Though moral psychology is traditionally considered a branch of philosophy, the empirical ethics movement has reconceived it as a thoroughly empirical enterprise. While research in several scientific fields has added greatly to our knowledge of human nature, the practitioners of empirical ethics overreach in two crucial respects. First, they draw controversial philosophical conclusions with inadequate appreciation of the deepest ethical questions. Second, their single-minded focus on unconscious factors in moral reasoning threatens to undermine the possibility of human agency. The Science of Ethics project seeks to engage empirical ethics while critically examining its philosophical implications. It will focus on three main activities: (1) Two summer workshops, involving approximately 10 outside scholars and 6 from the University of Michigan, each of which will result in a volume of essays addressed to an academic audience. The first is a workshop on Moral Psychology and Human Agency. The second is on Human Nature and Moral Knowledge. The enduring impact we anticipate is to increase awareness of the complexity of drawing 'scientific' solutions to philosophical problems. (2) Support for research and writing of two book manuscripts: First, a collaborative book entitled Rational Sentimentalism, coauthored by Daniel Jacobson and Justin D'Arms, which treats moral psychology as a truly interdisciplinary field. Second, an experimentally grounded book by Chandra Sripada on strategies for improving agents' self-control by combatting forces that undermine our self-determination, entitled Self and Self-Control. Their enduring impact is to demonstrate the need for philosophical concepts such as that of a good reason. (3) Finally, the project will engage empirical ethics in the public arena, where it has received much notoriety but insufficient philosophical scrutiny, through an essay prize competition for publications on relevant topics in the popular press.
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