Improving moral judgments: philosophical considerations

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In contemporary moral psychology, an often-heard claim is that knowing how we make moral judgments can help us make better moral judgments. Discussions about moral development and improvement are often framed in terms of the question of which mental processes have a better chance of leading to good moral judgments. However, few studies elaborate on the question of what makes a moral judgment a good moral judgment. This article examines what is needed to answer questions of moral improvement and development. It distinguishes 3 types of claims that are at stake: descriptive claims, metaethical claims, and normative claims. To find out what makes certain moral judgments better than others, one needs to have insight in the psychological processes and capacities underlying moral judgment formation. However, one also needs to address the question of what makes a moral judgment justified, and this in turn requires a view on the nature of moral goodness and on the question of what makes a judgment moral at all. The author discusses possible ways in which philosophical theories in the areas of metaethics and normative ethics can contribute to the answering of such questions. Also, she provides concrete suggestions for doing interdisciplinary research that is able to address those questions in moral psychology that have both normative and descriptive aspects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-108
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • moral judgments
  • moral psychology
  • normativity
  • normative ethics
  • metaethics


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