Moral Psychology

Edited by Joshua May (University of Alabama, Birmingham)
About this topic
Summary Moral psychology is the study of phenomena such as moral thought, feeling, reasoning, and motivation. For example, in moral psychology, one wonders what role reasoning and emotions play in generating moral judgment. Similarly, one asks whether moral motivation has its source in reason or rather sentiments or desire. Other key issues include: the tight connection between moral judgment and motivation, altruism versus egoism, character, and even the evolution of moral capacities.  The topics reveal the partly empirical nature of the field, which makes it of necessity interdisciplinary, even though one can pursue many interesting issue from the armchair. Many of these philosophical problems have ramifications in others areas, especially metaethics. If, for example, moral judgment is grounded in sentiment, then this may support a non-cognitivists theory, which threatens moral realism.
Key works Issues in moral psychology have been dominant in the history of philosophy. Nadelhoffer et al 2010 provide a collection of key historical as well as contemporary readings. Focusing on more recent work, Smith's 1994 book has been highly influential in the literature, from moral judgment to motivation. Compare also Nagel 1970 and Korsgaard 1996. On the empirical side, Sinnott-Armstrong 2008 provides a comprehensive state of the art with three volumes full of new articles and replies from prominent philosophers and scientists. 
Introductions A brief introduction to some topics in moral psychology is in Slote 1998. Rosati's (2006) entry on moral motivation provides an introduction to one cluster of key issues in moral psychology. For a way into the empirical work, see Doris & Stich 2008, May 2017, and Doris 2010.
Related categories
Subcategories:
Moral Character (3,357 | 1,082)
Moral Judgment* (1,105 | 305)
See also:History/traditions: Moral Psychology

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  1. Jennifer Cole Wright et al., Understanding Virtue: Theory and Measurement[REVIEW]Michael T. Dale - forthcoming - Journal of Moral Philosophy.
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  2. Connaissance de soi et réflexion pratique: critique des réappropriations analytiques de Sartre.Samuel Webb - 2022 - Paris: Editions Mimésis.
    Comment se connaît-on soi-même ? Concernant nos états d’esprit, il peut sembler que la connaissance de soi jouisse d’un privilège : je sais ce que je pense parce que j’ai un accès immédiat à mon esprit. S’inspirant de Sartre, deux philosophes américains, Richard Moran et Charles Larmore, ont soutenu que cette idée ne rend pas compte de notre rapport singulier à notre propre esprit. En plus de se connaître par une réflexion théorique, on est aussi capable d’une réflexion pratique. On (...)
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  3. In Praise of Ambivalence.D. Justin Coates - 2023 - New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press.
    Ambivalence is a form of inner volitional conflict that we experience as being irresolvable without significant cost. Because of this, very few of us relish feelings of ambivalence. Yet for many in the Western philosophical tradition, ambivalence is not simply an unappealing experience that's hard to manage. According to Unificationists--whose view finds its historical roots in Plato and Augustine and is ably defended by contemporary philosophers such as Harry Frankfurt and Christine Korsgaard--ambivalence is a failure of well-functioning agency. The reasons (...)
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  4. The moral source of collective irrationality during COVID-19 vaccination campaigns.Cristina Voinea, Lavinia Marin & Constantin Vică - 2023 - Philosophical Psychology.
    Many hypotheses have been advanced to explain the collective irrationality of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, such as partisanship and ideology, exposure to misinformation and conspiracy theories or the effectiveness of public messaging. This paper presents a complementary explanation to epistemic accounts of collective irrationality, focusing on the moral reasons underlying people’s decisions regarding vaccination. We argue that the moralization of COVID-19 risk mitigation measures contributed to the polarization of groups along moral values, which ultimately led to the emergence of collective irrational (...)
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  5. Emotions and their reasons.Laura Silva - 2022 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    Although it is now commonplace to take emotions to be the sort of phenomena for which there are reasons, the question of how to cash out the reason-responsiveness of emotions remains to a large extent unanswered. I highlight two main ways of thinking about reason-responsiveness, one that takes agential capacities to engage in norm-guided deliberation to underlie reason-responsiveness, and another which instead takes there to be a basic reason-relation between facts and attitudes. I argue that the latter approach should be (...)
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  6. Part 1: Moral motivation in Mencius—When a child falls into a well.Jing Hu - 2019 - Philosophy Compass 1.
    As a 4th century BCE Confucian text, Mencius provides a rich reflection on moral emotions, such as empathy and compassion, and moral cultivation, which has drawn attention from scholars around the world. This two-part discussion dwells on the idea of natural moral motivation expressed through the analogy of the four sprouts—particularly the sprout of ceyin zhixin (the heart of feelings others' distress)—as the starting point, the focus, and the drive of moral cultivation. In this paper, Part 1, I stress the (...)
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  7. Danse Macabre: Levity and Morality in a Plague Year.Simone Gubler - forthcoming - In Evandro Barbosa (ed.), Pandemic Relations. New York, NY, USA: Routledge.
    This chapter addresses a question of onlooker morality. It asks whether it is wrong to be publicly happy, or to engage in certain sorts of leisure, when (as was the case during the pandemic) we are aware that many members of our community are sick and dying.
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  8. Non-harmonious love.Pilar Lopez-Cantero - 2022 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 30 (3):276-297.
    A common approach in the philosophy of love defines love as caring about one another and promoting one another's interests, aims and values. The view faces several problems and has been re-formulated to avoid them. However, here I argue that a larger re-formulation of the definition of love is needed in order to accommodate three instances of what I call 'non-harmonious' relationships. I identify three types of non-harmonious love (featuring problematic interests, opposing interests and neutral interests the lovers do not (...)
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  9. Apprehending AI moral purpose in practical wisdom.Mark Graves - 2022 - AI and Society:1-14.
    Practical wisdom enables moral decision-making and action by aligning one’s apprehension of proximate goods with a distal, socially embedded interpretation of a more ultimate Good. A focus on purpose within the overall process mutually informs human moral psychology and moral AI development in their examinations of practical wisdom. AI practical wisdom could ground an AI system’s apprehension of reality in a sociotechnical moral process committed to orienting AI development and action in light of a pluralistic, diverse interpretation of that Good. (...)
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  10. Doesn't everybody jaywalk? On codified rules that are seldom followed and selectively punished.Jordan Wylie & Ana Gantman - 2023 - Cognition 231 (C):105323.
    Rules are meant to apply equally to all within their jurisdiction. However, some rules are frequently broken without consequence for most. These rules are only occasionally enforced, often at the discretion of a third-party observer. We propose that these rules—whose violations are frequent, and enforcement is rare—constitute a unique subclass of explicitly codified rules, which we call ‘phantom rules’ (e.g., proscribing jaywalking). Their apparent punishability is ambiguous and particularly susceptible to third-party motives. Across six experiments, (N = 1440) we validated (...)
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  11. Morality justifies motivated reasoning in the folk ethics of belief.Corey Cusimano & Tania Lombrozo - 2021 - Cognition 209 (C):104513.
    When faced with a dilemma between believing what is supported by an impartial assessment of the evidence (e.g., that one's friend is guilty of a crime) and believing what would better fulfill a moral obligation (e.g., that the friend is innocent), people often believe in line with the latter. But is this how people think beliefs ought to be formed? We addressed this question across three studies and found that, across a diverse set of everyday situations, people treat moral considerations (...)
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  12. Etica della vulnerabilità.Silvia Dadà - 2022 - Brescia: Morcelliana.
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  13. Gandhi and Moral Agency: A Study of Political Literature.Samiksha Goyal - 2022 - American Philosophical Association Studies, Asian and Asian American Philosophers and Philosophies 22 (1):15-20.
    Despite decades of writings on Gandhi’s moral and political thought, some of Gandhi’s philosophical moral concepts are still not theoretically articulated. One such concept is Gandhi’s idea of moral agency. I critically engage with some recent political-historical literature on Gandhi to extract philosophical discussions in the vicinity of moral agency. For this, I take two related steps. First, I argue that even though this literature presents considerable theoretical discussion of Gandhi’s ideas, when considered individually, this literature produces only an incomplete (...)
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  14. Bioethics, Experimental Approaches.Jonathan Lewis, Joanna Demaree-Cotton & Brian Earp - 2023 - In M. Sellers & S. Kirste (eds.), Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy. Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 1-8.
    This entry summarizes an emerging subdiscipline of both empirical bioethics and experimental philosophy (“x-phi”) which has variously been referred to as experimental philosophical bioethics, experimental bioethics, or simply “bioxphi”. Like empirical bioethics, bioxphi uses data-driven research methods to capture what various stakeholders think (feel, judge, etc.) about moral issues of relevance to bioethics. However, like its other parent discipline of x-phi, bioxphi tends to favor experiment-based designs drawn from the cognitive sciences – including psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral economics – to (...)
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  15. Desire and Goodness.Allan Hazlett - 2022 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 105 (1):160-180.
    Hume argued that passions, unlike judgments of the understanding, cannot be reasonable or unreasonable. Crucial for his argument was the premise that passions cannot be correct or incorrect. As he put it: “[a] passion is an original existence … and contains not any representative quality” and “passions are not susceptible of any … agreement or disagreement either to the real relations of ideas, or to real existence and matter of fact … being original facts and realities, compleat in themselves.” In (...)
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  16. Practical cognition as volition.Jeremy David Fix - 2022 - European Journal of Philosophy 30 (3):1077-1091.
    Practical cognitivism is the view that practical reason is the self-conscious will and that practical cognition is self-conscious volition. This essay addresses two puzzles for practical cognitivism. In akratic action, I act as I understand is illegitimate and not as I understand is legitimate. In permissible action, I act as I understand is legitimate and also do not act as I understand is legitimate. In both types of action, practical cognition seems to come apart from volition. How, then, can practical (...)
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  17. Moralization and Mismoralization in Public Health.Steven R. Kraaijeveld & Euzebiusz Jamrozik - 2022 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 25 (4):655-669.
    Moralization is a social-psychological process through which morally neutral issues take on moral significance. Often linked to health and disease, moralization may sometimes lead to good outcomes; yet moralization is often detrimental to individuals and to society as a whole. It is therefore important to be able to identify when moralization is inappropriate. In this paper, we offer a systematic normative approach to the evaluation of moralization. We introduce and develop the concept of ‘mismoralization’, which is when moralization is metaethically (...)
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  18. Il giudizio del sentimento: emozioni, giudizi morali, natura umana.Maria Grazia Rossi - 2013 - Roma: Editori riuniti University Press.
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  19. Psikhologicheskie issledovanii︠a︡ nravstvennosti.A. L. Zhuravlev & A. V. I︠U︡revich (eds.) - 2013 - Moskva: Izdatelʹstvo "Institut psikhologii RAN".
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  20. Socratic moral psychology.Thomas C. Brickhouse & Nicholas D. Smith - 2013 - In John Bussanich & Nicholas D. Smith (eds.), The Bloomsbury companion to Socrates. Continuum.
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  21. Nietzsche’s Moral Psychology. [REVIEW]Kaitlyn Creasy - 2022 - Journal of Nietzsche Studies 53 (2):202-210.
    If you're a Nietzsche scholar and you haven't heard of Mark Alfano's book, you're not paying attention. Published in 2019, Nietzsche's Moral Psychology has already been reviewed by leading Nietzsche scholars in numerous venues, dissected in a book symposium published in this very journal, and featured on a popular philosophy blog's book review forum. Its broad influence is already evidenced by the extensive scholarly debate it has provoked and the predominantly positive evaluations it has received, and its impact is particularly (...)
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  22. L'imagination en morale.Martin Gibert - 2014 - Paris: Hermann.
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  23. Neurobiology and the development of human morality: evolution, culture, and wisdom.Darcia Narváez - 2014 - New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
    The neurobiology and development of human morality in light of evolution -- More than genes : human inheritances and the moral sense -- The dynamic self : emotions and development -- Moral heritage 1 : engagement of the heart -- Moral heritage 2 : communal imagination -- Undercare and the stress response : early life gone wrong -- The morality that stress promotes : self protective ethics -- Shifting moral mindsets -- Culture and imagination: cooperation or competition? -- Paths to (...)
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  24. The Aesthetics of Ethics: Exemplarism, Beauty, and the Psychology of Morality.Panos Paris - 2022 - Journal of Value Inquiry 56 (4):601-625.
    Linda Zagzebski recently put forward a new theory, moral exemplarism, that is meant to provide an alternative to theories like consequentialism and deontology, and which proposes to define key moral terms by direct reference to exemplars. The theory’s basic structure is straightforward. A virtuous person is defined as a person like that, where that points to individuals like Leopold Socha, Confucius, Jesus Christ, and so on. A key component of this theory is the function played by the emotions, specifically the (...)
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  25. Die Diktatur der Moral: wie "das Gute" unsere Gesellschaft blockiert.Günter Ogger - 2015 - München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag.
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  26. Psychologiczne analizy procesów interioryzacji norm moralnych =.Ján Grác - 2015 - Lublin: Towarzystwo Naukowe Katolickiego Uniwersytetu Lubelskiego Jana Pawła II.
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  27. The evolution of ethics: human sociality and the emergence of ethical mindedness.Blaine J. Fowers - 2015 - New York, NY: Palgrave-Macmillan.
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  28. Cheating, corruption, and concealment: the roots of dishonesty.Jan-Willem van Prooijen & Paul A. M. van Lange (eds.) - 2016 - Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
    Dishonesty is ubiquitous in our world. The news is frequently filled with high-profile cases of corporate fraud, large-scale corruption, lying politicians, and the hypocrisy of public figures. On a smaller scale, ordinary people often cheat, lie, misreport their taxes, and mislead others in their daily life. Despite such prevalence of cheating, corruption, and concealment, people typically consider themselves to be honest, and often believe themselves to be more moral than most others. This book aims to resolve this paradox by addressing (...)
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  29. Dobro i zlo trče zajedno.Vladeta Jerotić - 2017 - Beograd: Zadužbina Vladete Jerotića.
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  30. Xi bei shao shu min zu dao de ruo gan zhong yao wen ti yan jiu =.Jin Ma - 2016 - Beijing Shi: Min zu chu ban she.
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  31. Il bambino di Platone: psicologia e filosofia a confronto sull'origine e lo sviluppo della cognizione morale.Francesco Margoni (ed.) - 2018 - [Bologna]: Le due torri.
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  32. Censure, sanction and the moral psychology of resentment and punitiveness.Jonathan Jacobs - 2019 - In Antje du Bois-Pedain & Anthony E. Bottoms (eds.), Penal censure: engagements within and beyond desert theory. Hart Publishing.
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  33. Naẓarīyahʹhā-yi kilāsīk-i shinākhtī - taḥavvulī dar rushd-i akhlāqī =.Ḥusayn Dībā - 2019 - Qum: Pizhūhishgāh-i ʻUlūm va Farhang-i Islāmī, vābastah bih Daftar-i Tablīghāt-i Islāmī-i Ḥawzah-i ʻIlmīyah.
    Moral development; also analysis of theories of two famous psychologists Jean Piaget, 1896-1980 and Lawrence Kohlberg,1927-1987.
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  34. The neurological basis of moral psychology.Guy Kahane & Joanna Demaree-Cotton - 2018 - In Aaron Zimmerman, Karen Jones & Mark Timmons (eds.), Routledge Handbook on Moral Epistemology. Routledge.
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  35. Ekh li-heyot ṭov =.Yair Ben David - 2020 - Ḥevel Modiʻin: Devir ;.
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  36. Moral Psychology: A Multidisciplinary Guide.Tor Tarantola & Benjamin G. Voyer (eds.) - 2017 - Cham: Imprint: Springer.
    This fascinating and timely volume explores current thinking on vital topics in moral psychology, spanning the diverse disciplines that contribute to the field. Academics from cognitive science, evolutionary biology, anthropology, philosophy, and political science address ongoing and emerging questions aimed at understanding the thought processes and behaviors that underlie our moral codes-and our transgressions. Cross-cutting themes speak to individual, interpersonal, and collective morality in such areas as the development of ethical behavior, responses to violations of rules, moral judgments in the (...)
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  37. Motivation and morality: a multidisciplinary approach.Martha K. Berg & Edward C. Chang (eds.) - 2023 - Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
    What drives us to do good things, and to avoid doing bad? This book offers an integrative examination of the role of motivation in shaping moral cognition, judgement, and behavior.
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  38. Biopolitics after neuroscience: morality and the economy of virtue.Jeffrey Paul Bishop - 2022 - New York: Bloomsbury Academic.
    This book offers a provocative analysis of the neuroscience of morality. Written by three leading scholars of science, medicine, and bioethics, it critiques contemporary neuroscientific claims about individual morality and notions of good and evil. Winner of a 2021 prize from the Expanded Reason Institute, it connects moral philosophy to neoliberal economics and successfully challenges the idea that we can locate morality in the brain. Instead of discovering the source of morality in the brain as they claim to do, the (...)
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  39. Survival of the virtuous: how we became a moral animal.Dennis Krebs - 2022 - New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
    I have been trying to understand the moral aspect of human nature for several decades. Several years ago, after publishing The Origins of Morality, an editor from Oxford Press suggested that I write up the theory and research I reviewed in this academic book in a manner that would be accessible to people with relatively little background knowledge in the area. A few years later, I launched this project, which ended up in this book. In it, I trace the grown (...)
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  40. A psychological perspective on folk moral objectivism.Jennifer Cole Wright - 2023 - New York, NY: Routledge.
    A Psychological Perspective on Folk Moral Objectivism is a thoroughly researched interdisciplinary exploration of the critical role metaethical beliefs play in the way morality functions. Whether or not people are "moral objectivists" is something that deserves much more empirical attention than it has thus far received, not only because it bears upon philosophical claims, but because it is a critical piece of the puzzle of human morality. This book aims to facilitate incorporating the study of metaethical beliefs into existing research (...)
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  41. Virtue and moral psychology in Hume's Enquiry concerning the principles of morals.Lorraine L. Besser - 2021 - In Esther Engels Kroeker & Willem Lemmens (eds.), Hume's an Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals : A Critical Guide. Cambridge University Press.
  42. Philosophy of Devotion: The Longing for Invulnerable Ideals.Paul Katsafanas - 2022 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Why do people persist in commitments that threaten their happiness, security, and comfort? Why do some of our most central, identity-defining commitments resist the effects of reasoning and critical reflection? Drawing on real-life examples, empirical psychology, and philosophical reflection, this book argues that these commitments involve an ethical stance called devotion, which plays a pervasive—but often hidden—role in human life. Devotion typically involves sacralizing certain values, goals, or relationships. To sacralize a value is to treat it as inviolable (trade-offs with (...)
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  43. Opacity.Francey Russell - 2022 - The Philosopher 110 (3):37-41.
  44. When to Psychologize.A. K. Flowerree - 2023 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
    The central focus of this paper is to motivate and explore the question, when is it permissible to endorse a psychologizing explanation of a sincere interlocutor? I am interested in the moral question of when (if ever) we may permissibly dismiss the sincere reasons given to us by others, and instead endorse an alternative explanation of their beliefs and actions. I argue that there is a significant risk of wronging the other person, and so we should only psychologize when we (...)
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  45. Nietzsche and the Limits of Subjectivity: The Theory of the Drives.Daniel W. Smith - manuscript
    This paper was presented as the keynote address at the 2005 Philosophy Graduate Student Conference at the University of Memphis on “Limitations of Subjectivity.”.
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  46. A Commentary Reflection of Moral Psychology Based on Embodied Cognition.Shaogang Yang - unknown
    The rise of embodied cognition in recent ten years has brought about significant influence on the research of moral psychology. On the one hand, the development of neuro-cognitive science has facilitated the research of morality deeply into the mirror neurons of brain, no longer being limited simply on the philosophical speculation; and on the other hand the experimental research of embodied cognition has provided new evidence for some traditional and philosophical moral issues and even made some new recognition of the (...)
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  47. Review of Tamar Schapiro 'Feeling Like It'. [REVIEW]Juan S. Piñeros Glasscock - forthcoming - European Journal of Philosophy.
    Review of Tamar Schapiro, 'Feeling Like It'.
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  48. Personal Reactive Attitudes and Partial Responses to Others: A Partiality-Based Approach to Strawson’s Reactive Attitudes.Rosalind Chaplin - forthcoming - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy.
    This paper argues for a new understanding of Strawson’s distinction between personal, impersonal, and self-reactive attitudes. Many Strawsonians take these basic reactive attitude types to be distinguished by two factors. Is it the self or another who is treated with good- or ill-will? And is it the self or another who displays good- or ill-will? On this picture, when someone else wrongs me, my reactive attitude is personal; when someone else wrongs someone else, my reactive attitude is impersonal; and when (...)
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  49. Consistent Desires and Climate Change.Daniel Coren - forthcoming - Analytic Philosophy.
    Philosophers have described the human perspective on climate change as a perfect moral storm. I take a new angle on that storm: I argue that our relevant desires feature a particularly problematic case of seemingly consistent but genuinely inconsistent desires. We have, first, non-indexical desires such as a desire to (make the sacrifices necessary to) stop polluting our environment at some point. We have, second, indexical desires such as a desire not to (make the sacrifices necessary to) stop polluting our (...)
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  50. How Do People Balance Death against Lesser Burdens?Veronika Luptakova & Alex Voorhoeve - forthcoming - In Matthew Lindauer (ed.), Advances in Experimental Political Philosophy.
    Suppose one can fully alleviate either the very large individual health burdens of a first group or instead the significantly lesser burdens of a second group that is at least as numerous. In such cases, the most commonly applied principles for priority setting in health have two characteristics. First, when both groups are equally large, they prioritize alleviating the plight of the more severely burdened. Second, when both groups differ in size, these common principles are unlimited in their aggregation: one (...)
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