Good Selves, True Selves: Moral Ignorance, Responsibility, And The Presumption Of Goodness

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Abstract
According to the Good True Self (GTS) theory, if an action is deemed good, its psychological source is typically viewed as more reflective of its agent’s true self, of who the agent really is ‘deep down inside’; if the action is deemed bad, its psychological source is typically viewed as more external to its agent’s true self. In previous work, we discovered a related asymmetry in judgments of blame- and praiseworthiness with respect to the mitigating effect of moral ignorance via childhood deprivation. Inspired by work motivating the GTS theory, we ran a new study to discover whether our asymmetry likewise reflected judgments about the true self. It did. However, it is unclear whether our results fit with the ‘good’ part of the GTS theory: some of our and others’ results suggest that, in certain contexts, wrong actions are taken to be more expressive of agents’ true selves than right ones. In this paper, we propose that our and others’ data can be explained by the hypothesis that we are inclined to judge as the GTS theory predicts when there is a readily available external explanation for an agent’s action. In short, we give people the benefit of the doubt.
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Archival date: 2018-06-02
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2017-10-20

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