Norwegian version of this page

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. 

About the project

Assumptions about the reality of moral values or the naturalness of emotional dispositions underlying our moral beliefs have to be tested against the background of moral practice and moral cultures.


Moral reasoning and moral agency

How should normative moral theory be informed by moral practice, the conditions under which moral reasoning and moral agency actually take place?

We continued to explore this in cooperation with the Bergen-based economists Bertil Tungodden and Alexander Cappelen and their team.

Our main research questions were:

  • What normative assumptions underlie our actual moral practice? 
  • How does this practice vary between cultures?

These questions was addressed in a series of experiments.

Methods of moral reasoning

We looked critically at the methods of moral reasoning advocated by a number of the most influential modern philosophers.

Our hypothesis was 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, explored this hypothesis, with a particular focus on women who live in socially and economically demanding circumstances.

Philosophical anthropology of normative discourse and agency

We investigated the philosophical anthropology of normative discourse and agency, and the comparative ethnography of normative cognitive approaches, in a historical and comparative perspective.

The choice of data was determined by our interest in pervasive features characterizing intellectual developments of moral diversity over the centuries. Our methods was drawn from linguistics, philology, and in particular analytical philosophy.

The aim of the project was 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.


The project was hosted by the completed Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature (CSMN). 

Published Oct. 9, 2020 10:44 AM - Last modified Nov. 27, 2020 9:33 AM