Moral Psychology

Ashley Pettit
__Moral Psychology

This Moral Psychology article talks about how making good or bad decisions is based more on a situation than on an individual. This is characteristic of virtue ethics. It basically means that different things matter more to different people so some people can be influenced by things that don’t matter very much. It just depends on the situation a person is in. One of the biggest parts of the Moral Psychology article was the section comparing egoism and altruism. It discusses if people’s motives are truly altruistic (doing something that benefits others, but could be dangerous for himself) or egoist (only do something because it’s in your best interests). One researcher, Daniel Batson argues that altruism is when a person feels empathy towards another person who is upset or anxious. He named it the empathy-altruism hypothesis and explained it as “an other-oriented emotional reaction to seeing someone suffer.” The philosophical view of this hypothesis is that people who actually feel empathy towards others are also more likely to help others in need than people who feel no empathy. There are two other hypotheses that dispute the empathy-altruism hypothesis. The first is the social punishment hypothesis. It predicted that the only way a person would help someone else is because they were scared of what society would think of them if they didn’t. The results of the experiment showed that the people who felt the most empathy were likely to help someone else regardless of what society thought, therefore this hypothesis isn’t very reliable. The other hypothesis is the aversive-arousal reduction. It predicted that if somebody was suffering and a person who felt a lot of empathy had to choose between an easy escape and a hard escape from watching the suffering person, they would help either way. Surprisingly, this hypothesis was more accurate than the social punishment hypothesis. Another topic discussed in this article was moral disagreement. The idea is that different groups and cultures disagree on morals because everybody has different attitudes and behaviors. This leads to moral disagreements between cultures because they don’t understand each other.

This article ties into what we’ve talked about in class mainly with egoism and altruism. We’ve talked about ethical egoism in class many times; it is doing what is best for yourself. We learned in class that egoism is a form of consequentialism, which is focused on the outcome of something. In the case of egoism, it is the outcome for one person. We’ve also talked about hedonism, a form of egoism, which was mentioned in the article. Hedonists are people who live for pleasure and according to the article, pleasure is a hedonist’s only desire.

1.) Why do some people have trouble transferring cognitive skills across related areas?
2.) How can an organism be altruistic if it doesn’t have beliefs or desires?
3.) What makes something be considered “normal”?

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