Varieties of moral motivation: Empirical perspectives

In David Copp (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory. Oxford University Press USA (2006)
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Abstract

This chapter examines three recent empirical approaches to the study of moral motivation: moral foundations theory, deep pragmatism, and morality-as-cooperation. All three approaches conceptualize moral motivation as a suite of desires, emotions, sentiments, dispositions, values, and relationships that move people to think, judge, and act in accordance with morality. Moral foundations theory posits five or six basic foundations: care, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity, and sometimes liberty. People are thought to be emotionally attuned to each foundation, though some are more sensitive to certain foundations than to others. Deep pragmatism posits that people tend to be motivated not only to promote their own narrow self interest but also the interests of their group. This can be seen as a sort of proto-morality, which has the capacity to develop into full-blown morality as one begins to conceive of one’s group in ever-broader terms. Finally, morality-as-cooperation is grounded in game theory and posits that cooperative solutions to non-zero-sum games are morally good, and that being motivated to seek out and implement such solutions is what it means to be morally motivated. Empirical evidence gathered in the last decade supports the morality-as-cooperation hypothesis, though more work is needed to further elaborate it and test its predictions.

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Mark Alfano
Macquarie University

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