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Continuing thoughts from and about “Reviving Rawls’ Linguistic Analogy [Hauser, Young, Cushman, Harvard/Cambridge]-In Press

First I’ll add more of the author’s material.. dissected a bit to show main thoughts. I’ll follow the outline with one or two questions about implications. [I’ve inserted modifications to the language/morals parallel based on findings about language learning research concerning early learning of 2nd & 3rd languages]

Hypothesis:(what follows is my dissection of the authors’ words) our moral faculty is equipped with a universal set of principles,

  “with each culture setting up particular exceptions by means of tweaking the relevant parameters.
  We want to understand the universal aspects as well as the degree of variation, what allows for it and how it is constrained. Many questions remain open.
  Does the child’s environment provide her with enough information to construct a moral grammar, or
  Does the child show competences that go beyond her exposure?
  For example, does the child generate judgments about fairness and harm in the absence of direct pedagogy or indirect learning by watching others? If so, then this argues in favor of an even stronger analogy to language, in which the child produces grammatically structured and correct sentences in the absence of positive evidence, and despite negative evidence.
  Thus, from an impoverished environment, the child generates a rich output of grammatical utterances in the case of language, and judgments about permissible actions in the case of morality.
  Further, in the same way that we rapidly and effortlessly acquire our native language, [acquire 2nd and 3rd languages with relative ease before, say, 7 years of ag[[SPH]] and then slowly and agonizingly acquire second languages later in life,
  does the acquisition of moral knowledge follow a similar developmental path?
  Do we acquire our native moral norms with ease [and 2nd & third culture norms before 7] and without instruction, while
  [after,say,7 years of age[SPH]]painstakingly trying to memorize all the details of a new culture’s mores, recalling the faux pas and punishable violations by writing them down on index cards? “
  How did the moral faculty evolve?
  We can look at intelligent mammals and examine their own apparent moral precepts. Do dogs, chimpanzees, gorillas, whales, dolphins, etc. distinguish between expectation followers and violators, does apparent intention have an influence on the judgement.
  For example if a chimpanzee kills another accidentally while falling out of a tree… is that treated in a more forgiving fashion than if the chimpanzee ambushed another with a rock and killed her/him.
  Sociobiology (Wilson in 70’s) focuses on similar territory but from a distinct position, one which starts from the premise that “moral systems evolved “to regulate temptation, with emotional responses designed to facilitate cooperation and to incite aggression toward those who cheat.
  Where Rawls is interested in “how we act and how we think we ought to act” Wilson was interested in “the adaptive significance of such psychological mechanisms”. One is about mechanism (Rawls) and the other about adaptive significance (Wilson). They are distinct and complementary approaches.
  Evidence for Rawlsian Approach?

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