A Moral Foundations Theory of Human Rights: Illustrated by Taiwan’s Moral Foundations for the Death Penalty





Published date: 

十二月, 2022


Chia-Ming Chen
Ying-Lung Chou


In this paper, we attempt to answer how we can facilitate people’s real psychological support for human rights. To answer this question, we suggest that we need to understand the relations between human rights discourses and individuals’psychological mechanisms. Therefore, we propose a theoretical framework of moral foundations theory to explain people’s human rights orientations. The framework combines Jonathan Haidt’s and his colleagues’moral foundations theory and Dan P. McAdams’s three-layers theory of personality. We use this framework to outline the mechanisms and processes that lead human rights events to shape people’s human rights attitudes. To further explain the use of our theory, we apply the theory to a specific issue of human rights, namely, the death penalty. We analyze eight social discourses concerning the death penalty, and explore the relations among the discourses, the moral foundations and people’s attitudes to the death penalty. Our theory suggests that we need to know the moral foundations of a specific society in order to learn the relations between the moral foundations and death penalty attitudes of that particular society. To illustrate, we design and undertake a survey based on Haidt’s moral foundations questionnaire to find out the relations between Taiwan’s moral foundations and death penalty attitudes. In the end, we offer some discursive strategies to Taiwan’s abolition movement.