Moral Nativism: A Sceptical Response

Authors

  • KIM STERELNY

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre for Macroevolution and Macroecology Australian National University Philosophy Victoria University of Wellington
      Philosophy Programme, Victoria University, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand.
      Email:Kim.Sterelny@vuw.ac.nz
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  • Thanks to audiences in Canberra, Christchurch, Paris and Wellington for feedback on these ideas, presented in various forms. Thanks to Peter Godfrey-Smith, Richard Joyce, Hugo Mercier, and Tony Scott for their feedback on early drafts of this paper, and to two readers for Mind & Language for their constructive and extensive reviews.

Philosophy Programme, Victoria University, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand.
Email:Kim.Sterelny@vuw.ac.nz

Abstract

In the last few years, nativist, modular views of moral cognition have been influential. This paper shares the view that normative cognition develops robustly, and is probably an adaptation. But it develops an alternative view of the developmental basis of moral cognition, based on the idea that adults scaffold moral development by organising the learning environment of the next generation. In addition, I argue that the modular nativist picture has no plausible account of the role of explicit moral judgement, and that no persuasive version of the ‘poverty of the stimulus' applies to moral cognition.

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