Moral Psychology

Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1998)
Moral psychology as a discipline is centrally concerned with psychological issues that arise in connection with the moral evaluation of actions. It deals with the psychological presuppositions of valid morality, that is, with assumptions it seems necessary for us to make in order for there to be such a thing as objective or binding moral requirements: for example, if we lack free will or are all incapable of unselfishness, then it is not clear how morality can really apply to human beings. Moral psychology also deals with what one might call the psychological accompaniments of actual right, or wrong, action, for example, with questions about the nature and possibility of moral weakness or self-deception, and with questions about the kinds of motives that ought to motivate moral agents. Moreover, in the approach to ethics known as ‘virtue ethics’ questions about right and wrong action merge with questions about the motives, dispositions, and abilities of moral agents, and moral psychology plays a more central role than it does in other forms of ethical theory.
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