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Expertise in Moral Reasoning? Order Effects on Moral Judgment in Professional Philosophers and Non-Philosophers


  • We thank John Fischer, Joshua Knobe, Joe Paxton, Michael Ridge, Gary Watson, and Liane Young for their valuable contributions in the preparation of this manuscript. We gratefully acknowledge the University of California, Riverside Academic Senate and the Harvard Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative for their support. The authors contributed equally to this research.

Eric Schwitzgebel, Department of Philosophy, University of California at Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521, USA.


We examined the effects of order of presentation on the moral judgments of professional philosophers and two comparison groups. All groups showed similar-sized order effects on their judgments about hypothetical moral scenarios targeting the doctrine of the double effect, the action-omission distinction, and the principle of moral luck. Philosophers' endorsements of related general moral principles were also substantially influenced by the order in which the hypothetical scenarios had previously been presented. Thus, philosophical expertise does not appear to enhance the stability of moral judgments against this presumably unwanted source of bias, even given familiar types of cases and principles.