Dyadic Morality with Kurt Gray

This week, Turi talks to psychologist Kurt Gray about the theory of dyadic morality, and how the divide between Liberal and Conservative lies in their differing perception of harm.

S2 E7: Dyadic Morality

“Dyadic morality is ultimately about the link between perceived harm and immorality…”

Why do we believe murder is “wrong”? Why can’t we compare the effects of a hurricane with the acts of a paedophile? Kurt Gray argues that human morality stems from “harm” - that moral acts have an intentional agent and a victim, and it is this perception of harm caused by one person to another that allows us to define moral evils.

So could this explain political differences? Do we just all have different definitions of harm? In which case, is there a way of reconciling polarised groups by re-examining our own perception of harm and suffering?

“I think one way forward is acknowledging that the other side’s perceptions of harm are legitimate…”

Listen to Kurt and Turi discuss how harm is the basis of human morality.

  • How intuitionism is actually about harm
  • Whether morality requires a perpetrator and a victim
  • How dyadic moral theory deals with self-harm
  • Why people moralise homosexuality
  • The importance of theory of mind in dyadic morality
  • God versus Environment
  • The moral differences between Liberals and Conservatives
  • How people remove moral harm
  • Why perceptions of harm creates political polarisation
  • Whether recognition of perceptions of harm can bridge the political divide

“The way to see people as more moral is to acknowledge that their perceptions of harm are not made up, but instead authentic and that they really are worried about safeguarding others from suffering…”

Works cited include:

Read the Full Transcript

Kurt Gray

Dr. Gray is an Associate Professor in Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he directs the Deepest Beliefs Lab and the Center for the Science of Moral Understanding. He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in Organizational Behavior at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC, where he teaches about organizational ethics and team processes.

This page was last edited on Wednesday, 24 Feb 2021 at 10:59 UTC