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The Moral Psychology of Good and Evil - PHIL226

Is morality more a matter of reason or of passion? While we often think of strong emotions and desires as a threat to virtue, leading to action which is weak-willed or compulsive, recent work in psychology and neuroscience has tended to support a sentimentalist account of morality. This evidence suggests that moral judgments are intuitive, emotional judgments and that paradigmatically evil individuals such as psychopaths are deficient in empathy not in rationality. They know what is wrong but they just don't care. They are bad not mad! Empathy or sympathy seems to be essential to the development of conscience, moral understanding, and morally good action. Yet most evil actions are not performed by psychopaths. We will critically examine philosophical and psychological literature on the contribution of a range of cognitive processes including memory, emotion, mindreading, planning and imagination to moral competence and moral motivation and reconsider whether limited rationality or limited sympathy is the key to understanding a range of moral failings and impairments. We will also examine the role of disease or disorder in explaining both ordinary and extreme cases of wrongdoing.

Credit Points: 3
When Offered:

S2 Day - Session 2, North Ryde, Day

S2 External - Session 2, External (On-campus dates: None)

Staff Contact(s): Professor Jeanette Kennett

(12cp at 100 level or above) or admission to GDipArts Prerequisite Information


Unit Designation(s):
Unit Type:
Assessed As: Graded
Offered By:

Department of Philosophy

Faculty of Arts

Course structures, including unit offerings, are subject to change.
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