Hindering Harm and Preserving Purity: How Can Moral Psychology Save the Planet?

Philosophy Compass 10 (2):134-144 (2015)
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The issues of climate change and environmental degradation elicit diverse responses. This paper explores how an understanding of human moral psychology might be used to motivate conservation efforts. Moral concerns for the environment can relate to issues of harm or impurity . Aversions to harm are linked to concern for current or future generations, non-human animals, and anthropomorphized aspects of the environment. Concerns for purity are linked to viewing the environment as imbued with sacred value and therefore worthy of being protected at all costs. While both harm-based and purity-based framings of environmental issues can sometimes backfire, we argue that making these moral concerns salient can nevertheless bring about moral responses to environmental issues. In sum, scientists' emerging knowledge about the moral mind can be used to facilitate the sustainable conservation of the planet



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Joshua Rottman
Franklin and Marshall College

Citations of this work

Harnessing Moral Psychology to Reduce Meat Consumption.Joshua May & Victor Kumar - 2023 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 9 (2):367-387.
Kinds of norms.Elizabeth O'Neill - 2017 - Philosophy Compass 12 (5):e12416.
The Limits of Appealing to Disgust.Joshua May - 2018 - In Victor Kumar & Nina Strohminger (eds.), The Moral Psychology of Disgust. Rowman & Littlefield International. pp. 151-170.

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The historical roots of our ecological crisis.Lynn White Jr - forthcoming - Environmental Ethics: Readings in Theory and Application, Belmont: Wadsworth Company.

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