The Psychology of
I want to ask whether there is such a thing as 'the psychology of moral behaviour'. This is something that is taken for granted in psychology. The Psychology of Moral Behaviour is indeed the title of a 1971 book by Derek Wright, an academic psychologist. It is a survey of work done by psychologists in their empirical study of moral behaviour and of the different approaches in the field. Wright discusses these approaches without having an axe to grind and himself puts forward his own positive views about moral behaviour in its different aspects.
I will use Wright's book as a source of the views and examples which I shall discuss. The criticisms I make will be directed not at Derek Wright himself who, on the whole, writes with moderation, but at academic psychology, the psychology which is responsible for the way Wright thinks about moral behaviour.
My contention in this chapter is that there is no such thing as 'the psychology of moral behaviour' and that we have nothing to learn about moral behaviour from the academic psychologist. We can learn from him about human frailties in the face of the demands of a particular morality, perhaps, but only if he has a proper understanding of those demands, and that I find doubtful. For everything about the approach and language of academic psychology—at any rate as illustrated in the book by Derek Wright— militates against the possibility of such an understanding.
I do not deny that there is a connection between an individual's psychology and his morality in the sense of what it takes for him to be loyal to his moral beliefs. However, to find enlighten