Quantified Coherence of Moral Beliefs as Predictive Factor for Moral Agency

  • Markus ChristenEmail author
  • Thomas Ott
Part of the Library of Ethics and Applied Philosophy book series (LOET, volume 31)


The notion of ‘coherence’ plays an important but controversial role in moral theory. In our contribution, we present a descriptive notion of the concept of coherence that allows us to distinguish qualitatively different system states with respect to coherence. We compare our notion with coherence concepts in psychology and Paul Thagard’s definition of coherence as constraint satisfaction. We discuss the main differences between Thagard’s definition and our proposal. Finally, we outline how our concept of coherence can be applied in moral psychology as a tool for understanding how the structure of moral beliefs an individual moral agent holds may influence the behaviour of the agent. In particular, we show how our approach is able to integrate different types of coherence relationships between single beliefs. In this way, our definition of coherence allows us, for example, to analyse how cognitive and affective similarities between reasons used in moral decision making may interrelate. Furthermore, it can give novel insights into phenomena like practical irrationality in decision making. We finally sketch the relevance of our descriptive notion of coherence for its normative use.


Capital Punishment Belief System Moral Agent Moral Belief Distance Metrics 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Clare Estelle Jackson and Mark Alfano for English corrections of the original draft. This work has been supported by the Cogito Foundation (Wollerau, Switzerland, grant number R-143/08) and by the Hasler-Stiftung (Berne, Switzerland).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Biomedical EthicsUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Zurich University of Applied SciencesWinterthurSwitzerland

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