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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Moral Psychology as Accountability

By Brendan Dill and Stephen Darwall
[In Justin D’Arms & Daniel Jacobson (eds.),  Moral Psychology and Human Agency:  Philosophical Essays on the Science of Ethics  (pp. 40-83). Oxford University Press. Pre-publication draft. For citation or quotation, please refer to the published volume.


When moral psychology exploded a decade ago with groundbreaking research, there was considerable excitement about the potential fruits of collaboration between moral philosophers and moral psychologists. However, this enthusiasm soon gave way to controversy about whether either field was, or even could be, relevant to the other (e.g., Greene 2007; Berker 2009). After all, it seems at first glance that the primary question researched by moral psychologists—how people form judgments about what is morally right and wrong—is independent from the parallel question investigated by moral  philosophers—what is in fact morally right and wrong, and why.

Once we transcend the narrow bounds of quandary ethics and “trolleyology,” however, a broader look at the fields of moral psychology and moral philosophy reveals several common interests. Moral philosophers strive not only to determine what actions are morally right and wrong, but also to understand our moral concepts, practices, and  psychology. They ask what it means to be morally right, wrong, or obligatory: what distinguishes moral principles from other norms of action, such as those of instrumental rationality, prudence, excellence, or etiquette (Anscombe 1958; Williams 1985; Gibbard 1990; Annas 1995)? Moral psychologists pursue this very question in research on the distinction between moral and conventional rules (Turiel 1983; Nichols 2002; Kelly et al. 2007; Royzman, Leeman, and Baron 2009) and in attempts to define the moral domain (e.g., Haidt and Kesebir 2010).

The entire paper is here.