6. Morality (Part 3)
Remind the students that they are looking at the question, ‘What does it mean to be ‘good’?’
This session is designed to get students to reflect on where our sense of morality comes from. Does our moral sense come from a God? Does it come from our upbringing? Is morality a natural part of being a human being or are there some people who lack even basic morality? These are the crucial questions that this session is based around.
Start this session by asking such questions as:
This discussion should prove to be hugely fruitful with most groups. Most students I have encountered seem to think that most people do have a sense of right and wrong. It is worth throwing in the example of serial killers or cannibals if you need to play Devil’s Advocate here. However, it is also worth ensuring that students are encouraged to question these counter-
Explain that there are two basic viewpoints with regard to the conscience.
1. The conscience is innate – it is a sense of right and wrong that we have had since birth and it is an inherent part of being human. Many people who argue for an innate conscience think it is the voice of God inside of us.
2. The conscience develops throughout life – it is the internalisation of rules, laws and norms of behaviour that we are taught as children. Many people who argue for a developed conscience think that everybody has their own unique conscience and that some people might not have a conscience at all.
Ask the students to outline what they consider to be the strengths and weaknesses of each view.
In addition, it might be worth asking them to write some responses to this question so they get a real chance to develop their views on this critical issue. Build on their thinking by asking them to consider:
For example, feral children (children raised by animals or without human contact) don’t seem to follow any established rules of human society.
There seem to be massive similarities across all human cultures about what is right and wrong.
Explain that many people who think the conscience develops have argued that human beings have evolved to be social creatures. In other words, the humans that were most prepared to work together and be friendly have been more likely to be successful and have children. Over many generations this has led to a position where human beings are, generally, very social and friendly animals.
Once this discussion has come to an end get them to consider whether the conscience could be a combination of innate AND developed! For instance, could God have given us a few set rules which are expressed in ALL of our consciences but more specific smaller rules develop as we learn and grow.
Finish these lessons with some further points for debate, e.g:
A printable (pdf) version of this session can be found here
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