, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 223–231 | Cite as

The Bleak Implications of Moral Psychology

  • Edouard Machery
Original Paper


In this article, I focus on two claims made by Appiah in Experiments in Ethics: Doris’s and Harman’s criticism of virtue ethics fails, and moral psychology can be used to identify erroneous moral intuitions. I argue that both claims are erroneous.


Virtue ethics Situationism Character Implicit bias Unconscious Agency Doris Harman Appiah Moral intuitions Bias Moral psychology 



I would like to thank John Doris, Gil Harman, Neil Levy, and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong for their comments on a previous version of this article. I would also like to thank the readers of the blog Experimental Philosophy ( for their comments on this article—particularly, Anne Jacobson, Lisa Lederer, Tamler Sommers, Jussi Suikkanen. A version of this article was also presented in Princeton.


  1. 1.
    Levy, N. 2006. Cognitive scientific challenges to morality. Philosophical Psychology 9: 567–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Sinnott-Armstrong, W. 2008. Framing moral intuitions. In Moral psychology, volume 2: The cognitive science of morality, ed. W. Sinnott-Armstrong, 47–76. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Harman, G. 1999. Moral philosophy meets social psychology: virtue ethics and the fundamental attribution error. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 99: 315–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Doris, J.M. 1998. Persons, situations, and virtue ethics. Noûs 32: 504–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Doris, J.M. 2002. Lack of character. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Isen, A.M., and P.F. Levin. 1972. The effect of feeling good on helping: cookies and kindness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 21: 384–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Appiah, K.A. 2008. Experiments in ethics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Doris, J.M. Forthcoming. A natural history of the self. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Hursthouse, R. 1999. On virtue ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    McAdams, D.P., and J.L. Pals. 2006. A new big five. Fundamental principles for an integrative science of personality. American Psychologist 61: 204–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Epstein, S. 1979. The stability of behavior: I. On predicting most of the people much of the time. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 37: 1097–1126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Sabini, J., and M. Silver. 2005. Lack of character? Situationism critiqued. Ethics 115: 535–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Dewey, J. 1897. My pedagogic creed. School Journal 54: 77–80.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Prestwitch, D.L. 2004. Character education in America’s school. School Community Journal 14: 139–150.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Greene, J.D., and J. Haidt. 2002. How (and where) does moral judgment work? Trends in Cognitive Sciences 6: 517–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Wilson, T.D. 2002. Strangers to ourselves. Discovering the adaptive unconscious. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Bargh, J.A., and E.L. Williams. 2006. The automaticity of social life. Current Directions in Psychological Science 15: 1–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Monteith, M.J., J.W. Sherman, and P.G. Devine. 1998. Suppression as a stereotype control strategy. Personality and Social Psychology Review 2: 63–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Richeson, J.A., and J.N. Shelton. 2007. Negotiating interracial interactions: cost, consequences, and possibilities. Current Directions in Psychological Science 16: 316–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Nosek, B.A., A.G. Greenwald, and M.R. Banaji. 2007. The implicit association test at age 7: A methodological and conceptual review. In Automatic processes in social thinking and behavior, ed. J.A. Bargh, 265–292. Philadelphia: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Kelly, D., and E. Roedder. 2008. Racial cognition and the ethics of implicit bias. Philosophy Compass 3: 522–540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Kelly, D., E. Machery, and R. Mallon. 2010. Racial cognition and normative theory. In Handbook of moral philosophy, ed. J.M. Doris et al. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Faucher, L., & Machery, E. (2009). Racism: against Jorge Garcia’s moral and psychological monism. Philosophy of Social Sciences 39: 41–62.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Payne, B.K. 2006. Weapon bias: split-second decisions and unintended stereotyping. Current Directions in Psychological Science 15(6): 287–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Payne, B.K. 2005. Conceptualizing control in social cognition: how executive functioning modulates the expression of automatic stereotyping. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 89: 488–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Gregg, A.P., B. Seibt, and M.R. Banaji. 2006. Easier done than undone: asymmetry in the malleability of implicit preferences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 90: 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Doris, J.M., and S. Stich. 2005. As a matter of fact: Empirical perspectives on ethics. In The Oxford handbook of contemporary analytic philosophy, ed. F. Jackson and M. Smith. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Tversky, A., and D. Kahneman. 1981. The framing of decisions and the psychology of choice. Science 211: 453–458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Greene, J.D., S.A. Morelli, K. Lowenberg, L.E. Nystrom, and J.D. Cohen. 2008. Cognitive load selectively interferes with utilitarian moral judgment. Cognition 107(3): 44–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Greene, J.D., L.E. Nystrom, A.D. Engell, J.M. Darley, and J.D. Cohen. 2004. The neural bases of cognitive conflict and control in moral judgment. Neuron 44: 389–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Greene, J.D., R.B. Sommerville, L.E. Nystrom, J.M. Darley, and J.D. Cohen. 2001. An fMRI investigation of emotional engagement in moral judgment. Science 293: 2105–2108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Woodward, J., and J. Allman. 2008. Moral intuition: its neural substrates and normative significance. Journal of Physiology-Paris 101: 179–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    De Brigard, F. (2010). If you like it, does it matter if it’s real? Philosophical Psychology 23: 43–57.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Gyenis, B., & Machery, E. (2008). Unpublished data.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Stuart, A., & Hatleback, E. (ms). Identification, intuition, and moral dilemmas.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Greene, J. D., Cohen, J. D., Nystrom, L. E., Lindsell, D., Clarke, A. C., & Lowenberg, K. (2009). Pushing moral buttons: The interaction between personal force and intention in moral judgment. Cognition 111: 364–371.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

Personalised recommendations