Moral Psychology as Accountability

In Justin D'Arms Daniel Jacobson (ed.), Moral Psychology and Human Agency: Philosophical Essays on the Science of Ethics. Oxford University Press. pp. 40-83 (2014)
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Abstract
Recent work in moral philosophy has emphasized the foundational role played by interpersonal accountability in the analysis of moral concepts such as moral right and wrong, moral obligation and duty, blameworthiness, and moral responsibility (Darwall 2006; 2013a; 2013b). Extending this framework to the field of moral psychology, we hypothesize that our moral attitudes, emotions, and motives are also best understood as based in accountability. Drawing on a large body of empirical evidence, we argue that the implicit aim of the central moral motives and emotions is to hold people - whether oneself or others - accountable for compliance with the demands of morality. Moral condemnation is based in a motive to get perpetrators to hold themselves accountable for their wrongdoing, not, as is commonly supposed, a mere retributive motive to make perpetrators suffer (�2). And moral conscience is based in a genuine motive to hold oneself accountable for behaving in accordance with moral demands, not, as is commonly supposed, a mere egoistic motive to appear moral to others (�3). The accountability-based theory of the moral motives and emotions we offer provides better explanations of the extant empirical data than any of the major alternative theories of moral motivation. Moreover, conceiving of moral psychology in this way gives us a new and illuminating perspective on what makes morality distinctive: its essential connection to our practice of holding one another accountable (�4).
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