Type of Document Dissertation Author Zarpentine, Christopher R. Author's Email Address firstname.lastname@example.org URN etd-04042011-163715 Title The Fragmentation of Moral Psychology: Reason, Emotion, Motivation and Moral Judgment in Ethics and Science Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Philosophy, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Alfred Mele Committee Chair David McNaughton Committee Member Michael Ruse Committee Member John Kelsay University Representative Keywords
- Moral Judgment
- Linguistic Analogy
- Moral Psychology
Date of Defense 2011-03-29 Availability unrestricted AbstractIncreasingly, psychologists and neuroscientists have become interested in moral psychology and moral judgment. Despite this, much of moral philosophy remains isolated from this empirical research. I seek to integrate these two literatures. Drawing on a wide range of research, I develop an empirically adequate account of moral judgment. I then turn to issues in philosophical moral psychology, arguing that empirical research sheds light on old debates and raises new questions for investigation.
The neuropsychological mechanisms underlying moral judgment exhibit a large degree of complexity. Different processes contribute to moral judgment under different conditions, depending both upon the kind of case under consideration and on individual differences. Affective processes subserved by a broad base of brain regions including the orbitofrontal cortex, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and basal ganglia are crucial for normal moral judgment. These affective processes also provide an important link to motivation. More explicit cognition dependent upon areas of the medial temporal lobe and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex also play a crucial role in some kinds of moral judgment though they exhibit less direct connections to motivation.
The descriptive account of moral judgment I defend makes sense of debates in moral psychology over two influential views: motivation internalism, according to which moral judgment necessitates motivation to act accordingly and the Humean Theory of Motivation, according to which belief and desire are distinct and motivation requires both a desire and an appropriate means-end belief. Moral judgments that derive from affective processes exhibit a connection between motivation and moral judgment. However, not all moral judgments derive from such processes. More explicit representations are not closely connected to motivation, thus motivation can come apart from moral judgment. While explicit beliefs are distinct from desires, affective representations have both cognitive (albeit nonpropositional) content and direct connections to motivation. This challenges Humean theories of motivation.
This account helps resolve these traditional disputes. Anti-Humean, internalist theories offer an approximately accurate account of these affective mechanisms. Externalist, Humean theories offer an approximately accurate account of more explicit cognitive processes. Thus, several prominent philosophical theories offer a plausible account of some aspect of moral psychology. Because of the complexity of moral psychology, none of these accounts offers a complete account.
This account also raises new questions for investigation. Some researchers have argued that the representation of a moral rule like the Doctrine of Double Effect helps explain the pattern of judgments in response to different kinds of Trolley cases. I argue that these judgments are better explained in terms of the details of the associative mechanisms underlying these judgments and not in terms of the representation of a moral rule. These findings raise a unique concern about the evidential value of our intuitions in these cases—a concern that could not arise from armchair reflection alone. The approach taken in this dissertation illustrates how integrating the results of empirical research contributes to philosophical work in ethical theory.
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