Teaching applied ethics to the righteous mind

Journal of Moral Education 43 (4):413-428 (2014)
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What does current empirically informed moral psychology imply about the goals that can be realistically achieved in college-level applied ethics courses? This paper takes up this question from the vantage point of Jonathan Haidt’s Social Intuitionist Model of human moral judgment. I summarize Haidt’s model, and then consider a variety of pedagogical goals. I begin with two of the loftiest goals of ethics education, and argue that neither is within realistic reach if Haidt’s model is correct. I then look at three goals that can be achieved if his model is correct; but each of these goals, I argue, lacks significant value. I end by identifying three goals that are of significant value and also realistically attainable on Haidt’s model. These should be the focus of applied ethics pedagogy if Haidt’s model is correct.
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