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Psychology and ethics: interactions and conflicts

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Abstract:

The relationship between psychology and ethics is determined by whether psychology is conceptualized as a natural or a human science. If the former, then psychology is incapable of identifying universal moral imperatives because of the fact/value dichotomy that rejects the possibility of logically deriving moral principles or social policies from factual statements. In addition, the inevitability of moral pluralism raises the question as to how natural science methodology can select moral truths or social policies from a variety of presumed alternatives. In contrast, human science psychology, which emphasizes phenomenological experience as a source of psychological truths, has attempted to bridge the fact/value gap. Upon close examination, this approach has failed to suggest a rule as to how the "correct" set of values can be identified. The conclusion is that facts cannot dictate moral principles or social policies but they can help illuminate their consequences. Policy decisions become the responsibility of a democratic society, not of psychology.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0951508021000042030

Publication date: December 1, 2002

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