• Open Access

Methodological Issues in the Neuroscience of Moral Judgement


  • We are grateful to audiences at Oxford and Bonn, and to an anonymous referee for helpful comments. Part of this research was supported by Wellcome Trust grant WT087208MF.

  • Re-use of this article is permitted in accordance with the Terms and Conditions set out at http://wileyonlinelibrary.com/onlineopen#OnlineOpen_Terms

Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford, Littlegate House, 16/17 St Ebbes Street, Oxford, OX1 1PT, UK.
Email:guy.kahane@philosophy.ox.ac.uk; nicholas.shackel@philosophy.ox.ac.uk


Neuroscience and psychology have recently turned their attention to the study of the subpersonal underpinnings of moral judgment. In this article we critically examine an influential strand of research originating in Greene's neuroimaging studies of ‘utilitarian’ and ‘non-utilitarian’ moral judgement. We argue that given that the explananda of this research are specific personal-level states—moral judgments with certain propositional contents—its methodology has to be sensitive to criteria for ascribing states with such contents to subjects. We argue that current research has often failed to meet this constraint by failing to correctly ‘fix’ key aspects of moral judgment, criticism we support by detailed examples from the scientific literature.