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Friday, August 28, 2015

Deconstructing intent to reconstruct morality

Fiery Cushman
Current Opinion in Psychology
Volume 6, December 2015, Pages 97–103


• Mental state inference is a foundational element of moral judgment.
• Its influence is usually captured by contrasting intentional and accidental harm.
• The folk theory of intentional action comprises many distinct elements.
• Moral judgment shows nuanced sensitivity to these constituent elements.
• Future research will profit from attention to the constituents of intentional action.

Mental state representations are a crucial input to human moral judgment. This fact is often summarized by saying that we restrict moral condemnation to ‘intentional’ harms. This simple description is the beginning of a theory, however, not the end of one. There is rich internal structure to the folk concept of intentional action, which comprises a series of causal relations between mental states, actions and states of affairs in the world. Moral judgment shows nuanced patterns of sensitivity to all three of these elements: mental states (like beliefs and desires), the actions that a person performs, and the consequences of those actions. Deconstructing intentional action into its elemental fragments will enable future theories to reconstruct our understanding of moral judgment.

The entire article is here.

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