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Social Learning Theories of Moral Agency

William A. Rottschaefer
Behavior and Philosophy
Vol. 19, No. 1 (Spring/Summer, 1991), pp. 61-76
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27759240
Page Count: 16
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Social Learning Theories of Moral Agency
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Abstract

An important question for a naturalized philosophical psychology is what constitutes moral agency (MA). The two prominent scientific theories to which such a philosophical approach might appeal, those of cognitive developmental theory (CDT) and social learning theory (SLT), currently face an investigative dilemma: The better theories of the acquisition of beliefs and the performance of action based on them, the SLTs, seem to be irrelevant to the phenomenon of MA and the theories that seem to be relevant, the CDTs, are unsatisfactory in their accounts of acquisition and action. In this paper I take up the cause of SLT accounts of MA. Critics of SLT accounts of MA can be interpreted as arguing that they are irrelevant to MA because they lack one or more of five functional criteria that require MA to be integral morally motivated cognitive agency. I argue that SLT accounts of MA, and specifically Bandura's social cognitive theory, (SCT), when applied to issues of MA, meet these criteria. Assuming the merits of SLT explanations of both the acquisition of beliefs and the performance of actions based on them, I conclude that SLTs generally, and specifically Bandura's SCT, are promising candidates for explaining MA. If so, they merit the attention of naturalistic philosophical psychologists.

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