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Moral Psychology

Edited by Joshua May (University of Alabama, Birmingham)
About this topic
Summary Moral psychology is the study of phenomena such as moral thought, feeling, reasoning, and motivation. For example, in moral psychology, one wonders what role reasoning and emotions play in generating moral judgment. Similarly, one asks whether moral motivation has its source in reason or rather sentiments or desire. Other key issues include: the tight connection between moral judgment and motivation, altruism versus egoism, character, and even the evolution of moral capacities.  The topics reveal the partly empirical nature of the field, which makes it of necessity interdisciplinary, even though one can pursue many interesting issue from the armchair. Many of these philosophical problems have ramifications in others areas, especially metaethics. If, for example, moral judgment is grounded in sentiment, then this may support a non-cognitivists theory, which threatens moral realism.
Key works Issues in moral psychology have been dominant in the history of philosophy. Nadelhoffer et al 2010 provide a collection of key historical as well as contemporary readings. Focusing on more recent work, Smith's 1994 book has been highly influential in the literature, from moral judgment to motivation. Compare also Nagel 1970 and Korsgaard 1996. On the empirical side, Sinnott-Armstrong 2008 provides a comprehensive state of the art with three volumes full of new articles and replies from prominent philosophers and scientists. 
Introductions A brief introduction to some topics in moral psychology is in Slote 1998. Rosati's (2006) entry on moral motivation provides an introduction to one cluster of key issues in moral psychology. For a way into the empirical work, see Doris & Stich 2008, May 2012, and Doris 2010.
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Subcategories:See also:History/traditions: Moral Psychology
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  1. Lawrence Blum (1994). Moral Development and Conceptions of Morality. In , Moral Perception and Particularity. Cambridge University Press.
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  2. Chris Keegan (2010). “It Puts the Lotion in the Basket: The Language of Psychopathy”. In Sara Waller (ed.), Serial Killers: Philosophy for Everyone – Killing and Being, ed. Sara Waller (Wiley-Blackwell: 2010), 129-140. Wiley-Blackwell. 129-140.
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  3. Hilde Lindemann (2001). Damaged Identities, Narrative Repair. Cornell University Press.
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  4. Harald Ofstad (1967). Two New Studies in Moral Philosophy. Stockholm, Filosofiska Institutionen Vid Stockholms Universitet.
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  5. Jennifer Radden (1985). Madness and Reason. G. Allen & Unwin.
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  6. Michael Stocker (1979). Desiring the Bad: An Essay in Moral Psychology. Journal of Philosophy 76 (12):738-753.
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  7. Roger Straughan (1982). "I Ought to, But--": A Philosophical Approach to the Problem of Weakness of Will in Education. Distributed by Humanities Press.
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  8. Gisela Striker (1989). Comments on “Aristotle's Moral Psychology” by John M. Cooper. Southern Journal of Philosophy 27 (Supplement):43-47.
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  9. Gisela Striker (1989). Comments on John Cooper's “Some Remarks on Aristotle's Moral Psychology”. Southern Journal of Philosophy 27 (S1):43-47.
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  10. Robert P. Sullivan (1952). Man's Thirst for Good. Westminster, Md.,Newman Press.
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  11. Anita Superson, Feminist Moral Psychology. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  12. Matej Sušnik (2006). Ethics and the A Priori. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 6 (1):140-145.
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  13. Christine Tappolet (forthcoming). Emotions, Values, and Agency. Oxford University Press.
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  14. Christine Tappolet (2008). Friendship and Partiality in Ethics. Les Ateliers de l'Éthique / the Ethics Forum 3 (1).
    Special volume on Friendship and Partiality. Christine Tappolet, Guest Editor.
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  15. Sergio Tenenbaum (ed.) (2007). New Trends in Moral Psychology. Kluwer.
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  16. Alan Thomas, Remorse and Reparation: A Philosophical Analysis.
    The aim of this paper is to analyse the concept of remorse from the perspective of moral philosophy. This perspective may be less familiar than other approaches in this anthology, such as those of forensic psychiatry or law. In what ways does moral philosophy claim to be able to illuminate the nature of the concept of remorse? First, by presenting an account of this concept and its structure within a more general account of the nature of moral thought. Second, by (...)
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  17. Laurence Thomas (1983). Rationality and Moral Autonomy: An Essay in Moral Psychology. Synthese 57 (2):249 - 266.
    Although there are many variations on the theme, so much is made of the good of moral autonomy that it is difficult not to suppose that there is everything to be said for being morally autonomous and nothing at all to be said for being morally nonautonomous. However, this view of moral autonomy cannot be made to square with the well-received fact that most people are morally nonautonomous — not, at any rate, unless one is prepared to maintain that most (...)
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  18. R. Murray Thomas (1997). An Integrated Theory of Moral Development. Greenwood Press.
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  19. Tim Thornton (2011). Capacity, Mental Mechanisms, and Unwise Decisions. Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 18 (2):127-132.
    The notion of capacity implicit in the Mental Capacity Act is subject to a tension between two claims. On the one hand, capacity is assessed relative to a particular decision. It is the capacity to make one kind of judgement, specifically, rather than another. So one can have capacity in one area and not have it in another. On the other hand, capacity is supposed to be independent of the ‘wisdom’ or otherwise of the decision made. (‘A person is not (...)
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  20. Valerie Tiberius & Alexandra Plakias (2010). Well-Being. In John Michael Doris (ed.), The Moral Psychology Handbook. Oxford University Press. 402--432.
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  21. Theresa Weynand Tobin (2009). Taming Augustine's Monstrosity. Journal of Philosophical Research 34:345-363.
    In Book VI of his Confessions, Saint Augustine offers a detailed description of one of the most famous cases of weakness of will in the history of philosophy. Augustine characterizes his experience as a monstrous situation in which he both wills and does not will moral growth, but he is at odds to explain this phenomenon. In this paper, I argue that Aquinas’s action theory offers important resources for explaining Augustine’s monstrosity. On Aquinas’s schema, human acts are composed of various (...)
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  22. John Allen Tucker (1985). A.S. Cua, The Unity of Knowledge and Action: A Study of Wang Yang-Ming's Moral Psychology, University Press of Hawaii, Honolulu, 1982 (12.95, 133pp.). [REVIEW] Journal of Chinese Philosophy 12 (1):97-100.
  23. John Turri (2013). The Test of Truth: An Experimental Investigation of the Norm of Assertion. Cognition 129 (2):279-291.
  24. J. David Velleman (2002). Motivation by Ideal. Philosophical Explorations 5 (2):89 – 103.
    I offer an account of how ideals motivate us. My account suggests that although emulating an ideal is often rational, it can lead us to do irrational things.
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  25. J. David Velleman (1999). The Voice of Conscience. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 99 (1):57–76.
    I reconstruct Kant's derivation of the Categorical Imperative (CI) as an argument that deduces what the voice of conscience must say from how it must sound - that is, from the authority that is metaphorically attributed to conscience in the form of a resounding voice. The idea of imagining the CI as the voice of conscience comes from Freud; and the present reconstruction is part of a larger project that aims to reconcile Kant's moral psychology with Freud's theory of moral (...)
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  26. J. David Velleman (1996). Self to Self. Philosophical Review 105 (1):39 - 76.
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  27. J. David Velleman (1992). The Guise of the Good. Noûs 26 (1):3 - 26.
    The agent portrayed in much philosophy of action is, let's face it, a square. He does nothing intentionally unless he regards it or its consequences as desirable. The reason is that he acts intentionally only when he acts out of a desire for some anticipated outcome; and in desiring that outcome, he must regard it as having some value. All of his intentional actions are therefore directed at outcomes regarded sub specie boni: under the guise of the good. This agent (...)
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  28. Blakey Vermeule (2000). The Party of Humanity: Writing Moral Psychology in Eighteenth-Century Britain. Johns Hopkins University Press.
    What is the relationship between the self and society? Where do moral judgments come from? As Blakey Vermeule demonstrates in The Party of Humanity, such questions about sociability and moral philosophy were central to eighteenth-century writers and artists. Vermeule focuses on a group of aesthetically complicated moral texts: Alexander Pope's character sketches and Dunciad , Samuel Johnson's Life of Savage, and David Hume's self-consciously theatrical writings on pride and his autobiographical writings on religious melancholia. These writers and their characters confronted (...)
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  29. Vicente Sanfélix Vidarte (1997). Mind and Morality: An Examination of Hume's Moral Psychology. Theoria 12 (2):384-386.
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  30. A. M. Viens (2007). Addiction, Responsibility and Moral Psychology. American Journal of Bioethics 7 (1):17 – 19.
    The author comments on several articles on addiction. Recent developments in neuroscience suggest that addicted individuals have substantial impairments in the cognitive control of voluntary behavior. The author differs on the observations that addicts either act on desires that are not conducive to rational action. The author also states that addiction seems to be a prime manifestation of akrasia, in which one fails to be motivated to act in accordance with what one judges ought to be done. Accession Number: 24077920; (...)
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  31. Candace A. Vogler (2001). John Stuart Mill's Deliberative Landscape: An Essay in Moral Psychology. Routledge.
    This book charts the fate of philosophical theory about what sorts of things are worth pursuing and why by watching its influence on the philosopher John Stuart Mill whose whole early education was predicated upon the truth of the theory. Drawing on the anti-instrumentalist strands of Millian thought, Vogler constructs a powerful objection to instrumentalism about practical rationality.
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  32. Paul Voice & Annamaria Carusi (1995). Freud on Justice: Supporting Illusions with Arguments. Studies in Psychoanalytic Theory 4:29-47.
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  33. Lane E. Volpe & Robert A. Barton (2009). Attachment and Sexual Strategies. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 32 (1):43-44.
    Sexual behaviour and mate choice are key intervening variables between attachment and life histories. We propose a set of predictions relating attachment, reproductive strategies, and mate choice criteria.
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  34. Margaret Urban Walker (2007). Moral Psychology. In Linda Alcoff & Eva Feder Kittay (eds.), The Blackwell Guide to Feminist Philosophy. Blackwell Pub..
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  35. Megan Wallace, The Weak-Willed Vs. The Vicious.
    Abstract: Virtue Ethicists typically hold that the weak-willed person is less morally culpable than the vicious person. However, I have reasons to think that this intuition is incorrect. What’s more, I think that insofar as there is an asymmetry in the moral culpability between the weak-willed and the vicious, the asymmetry works the opposite way. Moreover, I think that Virtue Ethicists should think this, too. In the following paper, I will first discuss the plausibility of the vicious agent as someone (...)
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  36. R. Jay Wallace (ed.) (2006). Normativity and the Will: Selected Papers on Moral Psychology and Practical Reason. Oxford University Press.
    Normativity and the Will collects fourteen important papers on moral psychology and practical reason by R. Jay Wallace, one of the leading philosophers currently working in these areas. The papers explore the interpenetration of normative and psychological issues in a series of debates that lie at the heart of moral philosophy. Themes that are addressed include reason, desire, and the will; responsibility, identification, and emotion; and the relation between morality and other normative domains. Wallace's treatments of these topics are at (...)
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  37. R. Jay Wallace (2005). Moral Psychology. In Frank Jackson & Michael Smith (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
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  38. R. Jay Wallace (ed.) (2004). Reason and Value: Themes From the Moral Philosophy of Joseph Raz. Oxford University Press.
    Reason and Value collects 15 new papers by leading contemporary philosophers on themes from the work of Joseph Raz. Raz has made major contributions in a wide range of areas, including jurisprudence, political philosophy, and the theory of practical reason; but all of his work displays a deep engagement with central themes in moral philosophy. The subtlety and power of Raz's reflections on ethical topics make his writings a fertile source for anyone working in this area. Especially significant are his (...)
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  39. R. Jay Wallace (1996). Book Review:Identity, Character, and Morality: Essays in Moral Psychology. Owen Flanagan, Amelie Oksenberg Rorty. [REVIEW] Ethics 106 (2):451-.
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  40. David E. Ward (2002). Explaining Evil Behavior: Using Kant and M. Scott Peck to Solve the Puzzle of Understanding the Moral Psychology of Evil People. Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 9 (1):1-12.
  41. Gary Watson (2012). La responsabilité et les limites du mal. Variations sur un thème de Strawson. Les Ateliers de l'Éthique / the Ethics Forum 7 (1):146-178.
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  42. Gary Watson (2012). La responsabilité et les limites du mal. Variations sur un thème de Strawson. Les Ateliers de l'Éthique / the Ethics Forum 7 (1):146-178.
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  43. Gary Watson (2002). Review: Agency and Responsibility: A Common Sense Moral Psychology. [REVIEW] Mind 111 (444):876-882.
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  44. Sheldon Wein, Plato's Moral Psychology.
    The first serious account of justice Plato considers in the Republic is the contractarian account.(1) It holds that is always instrumentally rational for one to further her own interests and in that certain situations (exemplified by the prisoners dilemma) it is more rational to forego one's own interests (providing others do so also) than to behave in a straight-forwardly rational way. The rules allowing one to escape prisoner's dilemmas—the rules it is rational to accept providing all others accept them also—are (...)
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  45. Andrea C. Westlund (2011). Autonomy, Authority, and Answerability. Jurisprudence 2 (1):161-179.
    Autonomy seems to require that we engage in practical deliberation and come to our own decisions regarding how we will act. Deference to authority, by contrast, seems to require that we suspend deliberation and do what the authority commands precisely because he or she commands it. How, then, could autonomy be compatible with deference to authority? In his critique of Razian instrumentalism, Stephen Darwall lays the groundwork for a distinctively contractualist answer to this question: the normative force of an authoritative (...)
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  46. Bernard Williams (1993). Nietzsche's Minimalist Moral Psychology. European Journal of Philosophy 1 (1):4-14.
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  47. Eric Entrican Wilson (2008). Kantian Autonomy and the Moral Self. Review of Metaphysics 62 (2):355-381.
    This essay examines the connection between the concept of autonomy and the concept of an ideal, moral self in Kant’s practical philosophy. Its central thesis is that self-legislation does not rest on the capacity to exempt oneself from nature’s causal network. Instead, it rests on the practical capacity for identification with what Kant calls an individual’s “moral personality.” A person’s ability to identify with this morally ideal version of himself gives shape to his will, enabling him to decide how to (...)
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  48. Richard W. Wilson & Gordon J. Schochet (eds.) (1980). Moral Development and Politics. Praeger.
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  49. Susan Wolf (2007). Moral Psychology and the Unity of the Virtues. Ratio 20 (2):145–167.
    The ancient Greeks subscribed to the thesis of the Unity of Virtue, according to which the possession of one virtue is closely related to the possession of all the others. Yet empirical observation seems to contradict this thesis at every turn. What could the Greeks have been thinking of? The paper offers an interpretation and a tentative defence of a qualified version of the thesis. It argues that, as the Greeks recognized, virtue essentially involves knowledge ? specifically, evaluative knowledge of (...)
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  50. Ching-Wa Wong (2011). Values, Desires, and Love: Reflections on Wollheim's Moral Psychology. Ratio 24 (1):78-90.
    In The Thread of Life, Richard Wollheim argues that a person's sense of value is grounded in the power of love to generate certain favourable perceptions of an object. Following from his view is a psychoanalytic conception of valuing as constituted by the imaginative force of phantasy, rather than rational deliberation. In this paper, I shall defend this conception with a view to explaining the relation between values and desires. I suggest that valuing qua phantasy-making can ‘tune up’ a person's (...)
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