The Construction of Morality 103 105
As we saw in Chapters 6 and 7, there are multiple conceptions of the nature of morality and multiple aspects of advanced morality. Individuals may differ to some degree in their primary conceptualizations and modes of reasoning, and such differences may be subtly associated with gender and culture. For the most part, however, moral diversity appears to exist within each individual, rather than across individuals or groups. That is, most adolescents and adults have multiple conceptualizations of morality, appeal to multiple moral principles, and actively engage in moral perspective taking-cognitive and emotional. In straightforward cases, situational factors may determine our response. Observing someone in pain, for example, we may respond with empathy and compassion, whereas hearing about inequitable treatment of people we don’t know may arouse a more abstract commitment to principles of justice. In complex cases, divergent conceptualizations of the moral issue and conflicting principles, perspectives, and empathic reactions may make resolution difficult and uncertain. Yet it may be precisely the consideration of such difficult cases that promotes moral development.