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Anger and Forgiveness"Are You There Alone?"10 Good Questions about Life and DeathA Casebook of Ethical Challenges in NeuropsychologyA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to Muslim EthicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Critique of the Moral Defense of VegetarianismA Delicate BalanceA Life for a LifeA Life-Centered Approach to BioethicsA Matter of SecurityA Natural History of Human MoralityA Philosophical DiseaseA Practical Guide to Clinical Ethics ConsultingA Question of TrustA Sentimentalist Theory of the MindA Short Stay in SwitzerlandA Very Bad WizardA World Without ValuesAction and ResponsibilityAction Theory, Rationality and CompulsionActs of ConscienceAddiction and ResponsibilityAddiction NeuroethicsAdvance Directives in Mental HealthAfter HarmAftermathAgainst AutonomyAgainst BioethicsAgainst HealthAgainst Moral ResponsibilityAgency and AnswerabilityAgency and ResponsibilityAgency, Freedom, and Moral ResponsibilityAging, 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ResponsibilityMorals, Rights and Practice in the Human ServicesMorals, Rights and Practice in the Human ServicesMore Than HumanMotive and RightnessMovies and the Moral Adventure of LifeMurder in the InnMy Body PoliticMy Brain Made Me Do ItMy Sister's KeeperMy Sister's KeeperMy WayNano-Bio-EthicsNarrative MedicineNarrative ProsthesisNatural Ethical FactsNatural-Born CybogsNaturalized BioethicsNeither Bad nor MadNeoconservatismNeonatal BioethicsNeurobiology and the Development of Human MoralityNeuroethicsNeuroethicsNeuroethicsNew Takes in Film-PhilosophyNew Waves in EthicsNew Waves in MetaethicsNietzsche on Ethics and PoliticsNo Child Left DifferentNo Impact ManNormative EthicsNormativityNothing about us, without us!Oath BetrayedOf War and LawOn ApologyOn Being AuthenticOn EvilOn Human RightsOn The Stigma Of Mental IllnessOn the TakeOn Virtue EthicsOn What MattersOn What We Owe to Each OtherOne ChildOne Nation Under TherapyOne World NowOne World NowOur Bodies, Whose Property?Our Bodies, Whose Property?Our Daily MedsOur Faithfulness to the PastOur Posthuman FutureOut of EdenOut of Its MindOut of the ShadowsOverdosed AmericaOxford Handbook of Psychiatric EthicsOxford Textbook of Philosophy of PsychiatryPassionate DeliberationPatient Autonomy and the Ethics of ResponsibilityPC, M.D.Perfecting VirtuePersonal AutonomyPersonal Autonomy in SocietyPersonal Identity and EthicsPersonhood and Health CarePersons, Humanity, and the Definition of DeathPerspectives On Health And Human RightsPharmacracyPharmageddonPhilosophy and This Actual WorldPhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of Technology: The Technological ConditionPhysician-Assisted DyingPicturing DisabilityPilgrim at Tinker CreekPlaying God?Playing God?Political EmotionsPornlandPowerful MedicinesPractical Autonomy and BioethicsPractical EthicsPractical Ethics for PsychologistsPractical RulesPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic NeuroethicsPraise and BlamePreferences and Well-BeingPrimates and PhilosophersPro-Life, Pro-ChoiceProcreation and ParenthoodProfits Before People?Progress in BioethicsProperty in the BodyProzac As a Way of LifeProzac on the CouchPsychiatric Aspects of Justification, Excuse and Mitigation in Anglo-American Criminal Law Psychiatric EthicsPsychiatry and EmpirePsychological Concepts and Biological PsychiatryPsychology and Consumer CulturePsychology and LawPsychotropic Drug Prescriber's Survival GuidePublic Health LawPublic Health Law and EthicsPublic PhilosophyPunishing the Mentally IllPunishmentPursuits of WisdomPutting Morality Back Into PoliticsPutting on VirtueQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRaceRadical HopeRadical VirtuesRape Is RapeRe-creating MedicineRe-Engineering Philosophy for Limited BeingsReason's GriefReasonably ViciousReckoning With HomelessnessReconceiving Medical EthicsRecovery from SchizophreniaRedefining RapeRedesigning HumansReducing the Stigma of Mental IllnessReflections On How We LiveReframing Disease ContextuallyRefusing CareRefuting Peter Singer's 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Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex OffendersSexual DevianceSexual EthicsSexual PredatorsSexualized BrainsShaping Our SelvesShock TherapyShould I Medicate My Child?ShunnedSick to Death and Not Going to Take It AnymoreSickoSide EffectsSidewalk StoriesSister CitizenSkeptical FeminismSocial Inclusion of People with Mental IllnessSocial JusticeSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsSome We Love, Some We Hate, Some We EatSovereign VirtueSpiral of EntrapmentSplit DecisionsSticks and StonesStories MatterSubjectivity and Being SomebodySuffering, Death, and IdentitySuicide ProhibitionSurgery JunkiesSurgically Shaping ChildrenTaking Morality SeriouslyTaming the Troublesome ChildTechnology and the Good Life?TestimonyText and Materials on International Human RightsThe Aims of Higher EducationThe Almost MoonThe Altruistic BrainThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Forensic PsychiatryThe Animal ManifestoThe Art of LivingThe Autonomy of MoralityThe Beloved SelfThe Best Things in 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Health LawThe Ethical BrainThe Ethical Dimensions of the Biological and Health SciencesThe Ethics of BioethicsThe Ethics of ParenthoodThe Ethics of SightseeingThe Ethics of the FamilyThe Ethics of the LieThe Ethics of TransplantsThe Ethics ToolkitThe Evolution of Mental Health LawThe Evolution of MoralityThe FamilyThe Fat Studies ReaderThe Forgiveness ProjectThe Form of Practical KnowledgeThe Fountain of YouthThe Freedom ParadoxThe Future of Assisted Suicide and EuthanasiaThe Future of Human NatureThe Good BookThe Good LifeThe Great BetrayalThe Handbook of Disability StudiesThe Healing VirtuesThe High Price of MaterialismThe History of Human RightsThe HorizonThe Idea of JusticeThe Ideal of NatureThe Illusion of Freedom and EqualityThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Importance of Being UnderstoodThe Insanity OffenseThe Joy of SecularismThe Language PoliceThe Last Normal ChildThe Last UtopiaThe Limits of MedicineThe LobotomistThe Love CureThe Lucifer EffectThe Manual of EpictetusThe Mark of ShameThe Meaning of NiceThe Medicalization of SocietyThe Merck DruggernautThe Mind Has MountainsThe Modern Art of DyingThe Modern SavageThe Moral ArcThe Moral BrainThe Moral Demands of MemoryThe Moral FoolThe Moral MindThe Moral Psychology HandbookThe Moral, Social, and Commercial Imperatives of Genetic Testing and ScreeningThe Most Good You Can DoThe Myth of ChoiceThe Myth of the Moral BrainThe Nature of NormativityThe New Disability HistoryThe New Genetic MedicineThe New Religious IntoleranceThe Offensive InternetThe Origins of FairnessThe Oxford Handbook of Animal EthicsThe Oxford Handbook of Ethics at the End of LifeThe Perfect BabyThe Philosophy of NeedThe Philosophy of PornographyThe Philosophy of PsychiatryThe Politics Of LustThe Portable Ethicist for Mental Health Professionals The Power of Religion in the Public SphereThe Price of PerfectionThe Price of TruthThe Problem of PunishmentThe Prosthetic ImpulseThe Psychology of Good and EvilThe Psychology of Good and EvilThe 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Voice of Breast Cancer in Medicine and BioethicsThe War Against BoysThe War for Children's MindsThe Whole ChildThe Woman RacketThe Worldwide Practice of TortureTherapy with ChildrenThieves of VirtueThree Generations, No ImbecilesTimes of Triumph, Times of DoubtTolerance Among The VirtuesTolerance and the Ethical LifeTolerationToxic PsychiatryTrauma, Truth and ReconciliationTreatment Kind and FairTrusting on the EdgeTry to RememberUltimate JudgementUnborn in the USA: Inside the War on AbortionUndermining ScienceUnderstanding AbortionUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding EmotionsUnderstanding EvilUnderstanding Moral ObligationUnderstanding Physician-Pharmaceutical Industry InteractionsUnderstanding TerrorismUnderstanding the GenomeUnderstanding the Stigma of Mental IllnessUnderstanding Treatment Without ConsentUnhingedUnprincipled VirtueUnsanctifying Human Life: Essays on EthicsUnspeakable Acts, Ordinary PeopleUp in FlamesUpheavals of ThoughtUsers and Abusers of PsychiatryValue-Free 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How Much?Why Some Things Should Not Be for SaleWisdom, Intuition and EthicsWithout ConscienceWomen and Borderline Personality DisorderWomen and MadnessWondergenesWould You Kill the Fat Man?Wrestling with Behavioral GeneticsWriting About PatientsYou Must Be DreamingYour Genetic DestinyYour Inner FishYouth Offending and Youth Justice Yuck!
In Moral Development and
Reality, John C. Gibbs surveys the theory of moral development, re-evaluating
old ideas on the topic as well as offering new empirical data that, in turn,
allows him to reconsider traditional theories within the field. Piaget, one of
the first to contribute to this field, focuses on the moral development of the
child. His theory and observations, explored and embedded in his conceptual
scheme, became the departure point for studies of moral development by social
scientists and psychologists alike. These studies, in turn, have an impact on both
the theory and praxis of ethics, including areas such as business ethics and
bioethics, and have greatly improved our understanding of the respective roles
played by nature and nurture in the formation of an individual's morality
within his or her social context. Gibbs takes a step beyond these ideas and
applies them to practice in suggesting that skill training programs can correct
individual's antisocial conduct (Chapter 7). Gibbs also notes the seemingly
universal patterns in human moral development and conduct, indicating that
these patterns cross cultures; this fact also can support his criticism of
The book is a mixed bag, and the
quality of its chapters varies greatly. In terms of methodology, it goes from
the embarrassing and non-rigorous introduction (Chapter 1) to a pedantic and
doctrinaire treatment of Piaget, Kohlberg, and Hoffman in chapters 2-4. In
chapters 5-7, however, it progresses to the author's intriguing contributions
in integrating Kohlberg and Hoffman and culminates with his proposed treatment
of antisocial behavior. Finally, in Chapter 8, Gibbs explores two cases of
near-death experience and their implications on moral development, and in
Chapter 9, he discusses the relationship between moral development and
motivation. While the first chapter of the book is largely unhelpful, Chapters
2-7 are recommended as supplementary material to advanced students in the field
of empirical (scientific) ethics, and the last two chapters remain a starting
point to a new exploratory study.
At the opening of his first chapter,
Gibbs describes an incident in which children at a camp abuse a "mildly
retarded adult" who works there. He omits, however, to specify the time
and place at which the observation was made and the research methodology used,
and makes a sweeping evaluation based on this single observation (p.1). The
observation is repeatedly discussed and expanded upon over the course of the
book, but it is only later that the reader learns that Gibbs himself was one of
the children at the camp. Gibbs goes on, on to page 3, to discuss his
observation of the children in the camp in terms of Piaget's theory, and he
concludes that: "The moral point of view for Immanuel Kant meant respect
for persons, that is, presuming to treat others as ends rather than as a means."
To begin with, Gibbs is misapplying Kant's maxim to children—Kant did not
consider children as persons. To add insult to injury, Gibbs is, to my
knowledge, the first scholar to narrow Kant's moral point of view to this
maxim—and a sloppily-phrased maxim at that (it should have been: "Treat
fellow human beings as ends, not means"). The usage of the word "presuming,"
in this context, is pretentious – and presumptuous. So much for the first
In later chapters, however, the
merits of the book begin to become apparent. In Chapters 2 and 3 (with the
exception of the idiosyncratic introductory paragraph to chapter 2), Gibbs
offers an illuminating survey of Kohlberg's debts to Piaget. He briefly
reviews the terminology used in the theories , then goes on to succinctly
discuss, criticize, and revise the different stages of moral development. In
chapter 4, he goes from the rationalistic approach of Piaget and Kohlberg on
cognitively constructed ideals of reciprocity, to Hoffman et al. and their work
on the role of feeling in moral motivations. Unfortunately, however, Gibbs
fails to mention Mario Bunge, who critically discusses this intersection in his
1989 Treatise on Basic Philosophy Vol. 8. Ethics: The Good and the Right
(Boston: Reidel), and devotes just one sentence, on page 78, to Gilligan
(rejecting her conception of "responsible caring" in explaining moral
development), although a longer footnote in which her research methodology is
criticized awaits the reader on pp. 108-109. Only then is Hoffman, the final
protagonist of this book, introduced, and his theory of empathy explored and
In chapters 5-7, Gibbs integrates Kohlberg's
and Hoffman's theories and discusses pro social behavior (5), and examines the
understanding of anti social behavior (6) and the possible treatment of
antisocial behavior (7). Gibbs supports his arguments with several empirical
findings; these are intriguing but remain exploratory. Similarly, the two
cases of near-death experience discussed in chapter 8 would require further
research before a firm conclusion could be reached about their impact on the
final stages of moral development. In Chapter 9, inaccurately titled "Conclusion,"
Gibbs mingles new observations with issues, such as moral development, reality,
and morality that he has discussed earlier in the book. They all converge upon
the final sentence of the book, to a non- scientific but rather poetic
reflection on the issues surrounding moral development: "Perhaps every
deep moral perception offers at least a glimmer of insight into the deeper
reality of human connection."
© 2004 Avshalom M. Adam
Dr. Avshalom M. Adam, Visiting
Scholar, Stanford University
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