Empirical evidence for moral Bayesianism

Haim Cohen*, Ittay Nissan-Rozen, Anat Maril

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Many philosophers in the field of meta-ethics believe that rational degrees of confidence in moral judgments should have a probabilistic structure, in the same way as do rational degrees of belief. The current paper examines this position, termed “moral Bayesianism,” from an empirical point of view. To this end, we assessed the extent to which degrees of moral judgments obey the third axiom of the probability calculus, (Formula presented.), known as finite additivity, as compared to degrees of beliefs on the one hand and degrees of desires on the other. Results generally converged to show that degrees of moral judgment are more similar to degrees of belief than to degrees of desire in this respect. This supports the adoption of a Bayesian approach to the study of moral judgments. To further support moral Bayesianism, we also demonstrated its predictive power. Finally, we discuss the relevancy of our results to the meta-ethical debate between moral cognitivists and moral non-cognitivists.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)801-830
Number of pages30
JournalPhilosophical Psychology
Volume37
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Brian Weatherson, David Enoch, Itzhak Aharon, Jonathan Najenson, Ryan Doody, Thomas Polzler, and three anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments and suggestions on this article. Earlier versions of this paper were presented in the annual meeting of the European Society for Philosophy and Psychology, Hatfield, England (2017) and in Tel hai Seminar, Department of Philosophy, Tel-Hai College, Israel (2018). We thank the participants of these events for useful discussions. This work was funded by The Israel Science Foundation grants (grants 1471/20) to Anat Maril, by The Israel Science Foundation grant (grants 1042/13) to Ittay Nissan-Rozen, and by a fellowship from the Sidney M. Edelstein Center for History and Philosophy of Technology and Medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to Haim Cohen.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Keywords

  • degrees of belief
  • desire as belief thesis
  • meta-ethics
  • moral Bayesianism
  • moral cognitivism
  • moral judgments
  • moral non-cognitivism

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