Innateness and moral psychology

In Peter Carruthers, Stephen Laurence & Stephen Stich (eds.), The Innate Mind: Structure and Contents. New York: Oxford University Press New York. pp. 353--369 (2005)
Abstract
Although linguistic nativism has received the bulk of attention in contemporary innateness debates, moral nativism has perhaps an even deeper ancestry. If linguistic nativism is Cartesian, moral nativism is Platonic. Moral nativism has taken a backseat to linguistic nativism in contemporary discussions largely because Chomsky made a case for linguistic nativism characterized by unprecedented rigor. Hence it is not surprising that recent attempts to revive the thesis that we have innate moral knowledge have drawn on Chomsky’s framework. I’ll argue, however, that the recent attempts to use Chomsky-style arguments in support of innate moral knowledge are uniformly unconvincing. The central argument in the Chomskian arsenal, of course, is the Poverty of the Stimulus (POS) argument. In section 1, I will set out the basic form of the POS argument and the conclusions about domain specificity and innate propositional knowledge that are supposed to follow. In section 2, I’ll distinguish 3 hypotheses about innateness and morality: rule nativism, moral principle nativism, and moral judgment nativism. In sections 3-5 I’ll then consider each of these hypotheses in turn. I’ll argue that while there is some reason to favor rule nativism, the arguments that moral principles and moral judgment derive from innate moral knowledge don’t work. The capacity for moral judgment is better explained by appeal to innate affective systems rather than innate moral knowledge. In the final section, I’ll suggest that the role of such affective mechanisms in structuring the mind complicates the standard picture about poverty of the stimulus arguments and nativism. For the affective mechanisms that influence cognitive structures can make contributions that are neither domain general nor domain specific
Keywords Cognition  Innateness  Linguistics  Mind  Moral Psychology  Nativism
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Reprint years 2007
DOI 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195179675.003.0020
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Universal Moral Grammar: Theory, Evidence, and the Future.John Mikhail - 2007 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11 (4):143 –152.

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