The Next 50 years: A theory of moral development

Welcome back.

“What we need is theory of moral development,” writes Paul Bloom, professor of psychology at Yale University. He predicts that within the next fifty years, however, psychology will still NOT be able to explain moral development.

That’s right. Not.

Naturalist Charles Darwin suggested that moral development was a function of evolved intelligence. Psychologist William James suggested that moral development was the result of the adoption of social instincts. Modern day psychology has no clue, according to Bloom.

“It may be,” Bloom adds, “that the nature of moral thought or consciousness is beyond our understanding.”

here’s a list of stuff that we all think psychologists know. Not.

  • the benefits of playing Mozart to a baby
  • spanking is hamrful
  • not spanking is harmful
  • the crucial importance of mother-child bonding in the first hours
  • the dangers of day care

Psychology can’t say one way or another. “In fact, the practical benefits of psychology have always been modest,” Bloom writes. “…psychological claims about how to manage society, treat criminals, and educate and raise our children have been, at their best, common sense. At their worst, they are faddish and dangerous…”

What do you think?

see you in the mystic,


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3 responses to “The Next 50 years: A theory of moral development”

  1. Lori Avatar

    Can evolution explain the rise of uiform morals across population groups? For the most part, killing another person is always bad. Stealing money or goods is always seen as morally wrong.

    Morals certainly aren’t “contagious.”

  2. Josiah Hultgren Avatar
    Josiah Hultgren

    Checking out Robert Keagan’s “The Evolving Self” would not be a bad place to start for these kind of insights. He’s the Chair of Human development at Harvard. In terms of world view development, however – I think the best insights have been from Clare Graves and would especially reccommend “Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change” by Don Edward Beck and Christopher C. Cowan. It’s certainly been one of the most important reads I’ve had in my life.

  3. alex mcmanus Avatar

    lori, i wonder if morals can be taught, though. if so, couldn’t that be a possible reason for uniformity?

    thanks for the book recommends, josiah. excellent.

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