ants, unit, Project: From Data to Theory in Ethics

From Data to Theory in Ethics

Normative debates often rely on theories about what is right and wrong. In the case of punishment theory, for ex­am­ple, retributivists often rely on deontological theories, while proponents of deterrence theory draw from utilitari­an­ism. The plausibility of these punishment theories, in turn, depends on the plausibility of the normative theory on which they are based.
This project deals with new approaches to moral theorizing, namely, approaches that draw heavily on empirical re­search to either defend or criticize a specific moral theory. For some time now, social, moral, and developmental psychologists have attempted to figure out which moral values guide or motivate our moral judgments in prac­tice—and whether the decision procedures leading to these judgments are reliable.
Theorists have developed three kinds of empirically informed arguments that matter for moral theorizing: Debunk­ing arguments try to show that decision procedures leading to specific moral judgments are unreliable—and that the resulting judgments should thus be viewed with skepticism. Vindicating arguments try to show the opposite, namely, that some decision procedures are rational and that, as a consequence, the resulting moral judgments are likely true. Finally, empirically informed ‘transcendental’ arguments try to investigate the preconditions of moral thinking and theorizing.
The goal of this project is to scrutinize systematically the empirical research on moral judgment making and to analyze its impact—if any—on the philosopher’s job of moral theorizing.


Expected outcome: Grant proposal (2024/2025); book (2026/2027)
Research focus: I. Foundations
Project language: English
Illustration: ©

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