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Some folks are better than others. But how does one come to be better than another? Is moral decency a matter of grit or grace -- is the right training enough, or is innate talent also necessary?
Since the Greeks, philosophers have proposed that moral functioning be understood as a skill, like making music or playing chess. Yet after 2,500 years, we are far from clear on what the acquisition of moral skill requires what kind of practice, and what sort of talents, make people good? In this abridged synthesis of what is known – and unknown -- in expert performance, human development, and moral philosophy, John M. Doris takes some hesitant steps towards articulating a "recipe" for moral improvement.
Doris is a professor in the Philosophy–Neuroscience–Psychology Program and Philosophy Department at Washington University in St. Louis and AY 2016-2017 Laurence S. Rockefeller Fellow, University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. He works at the intersection of cognitive science, moral psychology, and philosophical ethics, and has published widely on these topics in both philosophy and psychology journals. He is the author of Lack of Character: Personality and Moral Behavior (Cambridge, 2002) and Talking to Our Selves: Reflection, Ignorance, and Agency (Oxford, 2015). With his colleagues in the Moral Psychology Research Group, he wrote and edited The Moral Psychology Handbook (Oxford, 2010).