By K. Hillner
The pre-eminent nineteenth century British ethicist, Henry Sidgwick as soon as acknowledged: "All vital moral notions also are mental, other than possibly the elemental antitheses of 'good' and 'bad' and 'wrong', with which psychology, because it treats of what's and never of what must be, isn't really at once involved" (quoted in T.N. Tice and T.P. Slavens, 1983). Sidgwick's assertion may be interpreted to intend that psychology is appropriate for ethics or that mental wisdom contributes to the development of a moral truth. This interpretation serves because the easy impetus to this ebook, yet Sidgwick's assertion is additionally analyzed intimately to illustrate why a present exposition at the relevance of psychology for moral truth is important and germane.
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Extra resources for A Psychological Approach to Ethical Reality
Hull and Guthrie, relates overt behavior to postulated internal events, most of which are assumed peripheral in nature. Cognitive behaviorism, in the tradition of Tolmanian learning theory, relates overt behavior to presumed internal, central brain events. Descriptive behaviorism, especially the Skinnerian variety, constitutes an applied psychology par excellence: for instance, behavior therapy, contingency management, token economies, self-help programs, and programmed learning. Skinner's emphasis on operant conditioning affords a pre-emptory degree of control of behavior.
This is one reason why an ethical reality must be superimposed on a logically prior psychological reality. Conduct is not really a given in our perceptual consciousness: we only see instances of conduct because we have been trained to do so in the context of some implicit characterization Domain of the Ought: Prolegomena 17 of it. Descriptions of conduct cannot occur in a conceptual vacuum. Conduct is a theoretical construct: there are as many conceptions of human conduct as there are people who feel the need to theorize about it.
Substantive content can best be abstracted in terms of nonphysical versus physical. A nonphysical entity is not a real-time, real-space event; a physical entity is part of the naturally occurring universe. Thus, the four categorical types of causes are (1) internal nonphysical, (2) internal physical, (3) external nonphysical, and (4) external physical: any event serving as a causal source of conduct must be uniquely assignable to one of these categories. The internal-external dimension is correlated with the classic free will versus determinism issue: determinism presupposes external causes of behavior, while only internal causation allows behavior to be self-generated.