Patterns of Reasoning Exhibited by Children and Adolescents in Response to Moral Dilemmas Involving Plants, Animals and Ecosystems

Journal of Moral Education 26 (2):169-186 (1997)
Abstract
Abstract Traditional moral philosophy, developmental psychology and moral education have generally been concerned with relationships between human beings. However, moral philosophy has gradually expanded to include plants, animals and ecosystems as legitimate moral objects, and aesthetics has rediscovered nature as an object of consideration. Thus it seems appropriate to begin to include this sphere in moral education and corresponding research as well. In this paper we wish to report on an investigation we have begun using children's philosophy as a hermeneutic tool to assess the morally relevant values and attitudes that children and adolescents hold with respect to nature and the patterns of reasoning with which they are expressed. In the first part of our presentation we will outline current positions in environmental ethics and aesthetics which provide a theoretical framework for such an investigation and the problems they present. Subsequently the difficulties involved with applying contemporary theories of moral development to the problem at hand will be discussed. Finally, we will describe the project we have begun and summarise preliminary results derived from different age groups
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