Emotions, Norms, the Moralization of Fairness

Shaun Nichols (University of Arizona-Philosophy)


Recent work in moral psychology has emphasized the importance of emotions for moral judgment. I'll argue that the available research provides no reason to think that emotional activation alone can account for moral judgment.   Nonetheless, the fact that we are naturally repelled by suffering still provides a fairly direct explanation for the cultural success of norms prohibiting harming innocent people.  Norms of fairness pose a more complicated problem, since it's harder to connect such norms directly to our emotional repertoire. In contrast to recent work in rational-choice theory, I argue that norms of fairness do get their cultural heft because of their connections to emotions, but it is through the more indirect path of moralization.