Advertisement

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 9–24 | Cite as

The Psychology of Dilemmas and the Philosophy of Morality

  • Fiery Cushman
  • Liane Young
Article

Abstract

We review several instances where cognitive research has identified distinct psychological mechanisms for moral judgment that yield conflicting answers to moral dilemmas. In each of these cases, the conflict between psychological mechanisms is paralleled by prominent philosophical debates between different moral theories. A parsimonious account of this data is that key claims supporting different moral theories ultimately derive from the psychological mechanisms that give rise to moral judgments. If this view is correct, it has some important implications for the practice of philosophy. We suggest several ways that moral philosophy and practical reasoning can proceed in the face of discordant theories grounded in diverse psychological mechanisms.

Keywords

Moral psychology Dilemmas Trolley problem Moral luck Free will 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We wish to thank Richard Joyce, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, and several reviewers for their valuable comments on this essay.

References

  1. Baron J, Spranca M (1997) Protected values. Org Behav Hum Decis Process 70(1):1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bartels D, Medin D (2007) Are morally motivated decision makers insensitive to the consequences of their choices? Psychol Sci 18(1):24–28 doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01843.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blair RJR, Marsh AA, Finger E, Blair K, Luo J (2006) Neuro-cognitive systems involved in morality. Philos Explorations 9(1):13–27 doi: 10.1080/13869790500492359 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ciaramelli E, Muccioli M, Ladavas E, di Pellegrino G (2007) Selective deficit in personal moral judgment following damage to ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 2:84–92 doi: 10.1093/scan/nsm001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cushman FA (2008) Crime and punishment: Distinguishing the roles of causal and intentional analyses in moral judgment. CognitionGoogle Scholar
  6. Cushman FA, Young L, Hauser MD (2006) The role of conscious reasoning and intuitions in moral judgment: testing three principles of harm. Psychol Sci 17(12):1082–1089 doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01834.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Foot P (1967) The problem of abortion and the doctrine of double effect. Oxf Rev 5:5–15Google Scholar
  8. Gilligan C (1982) In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  9. Greene JD (2007) The secret joke of Kant’s Soul. In: Sinnott-Armstrong W (ed) Moral psychology. vol. 3. MIT, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  10. Greene JD, Morelli SA, Lowenberg K, Nystrom LE, Cohen JD (2008) Cognitive load selectively interferes with utilitarian moral judgment. Cognition.Google Scholar
  11. Greene JD, Nystrom LE, Engell AD, Darley JM, Cohen JD (2004) The neural bases of cognitive conflict and control in moral judgment. Neuron 44:389–400 doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2004.09.027 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Greene JD, Sommerville RB, Nystrom LE, Darley JM, Cohen JD (2001) An fMRI investigation of emotional engagement in moral judgment. Science 293:2105–2108 doi: 10.1126/science.1062872 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Grueneich R (1982) The development of childrens integration rules for making moral judgments. Child Dev 53(4):887–894 doi: 10.2307/1129125 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Haidt J (2001) The emotional dog and its rational tail: a social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychol Rev 108:814–834 doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.108.4.814 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Haidt J (2007) The new synthesis in moral psychology. Science 316(5827):998–1002 doi: 10.1126/science.1137651 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hauser MD, Cushman FA, Young L, Jin R, Mikhail JM (2007) A dissociation between moral judgment and justification. Mind Lang 22(1):1–21 doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0017.2006.00297.x Google Scholar
  17. Hebble PW (1971) Devleopment of elementary school childrens judgment of intent. Child Dev 42(4):583–588 doi: 10.2307/1127804 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kane R (1999) Responsibility, luck, and chance: reflections on free will and indeterminism. J Philos 96:217–240 doi: 10.2307/2564666 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Koenigs M, Young L, Adolphs R, Tranel D, Cushman FA, Hauser MD et al (2007) Damage to the prefrontal cortex increases utilitarian moral judgments. Nature 446:908–911 doi: 10.1038/nature05631 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kohlberg L (1969) Stage and sequence: The cognitive-developmental approach to socialization. In: Goslin DA (ed) Handbook of socialization theory and research. Academic, New York, pp 151–235Google Scholar
  21. Mendez MF, Anderson E, Shapria JS (2005) An investigation of moral judgment in frontotemporal dementia. Cogn Behav Neurol 18(4):193–197 doi: 10.1097/01.wnn.0000191292.17964.bb CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mikhail JM (2000) Rawls’ linguistic analogy: A study of the ‘generative grammar’ model of moral theory described by John Rawls in ‘A theory of justice’. Unpublished PhD, Cornell University, Ithaca.Google Scholar
  23. Nagel T (1979) Mortal questions. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  24. Nahmias E, Coates J, Kvaran T (2007) Free will, moral responsibility, and mechanism: experiments on folk intuitions. Midwest Stud Philos 31:214–242 doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4975.2007.00158.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Nahmias E, Morris S, Nadelhoffer T, Turner J (2005) Surveying freedom: folk intuitions about free will and moral responsibility. Philos Psychol 18(5):561–584 doi: 10.1080/09515080500264180 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nichols S (2006) Folk intuitions about free will. J Cogn Cult 6:57–86 doi: 10.1163/156853706776931385 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nichols S, Knobe J (2007) Moral responsibility and determinism: the cognitive sciencen of folk intuitions. Nous 41:663–685 doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0068.2007.00666.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pereboom D (2001) Living without free will. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  29. Petrinovich L, O’Neill P, Jorgensen MJ (1993) An empirical study of moral intuitions: towards an evolutionary ethics. J Pers Soc Psychol 64(3):467–478 doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.64.3.467 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Piaget J (1965) The moral judgment of the child. Free, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  31. Pizarro DA, Bloom P (2003) The intelligence of the moral intuitions: comment on Haidt (2001). Psychol Rev 110(1):193–196 discussion 197–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pizarro DA, Uhlmann E, Bloom P (2003) Causal deviance and the attribution of moral responsibility. J Exp Soc Psychol 39:653–660 doi: 10.1016/S0022-1031(03)00041-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schweder D, Haidt J (1993) The future of moral psychology: truth, intuition, and the pluralist way. Psychol Sci 4:360–365 doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.1993.tb00582.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Shaver KG (1985) The attribution of blame: Causality, responsibility, and blameworthiness.Google Scholar
  35. Shultz TR, Wright K, Schleifer M (1986) Assignment of moral responsibility and punishment. Child Dev 57(1):177–184 doi: 10.2307/1130649 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sinnott-Armstrong W (2007) Abstract + Concrete = ParadoxGoogle Scholar
  37. Tetlock P (2003) Thinking the unthinkable: sacred values and taboo cognitions. Trends Cogn Sci 7(7):320–324 doi: 10.1016/S1364-6613(03)00135-9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Thomson JJ (1984) The trolley problem. Yale Law J 94:1395–1415CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Turiel E (1983) The development of social knowledge: Morality and convention. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  40. Valdesolo P, DeSteno D (2006) Manipulations of emotional context shape moral judgment. Psychol Sci 17(6):476–477 doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01731.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Vargas M (2005) The revisionist’s guide to moral responsibility. Philos Stud 125(3):399–429 doi: 10.1007/s11098-005-7783-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Viney W, Parker-Martin P, Dotten SDH (1988) Beliefs in free will and determinism and lack of relation to punishment rationale and magnitude. J Gen Psychol 115:15–23Google Scholar
  43. Viney W, Waldman D, Barchilon J (1982) Attitudes towards punishment in relation to beliefs in free will and determinism. Hum Relat 35:939–949 doi: 10.1177/001872678203501101 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Weiner B (1995) Judgments of responsibility : A foundation for a theory of social conduct. Guilford, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  45. Williams B (1981) Moral luck. Cambridge Univeristy Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  46. Woolfolk RL, Doris JM, Darley JM (2006) Identification, situational constraint, and social cognition: studies in the attribution of moral responsibility. Cognition 100(2):283–301 doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2005.05.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Young L, Cushman FA, Hauser MD, Saxe R (2007) The neural basis of the interaction between theory of mind and moral judgment. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104(20):8235–8240 doi: 10.1073/pnas.0701408104 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Yuill N, Perner J (1988) Intentionality and knowledge in childrens’ judgments of actors responsibility and recipients emotional reaction. Dev Psychol 24(3):358–365 doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.24.3.358 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Brain and Cognitive SciencesMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

Personalised recommendations