This chapter has tried to make two points. First, the concept of morality refers to a developmental cascade of phenomena whose essential features are (a) inhibition of punished acts; (b) a representation of prohibited actions; (c) the emotions of uncertainty, empathy, shame, and guilt; (d) the semantic concepts of good and bad; (e) accepting the moral obligations of social categories; and (f) the concepts of fairness and the ideal. The inhibition of prohibited actions and the cognitive representation of prohibited behaviors, as well as the affect states that follow violations, appear by the end of the second year of life. The concepts of good and bad appear early in the third year, the experience of guilt and awareness of social categories by 4-6 years, and the notions of fairness, the ideal, and relational social categories during the school years. Second, some of the variation in the intensity and frequency of the moral emotions is attributable to the child's temperament. Eleven-year-old children who had been high-reactive infants and admitted to feelings of guilt when they violated a family standard were cortically and autonomically more aroused than the low reactives who reported equally frequent experiences of guilt. Further, high reactives who were perceived by their mothers as highly sensitive to punishment were biologically more aroused than high reactives perceived as less sensitive. Both universal developmental phenomena tied to brain maturation and temperamental variation associated with neurochemistry contribute to the complex phenomena that constitute the moral domain. The role of affect in promoting the adherence to standards remains controversial. Kant believed that people acted morally because acceptance of the categorical imperative required proper behavior-reason was the guardian of social harmony. Peirce and Dewey, by contrast, argued that anticipation of the emotions of anxiety, shame, and guilt motivated loyalty to the community's ethical standards. The fact that adults pay to watch a film that they know will generate a deep feeling of sadness--an emotion most do not seek or welcome in their daily lives--and will remark that they enjoyed the movie warrants an explanation. One possibility is that the experienced emotion affirms their moral values. The Australian film The Rabbit Proof Fence describes three aboriginal sisters who have been taken from their mother to a camp a thousand miles away to be socialized in Australian values. The three girls run away, and most of the film illustrates the hardships that they endure and their close escapes from the authorities who are pursuing them as they walk the thousand miles to reach their home. The audience's empathic sadness for the children affirms their moral belief that children should love their parents and miss their home. I suspect that those in the audience who felt the most intense sadness would praise the film with greater enthusiasm than those who had muted feelings. Because sadness is an emotion that few enjoy or try to attain, there must be another reason for deciding that the film was gratifying. The affirmation of one's moral beliefs could be that source of gratification. The tension between the importance of a rational and the importance of an affective basis for morality is seen in modern industrialized societies where the balance between the feeling of virtue that follows enhancing another and the pleasure that follows the enhancing of self has shifted toward favoring the latter state. Increasing numbers of Americans do not regard their gender, ethnicity, vocation, place of residence, or friendships or the religion of their parents as distinctive sources of virtue. As a result, they are freed from the moral obligations that were attached to these categories in the past and rely primarily on the anticipation of sensory delight and self-enhancement as guides for action and sources of reassurance that they are managing their lives correctly. Although it is likely that future scientists will synthesize a drug that blocks feelings of guilt without affecting the knowledge that an act is wrong, it is less certain that broad use of this drug would eliminate loyalty to the mutual obligations that make a society habitable. Nonetheless, a posture of vigilance is appropriate, for humans, unlike gorillas, can hold representations of envy, hostility, and anger, even toward those whom they have never met, for a very long time. Therefore, empathy and the anticipation of guilt or shame may restrain rudeness, dishonesty, and aggression when reason fails.
|Kagan, J. (2005). Human morality and temperament. In G. Carlo, & C. P. Edwards, C. (Eds.), Moral motivation through the lifespan. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation (Vol. 51, pp. 1–32). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.