Theories of justice and moral behavior

Khalid M. Dubas, Saeed M. Dubas, Rajiv Mehta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Two psychological theories of moral behavior and justice-Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development and Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory-and two normative frameworks for justice are presented and evaluated in this paper. Moral Foundations Theory derives its fundamental ideas from the works of David Hume, Jonathan Haidt, Jesse Grahm, etc. The two normative frameworks are: Transcendental Institutionalism Framework, and Realization-Focused Comparative Framework. Transcendental Institutionalism derives its inspiration from the works of political philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and John Rawls, while the Realization-Focused Comparative Framework originated from the works of political philosophers, mathematicians, and economists such as Adam Smith, Marquis de Condorcet, Jeremy Bentham, Mary Wollstonecraft, Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, Kenneth Arrow, and Amartya Sen. Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development shows increasing role for reason as a person goes through various stages of moral development. The Moral Foundations Theory provides a primary role to instincts and emotions while the last two frameworks provide a greater role to reason and reasoning than to emotions and instincts. The strengths and weaknesses of each theory or framework are evaluated, and where appropriate, one theory is compared with other justice and moral conceptualizations. While descriptive theories are useful in understanding moral behavior and justice, normative theories are required to determine rules for collective action. Arguments are presented that the Transcendental Institutionalist Framework is superfluous and should be replaced entirely by the Realization-Based Comparative Framework for practical attempts to reduce manifest injustice and to enhance justice. This research reaches across several disciplines to discuss and evaluate descriptive and normative theories of moral behavior and justice. In particular, the Social Choice Theory, while well-known in economics and political science, is not well known in other disciplines. This study brings the Social Choice Theory to the forefront for situations where a group or society wants to select among various alternatives by basing its decisions on the individual preferences of its members using principles ofjustice. As an example, attempts to form a government of the people, for the people, and by the people would also fall within the domain of the Social Choice Theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-36
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Strategy and Management
  • Law


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