National Science Foundation

Morality Workshop

June 15 & 16, 2009

Arlington, VA






This site is administered by Student-Organizer Chad Michael McPherson and Professor Steve Hitlin at the University of Iowa Department of Sociology.

Welcome to The NSF Morality Workshop

About the Conference

The workshop is designed to increase sociology’s participation within the social scientific study of a core human concern: morality. Debates over right and wrong, justice, values, propriety, deviance, and so on are at the core of organized social life. The scientific study of morality has recently received a number of prominent treatments within popular discourse including magazine cover stories in Time (Nov. 21, 2007), the New York Times Magazine (Jan 13, 2008), and three recent feature stories in Newsweek (Sept. 13, 2008; April 25, 2009; May 4, 2009). These stories tend to focus on evolutionary and psychological aspects of moral judgment. What is left out of the coverage is a sociological understanding of morality. For example, there is little or no discussion of the structural, cultural, and interactional bases for moral judgment, feeling, and action. There is also limited discussion as to how people handle conflicts between moral issues often necessitated by occupying multiple social positions across important roles and social groups, the ways that moral claims motivate political and social movements, or the importance of the moral dimension for understanding the human self. Sociologists have much to offer to both the academic and public discourses, but they also have much to learn from other disciplines, thus they would be well-served by starting an interdisciplinary dialogue. To this end, there are several goals of this workshop. First, it includes expanding sociologists’ understanding of the moral dimensions. Second, it involves improving interdisciplinary dialogue between sociology and cognate disciplines such as psychology, neuroscience, religion, law, political science, and economics. Finally, the goal is to develop interdisciplinary research programs on morality among sociologists and researchers in other disciplines.


Contact Information

For more information or to seek assistance, contact Steven Hitlin at, (319) 335-2499 or NSF Sociology Program Director Jan Stets at

Copyright The University of Iowa 2006