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Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Morality takes two: Dyadic morality and mind perception.

Gray, Kurt; Wegner, Daniel M.
Mikulincer, Mario (Ed); Shaver, Phillip R. (Ed), (2012). The social psychology of morality: Exploring the causes of good and evil. Herzliya series on personality and social psychology., (pp. 109-127). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association


We propose that all moral acts are (at least implicitly) dyadic, involving two different people, one as a moral agent and one as a moral patient. The idea that people cleave the moral world into agents and patients is as old as Aristotle (Freeland, 1985), but out of this simple claim—that morality takes two—grows a theory of morality with a host of implications for psychology and the real world. Dyadic morality can help explain, for instance, why victims escape blame, why people believe in God, why people harm saints, why some advocate torture, and why those who do good become more physically powerful. In this chapter, we explore the idea of dyadic morality, its extensions and implications. In particular, we examine the following four tenets of dyadic morality: 1. Morality involves a moral agent helping or harming a moral patient. 2. Morality and mind perception are linked: Agency is tied to moral agents; experience is tied to moral patients. 3. Morality requires a complete dyad: An isolated moral agent creates a moral patient; an isolated moral patient creates a moral agent. 4. Morality requires two different people as agent and patient, which means that people are perceived as either agents or patients, both in moral acts and more generally, a phenomenon called moral typecasting. We first explore the link between mind and morality, then examine dyadic help and harm, then explain how moral dyads complete themselves, and finally consider moral typecasting. Why start first with mind perception? Perceptions of mind are tightly bound to moral judgments, and as we show, the structure of mind perception is split into two complementary parts that correspond to the two parts of morality. Perceptions of mind underlie the most fundamental of moral decisions: who deserves moral rights and who deserves moral responsibility.

A copy of the chapter is here.