A Project of the University of Pennsylvania and the John Templeton Foundation

The affective dog and its rational tale: Intuition and attunement

Published: July, 2014

Investigator(s): Dr. Peter Railton

Journal: Ethics

Researcher(s): Railton, P


Intuition – spontaneous, nondeliberative assessment – has long been indispensable in theoretical and practical philosophy alike. Recent research by psychologists and experimental philosophers has challenged our understanding of the nature and authority of moral intuitions by tracing them to “fast,” “automatic,” “button-pushing” responses of the affective system. This view of the affective system contrasts with a growing body of research in affective neuroscience which suggests that it is instead a flexible learning system that generates and updates a multidimensional evaluative landscape to guide decision and action. With this latter view in mind, I revisit some of the classic hypothetical scenarios used in experimental moral psychology.

JTF grant funded: Yes