (Contact Author)
Harvard Law School ( email )
1575 Massachusetts Ave
Areeda Hall 225
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-2291 (Phone)
Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 2,022
Downloads: 398
Download Rank: 42,325
Paper comments
No comments have been made on this paper

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo7 in 0.328 seconds