UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Teaching moral concepts: a new conception Pang, Yeuk Yi


Moral education has never been easy but doing it in a context of diverse cultural, ethnic, racial, religious and experiential backgrounds emphasizes certain particular problems. This context further includes a commitment to pluralism. The most difficult problems that arise in this context stem from an apparent conflict between our commitments to education and to pluralism. I seek to articulate a conception of moral education that is harmonious with our commitment to pluralism and that provides substantial guidance for teachers in terms of how they might achieve its aims. To this end, I construct and defend a conception of teaching moral concepts that is sensitive to the concerns focused by diversity. I work from the background understanding that the broad aim of moral education in a pluralistic society is to help every student to be a sincere participant in the moral community, to help each of them to find meaning in this participation and to be committed members capable of critical engagement. Given the intimate relationship between language and our way(s) of life, achieving this meaningful, yet critical, participation will require that students have an expressive relation with the moral language(s) of their society. For persons to feel a part of their moral community, the discourse of that community--the moral language(s) it supports--must include concepts in which they can express their deepest concerns. Education can play an important role in introduing students to the moral languages of their society in a way that helps them to develop the appropriate relation with them. Our understanding of what it means to teach moral concepts can greatly affect our ability to do this. If we conceive of this practice as embedded in the larger enterprise described above, we will better understand how to achieve the desired end. Furthermore, an understanding of the open-texture of moral concepts will help us to see that teaching them is not a matter of trying to achieve some fixed end, but rather involves helping students to acquire a working understanding of them with the understanding, openness, commitment and discipline required to continuously deepend this understanding and to sensitively articulate it in new moral situations. I argue that if we view this practice as embedded in moral life so that meaningful participation and critical participation become one in that life, we will be able to respond sensitively to the concerns of our pluralistic society.

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