The John Templeton Foundation has just awarded a major grant to Daniel Jacobson (UM) to pursue and organize numerous projects on "The Science of Ethics," along with Justin D'Arms (OSU) and Chandra Sripada (UM). (Jacobson is the project leader, and D'Arms and Sripada are major contributors.) There are also several other participants involved. With additional funding from both the University of Michigan and Ohio State, the total amount actually comes to $1.2 million.
Here's a snippet from the proposal:
"Though moral psychology is traditionally considered a branch of philosophy, the empirical ethics movement has reconceived it as a thoroughly empirical enterprise. While research in several scientific fields has added greatly to our knowledge of human nature, the practitioners of empirical ethics sometimes overreach in two crucial respects. First, they draw controversial philosophical conclusions with inadequate appreciation of the deepest ethical questions. Second, their single-minded focus on unconscious factors in moral reasoning threatens to undermine the possibility of human agency. The Science of Ethics project seeks to engage empirical ethics while critically examining its philosophical implications."
There will be several activities associated with the grant, but what's most relevant and exciting for our purposes will be two summer workshops, involving approximately 10 outside scholars and 6 from the University of Michigan, each of which will result in a volume of essays addressed to an academic audience. The first is a workshop on Moral Psychology and Human Agency. The second is on Human Nature and Moral Knowledge. The enduring impact anticipated is to increase awareness of the complexity of drawing "scientific" solutions to philosophical problems.
There will be announcements about how to submit work to the workshops, as well as announcements about how to attend in the coming months.
Also supported by the grant are two book projects by the major contributors and project leader. The first involves the completion of the long-awaited metaethics book by D'Arms and Jacobson, Rational Sentimentalism, and the second involves Sripada's book, Self and Self-Control.