Does ethical theory have a place in post‐kohlbergian moral psychology?

Educational Theory 60 (2):167-188 (2010)

Philosophers tend to assume that theoretical frameworks in psychology suffer from conceptual confusion and that any influence that philosophy might have on psychology should be positive. Going against this grain, Dan Lapsley and Darcia Narváez attribute the Kohlbergian paradigm's current state of marginalization within psychology to Lawrence Kohlberg's use of ethical theory in his model of cognitive moral development. Post‐Kohlbergian conceptions of moral psychology, they advance, should be wary of theoretical constructs derived from folk morality, refuse philosophical starting points, and seek integration with literatures in psychology, not philosophy. In this essay, Bruce Maxwell considers and rejects Lapsley and Narváez's diagnosis. The Kohlbergian paradigm's restricted conception of the moral domain is the result of a selective reading of one tendency in ethical theorizing. The idea that moral psychology may find shelter from normative criticism by avoiding ethics‐derived models overlooks the deeper continuity between “ethical theory” and “psychological theory.”The confusion and barrenness of psychology is not to be explained by calling it a “young science”; its state is not comparable with that of physics, for instance, in its beginnings. For in psychology there are experimental methods and conceptual confusion. The existence of the experimental method makes us think we have the means of solving the problems which trouble us; though problem and method pass one another by.1.
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DOI 10.1111/edth.2010.60.issue-2
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