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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Moral Foundations Theory: The Pragmatic Validity of Moral Pluralism

By Jesse Graham, Jonathan Haidt, S. Koleva, M. Motyl,  R. Iyera, S. P. Wojcikd, & P. H. Ditto
in press, Advances in Experimental Social Psychology


Where does morality come from? Why are moral judgments often so similar across cultures, yet sometimes so variable? Is morality one thing, or many? Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) was created to answer these questions. In this chapter we describe the origins, assumptions, and current conceptualization of the theory, and detail the empirical findings that MFT has made possible, both within social psychology and beyond. Looking toward the future, we embrace several critiques of the theory, and specify five criteria for determining what should be considered a foundation of human morality. Finally, we suggest a variety of future directions for MFT and for moral psychology. 

Here is an excerpt:

But what if, in some cultures, even the most advanced moral thinkers value groups, institutions, traditions, and gods? What should we say about local rules for how to be a good group member, or how to worship? If these rules are not closely linked to concerns about justice or care, then should we distinguish them from true moral rules, as Turiel did when he labeled such rules as “social conventions?” Shweder (1990) argued that the cognitive-developmental tradition was studying only a subset of moral concerns, the ones that are most highly elaborated in secular Western societies. Shweder argued for a much more extensive form of pluralism based on his research in Bhubaneswar, India (Shweder, Much, Mahapatra, & Park, 1997). He proposed that around the world, people talk in one or more of three moral languages: the ethic of autonomy (relying on concepts such as harm, rights, and justice, which protect autonomous individuals), the ethic of community (relying on concepts such as duty, respect, and loyalty, which preserve institutions and social order), and the ethic of divinity (relying on concepts such as purity, sanctity, and sin, which protect the divinity inherent in each person against the degradation of hedonistic selfishness.) 

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