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Can Moral Behavior be Learned

To answer the question whether it is possible to teach (learn) morality, it is necessary to consider the essence of the concept “morality”. Ethics is the science of morals, it teaches the rules of morality, it gives practical knowledge that everyone must use in his life. This knowledge underlies our decisions and must underlie our behavior. So we can learn morals from ethics, its principles and rules. But the right to teach morals is only given to people with absolute moral authority. Moral position can be developed independently by studying the judgments of the wise, words and deeds of great, decent and highly moral people. At first glance morality looks like certain rules of behavior: the rules of relationships to other people, to society and to himself. In many cases they are formulated in the imperative mood: “you must behave like this!” or “do not do this!”, etc. Such precepts person often gets in his childhood, in the educational process, that is, parents are the first and most important “teachers” of morality. In childhood a person receives basic and most important moral precepts, concepts and values. Parents have an important authority for the child, so their instructions, tips, and installation of what is moral and what is not, the child perceives and remembers for a lifetime.

The topic of moral development and education was studied by Jean Piaget. According to his observation, Piaget determined that morality can be considered a developmental process. Also Piaget concluded that children are in a “heteronomous” stage of moral reasoning, which is characterized by a strict adherence to rules and duties, and obedience to authority (parents or teachers). (Piaget, 1965)

Another prominent psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg modified and elaborated Piaget’s work, and stated that children “form ways of thinking through their experiences, which include understandings of moral concepts such as rights, justice, equality and human welfare”. (Power et al., 1989)

These two psychologists made the most contribution to the study of the moral development and moral education, studying child development and education.


Piaget, J. (1965). The moral judgment of the child. The Free Press: New York.
Power, F. C., Higgins, A., & Kohlberg, L. (1989). “Lawrence Kohlberg’s Approach to Moral Education.” New York: Columbia University Press.