Moral Psychology
David Pizarro & Benoît Monin
SISPP 2015

Structure and Spirit of the Course


This PhD level seminar is designed to expose students to some of the emerging questions in moral psychology, and to enable the instructors to best make the students benefit from their interests and expertise. We have deliberately chosen not to attempt to cover all aspects of moral psychology, nor to touch upon all the players in this rapidly expanding field. Instead our goal is to present an idiosyncratic view of the study of morality that encompasses the research trajectory of both of the instructors: Pizarro has been a proponent of a person-centered approach to moral judgment, while Monin’s work in this domain focuses on self-image in moral perception and decision-making. Both instructors therefore share an interest in moral character as a foundational concept, and this is reflected in the topics covered in the course. We will focus the first week on “first-person” aspect of moral identity (self-judgments), and the second week on “third-person” aspects (other-judgments), though there will be many connections between the two foci throughout.
 
We have structured the course so that the morning sessions are centered around a brief introduction to the topic by one of the instructors followed by a seminar-style discussion around articles you will read every day. It is crucial for everyone’s learning that you systematically read all the papers assigned carefully, and come to class prepared to discuss them, that is, having jotted down ideas, questions, or comments for discussion. In addition, on each day three students will be assigned to bring a question or critique to spur discussion for each of the assigned articles. 
 
On most afternoons, rather than continue the morning discussions, we have planned mostly one-off events that will change the pace of our discussion while benefiting from the elements discussed in the morning. These sessions will sometime take the tone of a mentoring session as you might have in lab group (on teaching ethics, on interacting with philosophers), and sometimes involve outside guests talking about recent work (Mike Norton, Liane Young).


 
Group Research Projects


We also want to give you a chance to meet in smaller groups of 3 (different from your presentation groups) and present your ideas to the rest of the class. We did not choose to make this a central component of the class, but you will spend two afternoon sessions in Week 2 (Monday and Tuesday) working with your research group, and the last two afternoons (Thursday and Friday) presenting your ideas to the rest of the group.
 
This research project is an opportunity for you to identify novel directions of investigation and to sketch out a potential empirical test of your idea. You will not collect any data during the summer school, though you are encouraged to continue any collaboration begun in Boston. The topic of your research must pertain to moral psychology, broadly defined. On Monday morning of Week 2, we will make up the teams based on expressed interests. Then on Monday and Tuesday afternoon of Week 2, you will brainstorm with your group and start defining your hypothesis and designing a potential study, receiving punctual feedback from the two instructors. By Thursday and Friday of Week 2 you will present your project to the rest of the group (3 groups per afternoon) in an interactive forum where they can suggest issues and ideas for improvement. The hope is that having gone through this process, some of you will end up with ideas that they feel they can pursuer collaboratively once back at your home institutions.