Thursday, March 08, 2007

Is Moral Judgement Innate?

Are our moral intuitions universally shared?

Marc Hauser, head of the Cognitive Evolution Laboratory, believes we do share moral intuitions, and bases his theory that humans have an innate capacity for moral judgment on MIT linguist Noam Chomksy's theory of Universal Grammar, which states that all languages have a common structural basis, consisting of a set of rules that are hardwired in the brain.

Mr. Hauser is convinced we develop our morality through the interaction of our intuitive moral sense and reflective judgment, after our initial response, we determine if our intuition is justifiable.

Mr. Hauser explains variation in the moral sphere by looking at the history of biology,

"When biology looks deeply at variation, what it typically uncovers is a set of underlying mechanisms that have extraordinary generative power to account for a huge amount of variation; that variation is handed to the environment and the environment prunes it back to give a set of locally adaptive options. That’s true of animal form. Simple set of genetic mechanisms that generate that variety again pruned back by the environment"
One way Mr. Hauser explains variation through time in our moral sphere is through the Principles and Parameter view ... the framework formulated by Noam Chomsky when developing his universal grammar theory -- principles don’t change but the parameters can change, like switches.

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