Moral Psychology: An Ontological Approach
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In information science, an ontology is a controlled vocabulary that provides names and definitions for the classes and relations among entities within a realm of discourse, and which can then be used to make interoperable different sources of heterogeneous data within a common domain. This dissertation has two tasks. First, I propose and draft a suite of modular ontologies that can render databases capable of representing and integrating heterogenous data concerning social and moral psychology. This involves implementing, in the Web Ontology Language (OWL), an ontology for empirical moral psychology data. The practical upshot of this project is the production of what I believe will prove a valuable tool for psychologists, philosophers, and those working in the social sciences. It will allow them to search, not only for reported results in the field, but also for all data collected in the course of an investigation, to run novel algorithmic operations, and to create a continuously accumulating aggregation of psychological data for purposes of meta-analysis. Second, I argue such a knowledge base of moral psychology has implications for debates in meta-ethics, and I discuss Frank Jackson’s analytic moral functionalism as an example. I describe Jackson’s view, lay out some reasons for thinking a big data approach might be helpful in extending it, and then evaluate the likelihood that his account might be vindicated by future results.