Moral alchemy: How love changes norms

TitleMoral alchemy: How love changes norms
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsMagid, R, Schulz, L
Start Page135
Pagination135 -150
Date Published10/2017
KeywordsEthics of care, Moral learning, Recursive value, Utility

We discuss a process by which non-moral concerns (that is concerns agreed to be non-moral

within a particular cultural context) can take on moral content. We refer to this phenomenon as moral alchemy and suggest that it arises because moral obligations of care entail recursively valuing loved ones’ values, thus allowing propositions with no moral weight in themselves to become morally charged. Within this framework, we predict that when people believe a loved one cares about a behavior more than they do themselves, the moral imperative to care about the loved one’s interests will raise the value of that behavior, such that people will be more likely to infer that third parties will see the behavior as wrong (Experiment 1) and the behavior itself as more morally important (Experiment 2) than when the same behaviors are considered outside the context of a caring relationship. The current study confirmed these predictions. 


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