Recently, Stephen Stitch argued that it may be difficult to come up with a good account of moral judgment--an account of moral judgment that captures the ordinary concept--because there is no coherent concept of morality (indeed, we have no reason to believe that there is, and one might argue, given the persistence of disagreement, reason to believe there isn't). Recent research seems to show that there isn't a single psychological system which generates our moral judgments: there are a hodgepodge of different systems, designed by evolution to address different problems, pushing us in different directions. Josh Greene for instance, has suggested that the psychological systems which generate our deontic moral judgments are distinct from the psychological systems that generate utilitarian moral judgments. Often, these two distinct cognitive processes, designed for different purposes, issue inconsistent moral judgments.
I think this work provides a realistic framework in which to understand our welfare judgments. In an earlier post, I suggested that the social intuitionist model of moral judgment might also apply to our welfare judgments, but it wouldn't be entirely surprising if we discovered that there isn't a single psychological process that generates our welfare judgments. Instead, it seems we have reason to believe that welfare judgments are the by-product of a cornucopia of kludges. Some of these kludges might be designed to protect our progeny (which would explain why we think that what happens to our children after we die can affect our well-being even though we are dead) and other kludges might be activated in situations in which deception is afoot (as is the case in the experience machine thought experiment). This approach to understanding the intricacies of our moral judgments might also help us understand our strange and contradictory welfare judgments. Once we understand how we think about well-being from a psychological/evolutionary perspective our traditional beliefs about well-being might be altered profoundly (as our traditional beliefs about morality might be)...