Advertisement

Quantified Coherence of Moral Beliefs as Predictive Factor for Moral Agency

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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.

Notes

Acknowledgments

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).

References

  1. Abelson, R.P. 1983. Whatever became of consistency theory? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 9: 37–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Abelson, R.P., E. Aronson, W.J. McGuire, T.M. Newcomb, M. Rosenberg, and P.H. Tannenbaum (eds.). 1968. Theories of cognitive consistency: A sourcebook. Chicago: Rand McNally.Google Scholar
  3. Aronson, E., and J.M. Carlsmith. 1963. The effect of the severity of threat on the evaluation of forbidden behavior. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 66: 584–588.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blatt, M., S. Wiseman, and E. Domany. 1996. Superparamagnetic clustering of data. Physical Review Letters 76: 3251–3254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brink, D. 1997. Moral motivation. Ethics 108: 4–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cervone, D., and Y. Shoda. 1999. Beyond traits in the study of personality coherence. Current Directions in Psychological Science 8(1): 27–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Christen, M., T. Starostina, D. Schwarz, and T. Ott. 2009 A spin-based measure of the coherence of belief systems. In Proceedings of NDES 2009, 21–23 June 2009, Rapperswil. http://dx.doi.org/10.5167/uzh-30017.
  8. Converse, P.E. 1964. The nature of belief systems in mass publics. In Ideology and discontent, ed. D.E. Apter, 206–261. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  9. Daniels, N. 1979. Wide reflective equilibrium and theory acceptance in ethics. Journal of Philosophy 76(5): 256–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Friederici, A.D., K. Steinhauer, and S. Frisch. 1999. Lexical integration: Sequential effects of syntactic and semantic information. Memory & Cognition 27(3): 438–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gigerenzer, G., and W. Gaissmaier. 2011. Heuristic decision making. Annual Review of Psychology 62: 451–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Haidt, J. 2001. The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychological Review 108: 814–834.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hastie, R.K., and R.M. Dawes. 2009. Rational choice in an uncertain world: The psychology of judgment and decision making, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  14. Higgins, E.T. 1996. Knowledge activation: Accessibility, applicability, and salience. In Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles, ed. E.T. Higgins and A.W. Kruglanski, 133–168. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hoffmann, M. 2008. Kohärenzbegriffe in der Ethik. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  16. Jolliffe, T., and S. Baron-Cohen. 1999. A test of central coherence theory: Linguistic processing in high-functioning adults with autism or Asperger syndrome: Is local coherence impaired? Cognition 71: 149–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jordan, J. 2009. A social cognition framework for examining moral awareness in managers and academics. Journal of Business Ethics 84: 237–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jussim, L. 2005. Accuracy in social perception: Criticisms, controversies, criteria, components, and cognitive processes. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 37: 1–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Keil, F.C. 2006. Explanation and understanding. Annual Review of Psychology 57: 227–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kirkham, R.L. 1992. Theories of truth: A critical introduction. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  21. Lapsley, D.K., and D. Narvaez. 2004. A social-cognitive approach to the moral personality. In Moral development, self and identity, ed. D.K. Lapsley and D. Narvaez, 189–212. Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  22. Lennick, D., and F. Kiel. 2005. Moral intelligence: Enhancing business performance and leadership success. Upper Saddle River: Wharton School Publishing.Google Scholar
  23. Ott, T., A. Kern, W.-H. Steeb, and R. Stoop. 2005. Sequential clustering: Tracking down the most natural clusters. Journal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment 2005: P11014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Putnam, H. 1982. Reason, truth and history. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Quine, W.V. 1979. On the nature of moral values. Critical Inquiry 5(3): 471–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Rawls, J. 1971. A theory of justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Rescher, N. 1973. The coherence theory of truth. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Rest, J.R. 1986. Moral development: Advances in research and theory. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  29. Rodwan, A.S. 1965. A coherence-criterion in perception. The American Journal of Psychology 78(4): 529–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rolls, E.T. 2005. Emotions explained. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sellars, W. 1956. Empiricism and the philosophy of mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Silverstein, S.M., and P.J. Uhlhaas. 2004. Gestalt psychology: The forgotten paradigm in abnormal psychology. The American Journal of Psychology 117(2): 259–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Tanner, C., and M. Christen. 2013. Moral intelligence – A framework for understanding moral competences. In Empirically informed ethics. Morality between facts and norms, ed. M. Christen, J. Fischer, M. Huppenbauer, C. Tanner, and C. Van Schaik. New York: Library of Ethics and Applied Philosophy/Springer.Google Scholar
  34. Tanner, C., and D.L. Medin. 2004. Protected values: No omission bias and no framing effects. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 11: 185–191.Google Scholar
  35. Thagard, P. 1998. Ethical coherence. Philosophical Psychology 11: 405–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Thagard, P. 2000. Coherence in thought and action. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  37. Thagard, P., and K. Verbeurgt. 1998. Coherence as constraint satisfaction. Cognitive Science 22: 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Trumbo, D., M. Noble, F. Fowler, and J. Porterfield. 1968. Motor performance on temporal tasks as a function of sequence length and coherence. Journal of Experimental Psychology 77(3): 397–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. White, L.B., and B. Boashash. 1990. Cross spectral analysis of non-stationary processes. IEEE Transactions on Information Theory 36(4): 830–835.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Williams, B. 1985. Ethics and the limits of philosophy. London: Fontana.Google Scholar
  41. Winter, R.G., and A.M Steinberg. 2008. Coherence. AccessScience, McGraw-Hill Companies. Available through: http://www.accessscience.com. Accessed on 28 Sept 2011.

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

Personalised recommendations