Using Experiments in Ethics – Ethical Conservatism and the Psychology of Moral Luck

Shaun Nichols, Mark Timmons, Theresa Lopez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

8 Scopus citations


Psychological evidence detailing why we believe what we believe can provide a powerful basis for challenging the warrant of those beliefs. If psychology shows that a certain common belief derives from epistemically defective processes, then this threatens to undercut the epistemic authority of the belief. The canonical case of this sort of debunking argument is Freud’s critique of religion (1927). Freud argues that religious belief is a product of wish-fulfillment, not reason; as a result, he says, we should regard our religious beliefs as unwarranted. On the heels of psychological research on philosophically charged domains, these kinds of debunking arguments have been making a comeback. Debunking arguments have been advanced in the domains of metaphysics (e.g., Scholl 2007), metaethics (e.g., Nichols 2008), consciousness (e.g., Fiala et al. 2011), and normative ethics (e.g., Greene 2008; Singer 2005). In this paper, we use the problem of moral luck as a case studying, exploring how empirical work can inform normative ethics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLibrary of Ethics and Applied Philosophy
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages18
StatePublished - 2014

Publication series

NameLibrary of Ethics and Applied Philosophy
ISSN (Print)1387-6678
ISSN (Electronic)2215-0323


  • Control Principle
  • Epistemic Evaluation
  • Moral Luck
  • Normative Authority
  • Normative Commitment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Philosophy
  • Development
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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