What's Fair? The Unconscious Calculus of our Moral Faculty

  1. Greg Bock Organizer and
  2. Jamie Goode
  1. Marc Hauser

Published Online: 7 OCT 2008

DOI: 10.1002/9780470030585.ch4

Empathy and Fairness: Novartis Foundation Symposium 278

Empathy and Fairness: Novartis Foundation Symposium 278

How to Cite

Hauser, M. (2006) What's Fair? The Unconscious Calculus of our Moral Faculty, in Empathy and Fairness: Novartis Foundation Symposium 278 (eds G. Bock and J. Goode), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9780470030585.ch4

Author Information

  1. Department of Psychology, Organismic & Evolutionary Biology, and Biological Anthropology, 33 Kirkland Street, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 7 OCT 2008
  2. Published Print: 31 OCT 2006

Book Series:

  1. Novartis Foundation Symposia

Book Series Editors:

  1. Novartis Foundation

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470026267

Online ISBN: 9780470030585

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Keywords:

  • studying moral competence;
  • Singer principle;
  • Kantian, Humean and Rawlsian creatures;
  • unconscious moral calculus;
  • competence–performance distinction

Summary

This essay argues that much of the research in moral psychology has focused on moral performance, on what people do. The study of moral competence, in contrast, has largely been ignored. I use the analogy to linguistics as a model for exploring our moral competence, and suggest that we are endowed with a moral faculty that operates over the causes and consequences of actions. This moral faculty is endowed with principles and parameters that are universal. Acquiring a particular moral system entails setting the parameters. On this model, emotions such as empathy are consequences (as opposed to causes) of unconscious but principled moral evaluations.