Psychological studies have been taken to undermine traditional conceptions of moral character: behaviour in morally charged situations appears to be influenced more by situational factors than by character traits such as honesty, compassion, or courage, or by moral convictions.
According to several scientists, there is no empirical basis for claims about the existence of morally significant character traits. Others claim that moral beliefs derive from an illusion. Yet others suggest that moral judgments are the result of automatic affective responses driven by unconscious biases. An example of the latter is the claim that experiments show that we judge certain actions to be morally wrong much easier if we are seated behind a filthy desk than if we are seated behind a clean one. Finally, evolutionary accounts of the origin and function of morality assert that our moral practices are guided by the ‘adaptive unconscious’, rather than by rational deliberation.
This project will be executed by PhD-student Scott Robbins.