Harm-Based Moral Restraint

David C. Rose

in The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199781744
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919116 | DOI:
Harm-Based Moral Restraint

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This chapter argues that it because humans are naturally reluctant to harm others, most people in most of the world most of the time do not behave opportunistically. It advances a theory of harm-based moral restraint based on how feelings of guilt drive up the internal cost of behaving opportunistically. Guilt is triggered by feelings of sympathy that are, in turn, triggered by empathizing with harmed victims. The origins of the psychological mechanisms of guilt, sympathy, and empathy are discussed. Guilt is shown to have uniquely important qualities for effectuating moral restraint. Empathy, sympathy, guilt, and interpersonal utility effects are all accounted for in a simple model that provides a framework for subsequent analysis in the book.

Keywords: empathy; interpersonal utility effects; guilt; other-regarding preferences; sympathy

Chapter.  7618 words. 

Subjects: Economics

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