ARTICLE: MORAL PSYCHOLOGY AND THE LAW: HOW INTUITIONS DRIVE REASONING, JUDGMENT, AND THE SEARCH FOR EVIDENCE Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2013 University of Alabama
Alabama Law Review

ARTICLE: MORAL PSYCHOLOGY AND THE LAW: HOW INTUITIONS DRIVE REASONING, JUDGMENT, AND THE SEARCH FOR EVIDENCE

2013

Alabama Law Review

64 Ala. L. Rev. 867

Author

Jonathan Haidt *

Excerpt

My talk today is about a delusion that is stalking the halls of the academy. "Delusion" is defined by Webster's as "a false conception and persistent belief unconquerable by reason in something that has no existence in fact." 1 In his book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins used the word "delusion" in this way. 2 He defined the God delusion as the belief in "a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us." 3 He then argued that religious people are unconquerable by reason, because if they were reasonable, they would see the falsity of their belief. He argued that there is no such thing as a God defined in this way. Whether or not you agree with Dawkins' atheism, his book is a useful example of how one might go about arguing for the existence of a mass delusion.

The mass delusion that I want to talk about today is the rationalist delusion in ethics. I define it like this: "The belief in a reliable faculty of reasoning, capable of operating effectively and impartially even when self-interest, reputational concerns, and intergroup conflict pull toward a particular conclusion." The word "rationalism" has a variety of meanings in philosophy. I am using the term to indicate a fairly moderate position-the view that reason is the chief source of valid knowledge about ethics-not the more radical claim that it is the only source.

So is reason ...
 
 
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