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Good Lives and Moral Education


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 5: Human Development


ChapterS Human Development I Moral Development and Political Reasoning The pioneer of cognitive psychology, Jean Piaget, explains pat- terns of intellectual development in terms of a succession of mental structures arising from repeated acts of conceptual dif- ferentiation and integration. In contrast to the conservative view that learning occurs against a background of historical prejudice, Piaget gave a central role to these formal operations in coping with novel situations and moving to more adequate ways of understanding the data of experience. In appropriating Piaget' s view and associating his formal operations with the principles of rationalistic moral philosophy, Kohlberg's theory also diverges from developmentalists like Lev Vygotsky, whose understanding of moral growth has "focussed upon the histori- cally shaped and culturally transmitted psychology of human beings."1 This view identifies an interactive relationship be- tween cognitive development and educational processes, rather than supposing that the first drives the second. Vygotsky characterizes Piaget's "investigations of the devel- opment of thinking in school children" as assuming that "processes such as deduction and understanding, evolution of notions about the world ... , and mastery of logical forms of thought and abstract logic all occur by themselves, without any influence from schoollearning."2 Vygotsky's contrary view is that "school learning introduces something fundamentally new into the child's development," namely a "zone of proximal devel- opment." This concept distinguishes mature stages of develop- ment, identified by one's independent problem-solving capacity, Good Lives and Moral Education from the potential stage defined by one's capacity for problem solving under...

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