Social and Moral Norms in Intentional Action (completed)

Normative moral theorists must take account of actual moral practice, while also remaining alert to the risk of systematic bias arising from the diversity of moral cultures. Assumptions about the reality of moral values or the naturalness of emotional dispositions underlying our moral beliefs have to be tested against this background.


  • How should normative moral theory be informed by moral practice, the conditions under which moral reasoning and moral agency actually take place? We shall continue to explore this in cooperation with the Bergen-based economists Bertil Tungodden and Alexander Cappelen and their team. Our main research questions are: What normative assumptions underlie our actual moral practice, and how does this practice vary between cultures? These will be addressed in a series of experiments.
  • We shall look critically at the methods of moral reasoning advocated by a number of the most influential modern philosophers. Our hypothesis is that because of a tendency to exclude cultural diversity, many influential methods of moral reasoning are theoretically biased, enabling those who use them to rationalize proposals that favour specific cultural orientations and interests. Alison Jaggar, in cooperation with Theresa Tobin, will explore this hypothesis, with a particular focus on women who live in socially and economically demanding circumstances.
  • We will investigate the philosophical anthropology of normative discourse and agency, and the comparative ethnography of normative cognitive approaches, in a historical and comparative perspective. Our choice of data will be determined by our interest in pervasive features characterizing intellectual developments of moral diversity over the centuries. Our methods will be drawn from linguistics, philology, and in particular analytical philosophy. Our aim is to bring out contrasting features of normative discourse in different civilizations, with an initial emphasis on intellectual developments in the Mesopotamian, Indian, Chinese, Graeco-Roman traditions.
Published Jan. 20, 2012 3:08 PM - Last modified Nov. 22, 2018 9:10 AM