The Situation of Morality
Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 11, 2010
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This chapter assesses the state of the art in moral psychology from a social-psychological perspective. We begin with the story of the “great narrowing” — the historical process in which morality got reduced from virtue-based conceptions of the good person down to quandaries about what people should do. We argue for a return to a broader conception of the moral domain that better accommodates the diverse and often group-focused moralities found around the world. Our review of the empirical research is organized under three principles: 1) Intuitive primacy (but not dictatorship); 2) Moral thinking is for social doing; and 3) Morality binds and builds. We argue that kin selection and reciprocal altruism are just two of many evolutionary processes that shaped human morality. We show how a broader and more group-focused conception of morality fits with emerging ideas about multi-level selection, and with new discoveries about the rapid pace of genetic evolution and the importance of intergroup competition during the last 10,000 years. We close by applying this broader moral perspective to religion and politics.
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You can download the chapter for free here. To review a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Affective Situation of Ethics and Mediation,” “The Situation of Legal Ethics,” “Blind to our Situational Blindness,” “Mood and Moral Judgment,” “Law, Psychology & Morality - Abstract,” “The Motivated Situation of Morality,” and “Moral Psychology Primer.”