Aristotle's account of moral development

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Aristotle's rich account of moral development in children is an ideal vehicle for modern developmental psychologists. His psychology is inherently developmental because he considered actual change to be based on the individual's potential and to be cumulative. It is also functionalist (psychological states are defined by their operation) and teleological (psychological processes are organized around their outcomes). Aristotle's ethical system rests on the assumption that the most general goal of a person's actions is that of producing a flourishing and social life. He argues that ethical development proceeds through three processes: perceiving morally relevant situations, making reasonable ethical decisions, and participating in a fruitful communal life. Navigating through each of these phases requires "moral habituation" which produces a "settled character," oriented toward producing ethical outcomes for actions. Comparing Aristotle's account with important modern theories reveals that his is both more encompassing in its range and less encumbered by stage sequence, intellectualist, or subjectivist assumptions. Linking moral development to both philosophical ethics and biological functioning, Aristotle's theory remains today the most systematic and comprehensive analysis of ethical development, and psychologists would be well served to become familiar with it. © 2013 American Psychological Association.

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Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology