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My primary research interest is in moral psychology, which involves the investigation of a broad and complicated set of issues at the intersection of human psychology and moral theory. Within moral psychology, my primary research interest is in moral judgment; specifically, with how moral judgment is structured, what role reasoning plays in moral judgment, and what, if anything, that reveals about the nature of the moral domain and moral agency. These are firmly philosophical questions, but they have recently become the subject of all manner of empirical investigation, ranging from behavioral studies to brain scans to hypnosis. While these empirical innovations bring some welcomed data to bear on the structure of the moral mind, they have also, at times, obscured important philosophical concerns. My research aims to elucidate the nature, structure, and mechanisms of moral judgment, from a distinctively philosophical perspective in light of recent empirical research on the topic. 

I am also interested in virtue ethics, primarily the way in which virtues (or character traits more broadly) structure practical reason. My aim is to investigate the relationships among character traits, practical reason, reasons for action, and what it means to act well. My most recent work (under review) defends a constructivist view of reasons for action from a virtue ethical perspective.

Peer-Reviewed Publications

  • Saunders, Leland F. (forthcoming), “Virtues as Reasons Structures,” Philosophical Studies
  • Stichter, Matt and Leland Saunders (2019) “Positive psychology and virtue: Values in action,” The Journal of Positive Psychology, 14(1); 1-5.
  • Saunders, Leland F. (2018) “The Necessity of Moral Reasoning,” The Journal of Value Inquiry, 52(1); 37-57. DOI 10.1007/s10790-017-9601-1
  • Saunders, Leland F. (2016) “Reason and Emotion, Not Reason or Emotion in Moral Judgment,” Philosophical Explorations 19(3); 252-267.
  • Saunders, Leland F. (2015) “What is Moral Reasoning?” Philosophical Psychology, 28(1); 1-20.
  • Saunders, Leland F. (2009) “Reason and Intuition in the Moral Life: A Dual Process Account of Moral Justification,” in J. Evans and K. Frankish (eds.), In Two Minds: Dual Processes and Beyond: Oxford University Press, pp. 335-354.
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