The Mcgill psychologist John Macnamara once proposed that children come to learn about right and wrong, good and evil, in much the same way they learn about geometry and mathematics.
Moral development is not merely cultural learning, and it does not reduce to the maturation of innate principles that have evolved through natural selection. It is not like the development of language or sexual preference or taste in food.
Instead moral development involves the construction of an intricate formal system that makes contact with the external world in a significant way.
This cannot entirely be right. We know that gut feelings, such as reactions to empathy and disgust, have major influence on how children and adults reason about morality. And no serious theory of moral development can ignore the role of natural selection in shaping our moral intuitions. But what I like about (author) Macnamara’s proposal is that it allows for moral realism.
It allows for the existence of moral truths that people discover, just as we discover truths in mathematics. We can reject the nihilist position(held by many researchers) that our moral intuitions are nothing more than accidents of biology or culture. And so I believe (author) (though I cannot prove it) that the development of moral reasoning is the same sort of process as the development of mathematical reasoning
Acknowledgements PAUL BLOOM Professor of psychology at Yale University
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