Universal moral grammar: a critical appraisal

By Emmanuel Dupoux & Pierre Jacob.

Abstract: A new framework for the study of the human moral faculty is currently receiving much attention: the so- called ‘universal moral grammar’ framework. It is based on an intriguing analogy, first pointed out by Rawls, between the study of the human moral sense and Chomsky’s research program into the human language faculty. To assess UMG, we ask: is moral competence modular? Does it have an underlying hierarchical grammatical structure? Does moral diversity rest on culture-dependent parameters? We review the evidence and argue that formal grammatical concepts are of limited value for the study of moral judgments, moral develop- ment and moral diversity.