What is it about?
The debate between monists and pluralists in moral psychology has been framed as an argument over the number of “irreducible basic elements” that can be used to describe the extent of the moral domain: Do all moral values ultimately reduce to one principle (i.e., monism), or are there multiple irreducibly distinct moral values (i.e., pluralism)? I critique the premise of this debate, arguing that the breadth of the moral domain cannot be adequately represented, understood, or explained in terms of moral values. Instead, an adequate account of moral psychology must explain moral phenomena in terms of more basic elements: ontological frames.
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Why is it important?
Radical transformation of a field of study is often occasioned by a reimagining of its fundamental term(s). In the 20th century, for instance, revolutions in physics, philosophy, and evolutionary biology were brought about respectively by Einstein’s redefinition of time and space, Heidegger’s questioning of the meaning of being, and Hamilton’s reconceptualization of evolutionary “fitness.” I envision an analogous 21st century transformation of the field of moral psychology, brought about through a critical reconceptualization of the field’s fundamental term—morality. My definition of the real “irreducible basic elements” of the moral domain has dramatic implications for the field of moral psychology, one of which I explore in the submitted article, with a critique of the protracted debate among moral “monists” and “pluralists.” This debate has been framed by Graham et al. (2013) as an argument over the number of “irreducible basic elements” that can be used to “represent, understand, and explain the breadth of the moral domain” (p. 56). I critique the premise of this debate, arguing that the breadth of the moral domain cannot be represented, understood, or explained in terms of moral values. Instead, an adequate account of moral psychology must explain moral phenomena in terms of more basic elements: our ontological framing of valuable beings.
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This page is a summary of: What Are the Irreducible Basic Elements of Morality? A Critique of the Debate Over Monism and Pluralism in Moral Psychology, Perspectives on Psychological Science, November 2019, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/1745691619867106.
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