Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Chomsky on innate morality

Chomsky was one of the first to challenge the Blank Slate theory of the human mind that had dominated psychology until the 1960's. His work on the language instinct was pivotal in showing that the mind has innate structure, that it is not completely the product of society.

So it is interesting to see him reacting to the latest evidence for innate moral faculties - Moral Truisms.

Much of his response is incoherent and more than a bit weird. Matt Ridley gives a far more informed and comprehensible account of the evolution of morals in his book The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation.

The divorce of Science and Morality, summarised as the Naturalistic Fallacy, may not be quite the clean break that Hume proposed. Facts do not lead to what ought to be, but facts may indicate why we tend to believe some things ought to be.

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