A Study of the Influence of Custom on the Moral Judgment.Frank Chapman Sharp

Cecil C. North
1909 American Journal of Sociology  
This monographic study is the application to an ethical problem of the methods of the experimental laboratory. The problem is to discover the extent to which the moral judgment is influenced by custom, the definition of which the author takes from the Dictionary of Philosophy as "a manner of acting somewhat widespread and habitual in society but not physiologically inherited." The method employed is the use of a carefully worded questionnaire and casuistry questions, personal interviews
more » ... interviews supplementing the written answers. The questions cover a variety of assumed situations involving distinct moral judgments. The individuals experimented upon are two groups of University of Wisconsin students, one of ninety-three from the College of Liberal Arts, the other of fifty from the Agricultural College. The author offers valid reasons for "believing that the results obtained hold for a large section of the American and presumably, therefore, of European society" It is not claimed that the results are applicable to semi-civilized or more primitive people. The author sets out to examine the generally accepted view "that the prevalence of a uniform mode of behavior in a given society, especially if none of its members can remember a divergent mode as existing within its borders, is capable of creating the judgment that the conduct in question is a duty." He assumes that this view is generally accompanied by a second view, namely, that the moral judgments which thus arise are immediate, that is, formed without any consciousness of the relation of the conduct approved or disapproved to happiness, beauty, or whatever other values may give their actual validity to such judgments in the eyes of the philosopher." This immediacy, or lack of reference to the welfare of those affected, is also generally accompanied by the conception of This content downloaded from 080.082.
doi:10.1086/211762 fatcat:4juefanoorfwddvqunwxo5ls5m