Origins of Moral Norms
Humans inhabit webs of moral obligations and commitments. We live with a sense of right and wrong, a sense of what ought to be done in an environment of norms, a space of justification. What is the source of such moral norms? Two common approaches are that moral norms arise through being imposed by previous generations or that they have biological foundations. By themselves these are incomplete and are attempts to explain away rather than explain moral norms. The assumption that biological factors play a role must be further articulated and it can be done so from a gene-centered perspective or a developmental systems approach. Thus, a third option in understanding the development of moral norms is the developmental systems position that biological and social factors do not simply preexist separately but are instead abstracted from a developmental system in which they are intertwined and mutually create each other. From this perspective, the goal is to trace a natural history of the development of moral norms through the increasingly complex forms of coordination emerging in dyads as children construct social and moral skills through their interaction with others. From this perspective, moral norms emerge through interpersonal agreement, beginning at a practical level of lived interaction within relationships of mutual affection. At this practical level, norms are implicit in interaction and ways of treating others. This process of interpersonal coordination continues in more complex ways with language and the development of reasons and justifications.
Jeremy Carpendale ist Professor für Psychologie an der Simon Fraser University, Kanada. Im Sommersemester 2016 hält er sich als Visiting Fellow am CAS auf.