The Morality of Harm

Paulo Sousa Sousa, Colin Holbrook, Jared Piazza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, we discuss the range of concerns people weigh when evaluating the acceptability of harmful actions and propose a new perspective on the relationship between harm and morality. With this aim, we examine Kelly, Stich, Haley, Eng and Fessler’s (2007) recent claim that, contrary to Turiel and associates, people do not judge harm to be authority independent and general in scope in the context of complex harmful scenarios (e.g., prisoner interrogation, military training). In a modified replication of their study, we examined participants’ judgments of harmful actions in these contexts by taking into account their explanations for their judgments. We claim that both in terms of participants’ judgments and rationales, the results largely confirm our hypothesis that actions involving harm and injustice or rights violation are judged to be authority independent and general in scope, which is a modification of Turiel’s traditional hypothesis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-92
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Early online date29 Aug 2009
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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