Questioning Moshman on Moral and Advanced Psychological Development

After (school-required) posts on Dr. David Moshman’s perspective on cognitive development and identity development, below the fold you’ll find my question set for moral and rational moral development.

Want something more interesting? American Future and Catholicgauze have been particularly good, along with the always-golden Coming Anarchy and ZenPundit.


Moral Development

On page 52, Moshman writes that Piaget “argued that genuine morality comes not from parents or other agents of culture but rather is constructed in the context of peer interaction.” Does this mean that peers are not agents of culture and that morality cannot be mentored?

On page 53, Moshman reports Piaget criticizing “an adult simply [telling] the children [how] to divide the candy equal.” How does not address the mentoring issue, is it not a straw-man response?

Also on page 53, “morality, then is not a matter of culturally specific rules learned from parents or other agents of society… [but rather] has a rational basis, and develops through an internally directed process of constructing increasingly sophisticated understandings about the inherent logic of social relationships.” So therefore fundamentalists are amoral or immoral, if their justification is Holy Scripture itself?

On 61, Moshman writes, “The most controversial feature of Gilligan’s (1982) theory is her claim that an orientation toward justice is male whereas care represents the female voice.” Considering different learning styles, does this imply that justice is a more viable concept in low-density networks while care is more viable in high-density nets?

On page 63, Moshman quotes Campbell and Christopher describing eudaimonism as “… pursuit of one’s specific excellence.” Does this mean that positive psychology is eudaimonic?

On page 64, Moshman summarizes the views of morality by presenting them as justice, care, or virute oriented. What about Beauty? Or Truth? Or even Victory?

On page 71, Moshman writes:

“A theory of moral development would provide a specific account of how morality develops and could be tested against data concerning the development of morality. A metatheory, in contrast is a proposal about the basic assumptions that would undergird a plausible theory.”

By “metatheory,” then, Moshman appears to mean paradigm or perspective. Does he? If so, shouldn’t he make more explicit the extra-scientific, philosophical nature of this discussion?

On page 73, Moshman writes “to the extend that moral reflection takes place in the context of peer interaction, however, it may yield constructed moral principles that are not only rationally justifiable but, in some cases, universal across cultures.” So Moshman is equating the equilibrium of a bargaining game with morality?

Advanced Psychological Development

On page 117, Moshman writes “Identity formation, correspondingly, involves consideration of multiple potential solves and the consequences of commitment to a particular conception of oneself. It does seem plausible, then, that formal operations would be a prerequisite for identity formation.” So “trade,” or practiced creation of a work product, would produce no identity whatsoever in concrete-thinking individuals? Ditto family and culture?

On page 120, Moshman writes “Identity commitments may thus undermine rationality, and the strongest identities may pose the most serious problem.” First, does this imply that organizations that have strong identities (such as “diverse,” “tolerant,” “universities,” etc) would be the most irrational? Second, does this passage imply the existence of “mitochondrial” identities that subvert thinking while giving the individual so much strength that a reversion is unthinkable?

On page 123, Moshman writes “From the broader perspective of advanced psychological development, however, it is clear that the construction of identity may undermine rationality and/or morality, and thus does not always constitute progress. Identities can motivate oppression and violence, for example, up to and including genocide (Maalouf, 2001; Moshman, 2004a, 2004b).” While the inclusion of “progress” into development seems to be definitional, how is the second sentence quoted not a normative criticism (and thus unscientific)?

On page 127, Moshman says “moral change is thus constrained by rational considerations that render change developmental in nature.” But considering the powerful draw of irrational beliefs for symbolic thinkers (see 120), might rationality merely be a stage of an objectively measurable progress?

On page 133, Moshman imagines a study that shows “statistically significant gender differences” in terms of moral reasoning, but dismisses such a potential finding, writing “we would need to consider the magnitude of the gender difference relative to the extent of variability among and within individuals.” Why? If the differences are enough to produce significantly different outcomes (by compounding, networking, etc), such a “consideration” would seem to do little good.

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