A sociobiological, psychosocial and sociocultural approach to ethics education

Catchpoole, Valerie Margaret (2001) A sociobiological, psychosocial and sociocultural approach to ethics education. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Critical and enduring questions for teachers are whose ethics or what ethics they should be teaching in schools and how, given the pluralism of the wider society. The focus of this study is to establish whether it is possible to identify a common, non-relativist basis for what should be taught in Ethics Education and then to consider how such an approach might best be undertaken. This task involves finding some basis for ethics that we all have reason to accept and requires an understanding of the nature of moral development and learning. An interdisciplinary approach has been undertaken to investigate whether it is possible to find a common basis for ethics and to determine what constitutes the nature of moral development and learning. In the first instance, this interdisciplinary approach has been used to investigate whether there is justification for believing that as human beings we share certain characteristics and patterns of behaviour, or a common humanity, the features of which might suggest a common basis for ethics that we all have reason to accept. This investigation examines empirical findings and theoretical conclusions relating to the sociobiological, psychosocial and sociocultural dimensions of human beings to support the notion that we share a common humanity which is characterised by a number of features. These features include the deeply reciprocal nature of our relationships with one another and the sociocultural nature of our moral learnings. Moreover, we are a highly interdependent social species whose survival and well-being are dependent not only on cooperation with one another but also with sustaining a satisfactory ecological balance with other forms of life within dynamic, natural systems. This interdependence suggests that the norm of having care for one another and our world is one that we all have reason to accept. This norm, in turn, suggests a telos, or set of goals for ethics, that involve the creation of a just and caring society. However, in order to realise such a telos for ethics it is necessary to provide some specific theoretical and practical guidelines related to deciding what constitutes the nature and scope of care within specific contexts. Accordingly, the study undertakes a brief review of contemporary approaches to ethics to evaluate the extent to which these provide a means for realising the ethical form of life based in the norm of having care for one another and our world. This review suggests that feminist theories of care provide the most promising basis for delineating what it is to care for one another and our world. However, it is also acknowledged that there are a number of limitations with existing theories of care. This study, therefore, undertakes a conceptual analysis of the nature and scope of care and outlines an extended ethic of care. This theorising recognises that care for others is characterised by the dimensions of responsiveness, the exercise of responsible action and is refined and amended by critical reflection. It is acknowledged that justice is intrinsic to the nature of care as is the exercise of a range of virtues. The scope of our caring responsibilities is seen to extend to all others in the global community, as well as all other species, while also requiring care for self, and care for particular others for whom we may have special familial or work-related responsibilities. The evaluation of what constitutes caring practice is also discussed and it is acknowledged that caring practices must meet minimum requirements in terms of respect for basic human rights and should contribute to the welfare and well-being of the recipients of care. This specification of the nature and scope of care, in conjunction with a consideration of the nature of moral learning and development, provides a basis from which to develop a philosophical foundation as well as a set of aims and objectives for Ethics Education. It is acknowledged that students need to develop a wide range of cognitive, emotional and social competencies in order to understand what it means to care for self and others within specific socio-cultural contexts and also to develop the sense of empathetic connection and affiliation to others that translates moral decisions into responsible moral action. It is hoped that the study provides the basis for beginning a dialogue in schools that involves students, teachers, families and members of the wider community about what it means to live the ethical form of life and how education itself might promote broadly such a form of life.

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ID Code: 15784
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Isaacs, Peter & Macpherson, Ian
Keywords: ethics education, moral education, sociobiological, psychosocial, sociocultural factors, moral development, cognitive aspects, emotional aspects, social aspects, moral learning, cognitive competencies, emotional competencies, social competencies, an ethic of care, an extended ethic of care, epistemological aspects, a common humanity, adaptive moral process
Department: Faculty of Arts
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Valerie Margaret Catchpoole
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:49
Last Modified: 20 Apr 2015 00:55

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