How not to argue that morality isn't innate: Comments on Jesse Prinz's “is morality innate?”

We must admire the ambition of Prinz’s title question. But does he provide a convincing answer to it? Prinz’s own view of morality as “a byproduct – accidental or invented – of faculties that evolved for different purposes (1),” which appears to express a negative reply, does not receive much direct argument here. Rather, Prinz’s main aim is to try to show that the considerations he believes are typically presented by moral nativists are insufficient or inadequate to establish that morality is innate. He discusses, individually, how much evidential weight the (alleged) existence of (1) universal moral norms, (2) universal moral domains, (3) fixed stages in moral development, and (4) precursors to morality among non-human animals lend to nativist claims, and, in addition, he argues that poverty-of-the-moral-stimulus arguments are as yet unconvincing. “[C]urrent evidence,” Prinz claims, “is consistent with the conclusion that children acquire moral competence through experience (22).” It is not my intention here to follow Prinz’s piecemeal criticisms of moral nativism. In their attacks on linguistic nativism (see, e.g., Cowie 1999) and now on moral nativism, empiricists typically deploy the..
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