Philosophy 134/234G: Moral Psychology
Course Description: Moral Psychology examines phenomena that are both psychological and moral in nature: good and evil, virtue and vice, praise and blame, pride and humility, freedom and responsibility, practical deliberation and justification. To explain these things the moral psychologist must answer a number of thorny questions about the way we think, feel, and act, and the ways we do and should evaluate our thoughts, actions and reactions. We’ll address some of these questions this quarter.
Are there universal moral norms: actions or motives that almost everyone, everywhere, has thought moral or immoral throughout the course of human history? Are there innate features of moral judgment or action? To what extent did our moral capacities evolve biologically? To what extent do they owe their existence to cultural development? What impact does knowledge of the origins of one’s moral faculties have on one’s confidence in one’s moral beliefs and sentiments? What distinguishes someone who resists temptation from someone who yields to her desire to do something she judges bad? What role do our moral beliefs and sentiments play in this process? When are people responsible for their immoral actions? What is it, in other words, to be a fully responsible or substantially autonomous agent? When, if ever, is it appropriate to praise or blame someone for what she has done? When, if ever, is an intentional action not freely performed? Can we reasonably evaluate people differently when the difference in their characters, motives or behaviors is due to environmental or developmental factors over which they had no control? Is a difference in luck ever morally significant?
Supplementary Material Not Discussed in W 20