The Cognitive Bases for Deciding When Policies Are Just
It has long been recognized that, psychologically, we experience ought, a moral demand, when we relate a choice before us to our conception of an ideal self. Based on this reality, ideal observer theories have been promulgated for centuries. I draw on Roderick Firth’s most precise version. What is right is defined by the approval of an Ideal Observer who is omniscient with respect to factual knowledge, omni-percipient in imagining how everyone is affected by one’s decision, and is impartial. Drawing on neuro-ethical research and other psychological studies, I support these criteria for moral decision-making and argue for changing how impartiality is understood. Impartiality is not attained by being disinterested and dispassionate but rather by having equal empathy for everyone, including oneself, as in the Golden Rule.