Harm and non-harm moral judgments and moral justifications in two American religious groups /

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Tennant, Joseph, author.
Ann Arbor : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, 2015
Description:1 electronic resource (172 pages)
Format: E-Resource Dissertations
Local Note:School code: 0330
URL for this record:http://pi.lib.uchicago.edu/1001/cat/bib/10773285
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Other authors / contributors:University of Chicago. degree granting institution.
Notes:Advisors: Richard Shweder Committee members: Guanlgei Hong; Christine Reyna; Richard Taub.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 77-02(E), Section: B.
Summary:This dissertation investigates whether harm concerns are a primary component of moral judgment. Specifically, the study investigates whether harm is always a primary concern in moral reasoning, or if other concerns can be considered first over harm. Previous research on morality and psychology has been based on the question of whether the psychology of morality is universal or culturally relative (Shweder and Haidt, 1993). While several theorists have suggested that harm or justice are viable candidates for a universal human morality (Gray, Young, & Watz, 2012; Turiel et al., 1987), other research suggests that these approaches often overlook culturally-specific practices that have moral valence and are thus missing important variation (Shweder, Mahapatra, Park & Miller, 1997; Pool, 1989). However, critiques of these cultural psychology studies typically argue that many social conventions are considered moral because they are described by informants to be causing social harm. Essentially, the critique states that many different social, religious, sexual, and food oriented rules that govern behavior are moral judgments only when they are perceived to cause harm (Grey and Wegner, 2010). Based on that review of the psychological literature, this dissertation presents a study of moral reasoning used by liberal Atheists and conservative Christians in the United States. 55 participants (25 Christian and 30 Atheists) were interviewed about a variety of moral violations which elicited different judgments and justifications among each group. The responses to these scenarios illustrate that moral reasoning among Christians is sin-focused and less harm-focused that atheist peers. By contrast, atheists utilized moral reasoning that focused on concerns about autonomy and harm. Additionally, this study found several cases in which non-harm moral reasoning was used without any co-occurrence of harm, providing strong evidence that non-harm reasoning is widely used in both Atheist and Christian communities. These data demonstrate that geographically, civically, and economically-similar groups differ in their moral reasoning and that such differences are best accounted for by religious and ontological beliefs.