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Moral psychology is the study of psychological aspects of ethical abilities.

linguistic / mathematical / aesthetic /



This is a course about ethical abilities.
  • act
  • judge
  • be open to moral suasion
  • feel
  • ...
What are ethical abilities?
ACT. These are abilities to act on the basis of ethical considerations, as when you refrain from doing something because, as you later tell me, ‘it is wrong’.
JUDGE. These are also abilities to judge your own and other’s actions as morally right or wrong, and to distinguish moral transgressions from conventional ones.
SUASION. And they are abilities to be influenced by others’ moral reasoning.
FEEL. And they are abilities to feel things like disgust or guit.
Note that we should allow that there is room for discoveries about which ethical abilities particular kinds of individual possess. For example, what ethical abilities do dogs have, or do humans in the first year of life have? There is even room for discovery about the ethical abilities of adult humans.

Moral psychology is the study of psychological aspects of ethical abilities.

Similar questions could be asked about linguistic abilities, that is, abilities to communicate with words. [psycholinguistics]
We can also compare ethical abilities to mathematical or aesthetic abilities. While ethical abilities are in some ways more fundamental---because they explain the possibility
These comparisons are going to be useful in what follows. Because more is known about linguistic and mathematical abilities, we may be able to use theories about these as a model for ethical abilities.
But this is a course about ethical abilities. Our main question is ...
Questions for this course:

What ethical abilities do humans have? What states and processes underpin them?

What, if anything, do discoveries about ethical abilities imply for political conflict, and what do they imply about ethics?

Structure of this course

Course Structure


Part 1: psychological underpinnings of ethical abilities

Part 2: political consequences

Part 3: implications for ethics

There will also be a little on the evolution, and the development, of ethical abilities along the way. And we will also explore a little of the research on cultural diversity.