Learning About Right and Wrong: Ethics and Language

Oswald Hanfling 


The difference between right and wrong is not something that is taught; it is, necessarily, picked up by a child in the course of learning its native language, and parents have no choice about this. In learning the meaning of ‘steal’, for example, the child learns that such actions are wrong. It also develops, through a kind of conditioning, the appropriate feelings and attitudes. The very concept of a reason has a moral content; so that, in acquiring this concept, the child learns what counts as a good reason; and this includes altruistic and other moral reasons, no less than reasons of self-interest.