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Good Lives and Moral Education

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Evan Simpson

This book develops a «conservative» conception of morality and its implications for moral education. The argument stresses practices of living over rationalistic theories. At its center is an account of the education of the emotions, in which cultivating reflective imagination is more important than mastering universal principles. The central contrast is with Lawrence Kohlberg and his theory of moral development. Simpson sees extending democratic practices of discussion and argument as best answering the question how, lacking certain standards of judgment, we can decide between competing conceptions of human progress.

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Chapter 1: What is Moral Philosophy?

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Chapterl What is Moral Philosophy? I The concept of morality What is morality? As for many Socratic questions the Augus- tinian answer may be best. "If no one asks me, I know; if some- one asks me to explain, I don't know." The difficulty has been posed in a usefully blunt way by Lawrence Kohlberg and his former colleague, Carol Gilligan. In explaining his inquiries into moral development Kohlberg says: We are not describing how men formulate different conceptions of the good, the good life, intrinsic value or purpose. Nor are we discussing how men develop certain kinds of character traits and learn to recognize these traits in judgments of approbation and disapprobation Instead, we are concentrating on that aspect of morality that is brought to the fore by problematic situations or conflicting claims .... In short, we intend the term "moral" to be understood in the restricted sense of referring to situa- tions which call for judgments involving deontological concepts such as ' right and wrong ... 1 This intention goes beyond a harmless stipulation. Kohlberg slides effortlessly from using the term "moral" in a restricted sense to supposing that this particular use of the word defines the scope of answerable moral questions: The purpose of morality is modest, to resolve the conflicting claims of human beings and groups in fairer and better ways. Moral decisions are choices between people's conflicting claims, and worthwhile principles are ones which resolve these conflicts in ways that are fair, just, impartial .... Acting out of...

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