Does Moral Philosophy Lead to More Moral Decisions?

7 October, 2020

How do you know whether the study of moral philosophy actually leads to changed, better behaviour? It would seem reasonable to expect that it would. You’d certainly hope it did. But can you measure the impact of philosophy?

In this article Dylan Mathews describes the argument over the moral effects of philosophy which, he says, “dates to the ancient Greeks or earlier.”

In the latest contribution to this debate three philosophers – University of California Riverside’s Eric Schwitzgebel, University of Kansas’s Bradford Cokelet, and Princeton’s Peter Singer – have conducted a large-scale randomised evaluation of moral philosophy instruction, to determine whether it can alter student’s moral decision-making.

Described as “the first controlled experiment testing the real-world behavioural consequences of university-level philosophy instruction”, they looked at a very concrete outcome and asked ‘Do students eat less meat after learning about philosophical arguments against factory farming?’ The answer, in short, is yes. (You can read about the study here.) So while the study was small in scale and duration, it is an encouraging indication that behaviour can be impacted by engaging with philosophy.

The purpose of Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership is to strengthen wise and courageous leadership, to build better communities, which it does by drawing on two millennia of philosophical thought to foster in-depth, practical discussions that sharpen critical reasoning and strengthen moral courage. Since our formation more than 25 years ago, we’ve seen thousands of senior-level people across business, community and government benefit from our rigorous programs. We know, anecdotally, the long-term positive impact our programs have. In September 2020 we launched an impact evaluation project which will allow us to gauge the examples and extent of that impact. This will be an ongoing project and we look forward to sharing the results with you.

Vox, Dylan Matthews, 11 August 2020. Read the full article here.

Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership’s programs include the 2 day Executive Ethics, 6 day Executive Colloquium and year-long Vincent Fairfax Fellowship. We also deliver online and tailored corporate programs. Find the right program for you.

Photo by Levi XU on Unsplash