Moral Development: What influences and drives moral development?

In answer to Quora question: "Moral Development: What influences and drives moral development?"

Thanks for the A2A Jeff. Great question as always. :-)

This is a complex question in my view, but here are some top-level "influences and drives" as I see them:

1) Societal expectations are a strong influence, and for someone wired to please others or who is driven to conform socially (as many of us are), this can become an internalized motivating force as well - for good or ill, depending on the culture in which we are immersed.

2) Family, peer and mentor modeling and programming are also a strong influence, and can likewise be internalized as a motivating force.

3) Prosocial tendencies, which according to a growing body of research appear to be evolutionary and genetically predisposed, will also drive and influence moral development.

4) Spiritual practices can both expose us to new strata of moral development, and experientially validate those strata. For example, practicing gratitude and generosity, or encountering peak experiences in meditation, or aiming to relinquish egoic selfhood in favor of more inclusive and compassionate being.

5) Multidimensional nourishment (that is, nurturing every aspect of our being in a balanced, harmonious way) has a profound influence on moral development because it creates a stable, safe foundation for each transition into a new, more sophisticated and unitive moral orientation.

6) Our closest relationships (with partners, family, children, etc.) tend to challenge us to advance morally - if they are healthy and constructive relationships! They can likewise impede our moral development if they aren't.

7) Personal experiences of both moral success and failure will, over time, help us understand where we operate in the moral spectrum, and where we might desire to operate, introducing new perspectives and goals.

8-) New memes that shift our moral sense up a notch can have a surprisingly robust influence. For example, the golden rule meme, the "pay it forward" meme, the mindfulness meme, the "judge not lest ye be judged" meme, the "an it harm none, do what thou wilt" meme and so on.

Ultimately, it seems to be the maturation of our own being across multiple dimensions - along with the expanding appreciation of our interconnectedness with all things and the felt sense of affectionate compassion accompanying that appreciation - which ultimately propels us toward higher, more inclusive and constructive moral imperatives. All of the "influences and drives" that I listed are merely doors into that process, or stepping stones within it.

My 2 cents.


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