By Evan Simpson

This publication develops a «conservative» perception of morality and its implications for ethical schooling. The argument stresses practices of residing over rationalistic theories. At its middle is an account of the schooling of the feelings, within which cultivating reflective mind's eye is extra vital than gaining knowledge of common ideas. The relevant distinction is with Lawrence Kohlberg and his conception of ethical improvement. Simpson sees extending democratic practices of dialogue and argument as top answering the query how, missing sure criteria of judgment, we will be able to make a decision among competing conceptions of human development.

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One might acknowledge this semantic distance but argue that rational principles should not have to justify particular moral judgments directly. It is enough for them to justify the norms of moral practices, thereby justifying the practical judgments conforming to these norms indirectly. This is a precarious line of argument. Justifying a norm requires justifying the background institutions and cultural expectations which determine its content. To justify a prohibition against lying requires defining what lying is.

It is far from clear, for example, that there is a correct resolution to every conflict between loyalty to a friend and the obligations of justice. To exclude such norms by fiat is to prescribe a point of view rather than to establish its credentials. The rationalist might respond to such conflicts by distinguishing the requirements of convention from those of morality. Because customs are not shaped by reason, we should not expect agreement among them and between them and rational principles of justice and utility.

It is this modest conservatism, with the priority it places on established practices over abstract demonstration which is in issue here. On such a view, individual rights and freedoms may be regarded as vital goods, but they cannot be derived from general propositions about human nature. Freedoms exist only where there are customs, and the value of rights is owing to that of the other goods which they protect. 62 The primary rights are those which give moral and legal protection to the goods which are essential conditions of individual well-being within a way of life.

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