Professor Andrew Miles sheds light on the foundations of moral differences

January 1, 2019 by Kate Paik

How do differences in morality emerge?

Professor Andrew Miles is currently conducting SSHRC-funded research (IDG 2018) to understand the foundations of moral differences. While morality’s effects are often beneficial for individuals and societies, moral differences can also generate sharp disagreement, as evidenced by continued controversies in Canada and elsewhere surrounding abortion, same sex marriage, and more recently, sex education in Ontario schools.

To build an understanding of the origins of moral difference, Professor Miles and his research team are reviewing published research to determine how social experiences in childhood, adolescence, and emerging adulthood shape the development of diverse moral viewpoints, focusing in particular on experiences in the family and at school. Key insights will be tested by analyzing a rich data set that tracks individuals from adolescence through adulthood.

In conducting this study, Miles will lay the groundwork needed to construct a more general model of moral development. The findings of this research will inform public discussions and policies by uncovering the roots of moral diversity. Understanding the foundations of moral differences can promote tolerance as people realize that others may disagree with them, not because they are immoral, but because they operate using a different moral compass, thus increasing consideration of each other's differences.