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The Formation and Transformation of Moral Impulse

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This paper examines the contributions of recent research on the brain to our understanding of moral development. These insights suggest that we must begin to think more seriously about the formation of moral impulse as the basis for moral development and education rather than simply moral reasoning. Far from providing entirely novel insights about the growth of morality, this research appears to underscore the insights advanced by the medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides. Both Maimonides and current research from neuroscience portray moral development in terms of the interaction of the social environment with our innate biological aptitudes. This process apparently shapes moral character by establishing the internal physiological patterns for the emergence and display of the feelings and emotions which accompany moral impulse. Consequently, educators need to be concerned with those processes which transform moral impulse. The implications for educational and social policy are discussed.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1999-12-01

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