In the last month or so, two Ph.D. students at two different schools told me they changed their research focus from foundational topics (such as computational theories of cognition) to moral psychology. Is this indicative of a trend?
Moral psychology is obviously fascinating and has seen much new work in recent years. I don’t know enough about what’s happening in that area to guess how much opportunity for growth is left in moral psychology. I mean, at some point philosophy fields become saturated and begin to stagnate: every major position has been articulated and subsequent generations are left to comment and add epicycles to existing views, until something new happens that changes the conceptual landscape again. Does anyone has a sense about how things stand in moral psychology?
Speaking of which, I think something importantly new is happening in the foundations of cognitive science. The driving change is the rise of cognitive neuroscience as an integrated science of cognition. Some people are surely riding the cog neurosci bandwagon and have been for a while, but very few people have even begun to study the foundational implications of this change. For some of my views on the matter, see here and here. In any case, I think this area is ripe for a new beginning, with plenty of opportunity for bright young philosophers to reshape it. And when you reshape the foundations of a discipline, eventually you end up reshaping the whole discipline (including moral psychology ).